This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
New education laws take effect this year The first thing parents will notice about their children’s schools this year is the sense of urgency to improve. At least, that’s what Gov. Bill Haslam wants them to see.
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Wednesday applauded Tennessee for what he called courage in making education changes and said the state can “help lead the country where we need to go.” Duncan took part in a panel discussion — that included Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and state Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman — at a Nashville middle school before heading to a roundtable with school administrators and business owners from rural counties.
The education achievement gaps between black and white students and students of different family-income levels in Tennessee are “immoral” and will have to be closed if the state is to advance, Gov. Bill Haslam said Wednesday. Speaking at a Nashville forum with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and other education leaders, the governor said his administration is “committed to closing” the gaps.
During a morale-boosting visit to Nashville Wednesday, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan challenged Tennessee’s schools to become the fastest-improving in the nation. “Tennessee is well below the national average in just about every indicator, so there are many states that are higher performing,” Duncan said at West End Middle School.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sat in a Nashville school auditorium Wednesday and challenged Tennessee to become the fastest-improving state in the country. The state’s promise to make drastic changes in schools made it a $500 million, first-round grant winner in President Obama’s Race to the Top competition.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan challenged Tennessee educators and policymakers Wednesday to continue reforms and become the fastest-improving state in the union. “It might not be the highest-performing state tomorrow, but you could be the fastest-improving state in the country,” Duncan told a crowd at Nashville’s West End Middle School.
The U.S. Secretary of Education issued a challenge to school leaders in Tennessee: to become the fastest improving state in the country. Secretary Arne Duncan joined the Governor Haslam, state and local education leaders at West End Middle School for a forum Wednesday morning.
The nation’s top education leader paid a visit to Nashville Wednesday on the day before Metro students return to school. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan met with Governor Bill Haslam, parents and teachers to talk about Tennessee’s struggles in the classroom.
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan says Tennessee is well-positioned to receive a waiver to sidestep parts of the federal No Child Left Behind education law. Duncan was speaking in Nashville alongside Governor Bill Haslam, and says such a waiver should have only a few strings attached.
State and US Leaders gathered in Nashville to talk about education in Tennessee. Governor Bill Haslam, State Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman and US Education Secretary Arne Duncan met with rural school administrators. Earlier this week, Duncan announced the Obama administration is giving states the option of a waiver on the No Child Left Behind Law.
“Proficient” is relative.Across the country, student performance on standardized reading and math tests is worse than most states lead parents to believe, according to a new report from the National Center for Education Statistics, an arm of the federal Education Department. Under current law, states set their own benchmarks for student proficiency, but those bars are often far below the standards used by the federal government.
Governor favors deal by year’s end Gov. Bill Haslam said Wednesday that he would like to have questions about Amazon’s tax status resolved by the end of the year, preferably with the online retailer collecting sales taxes from Tennessee consumers. “We’d like to work out some arrangement that works for them to stay and grow in Tennessee and yet for us to collect the sales tax that we need,” Haslam said.
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam is asking the Environmental Protection Agency for a waiver to sell winter-grade fuel in Shelby County, where Valero Energy Corp. (VLO)’s Memphis refinery remains shut after a fire last week, the Commercial Appeal reported. Haslam, a Republican, and U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, a Democrat, asked the agency to waive summer fuel restrictions to free up more gasoline supply in the area, the newspaper said, citing a letter Cohen sent to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.
West Tennessee faces an imminent shortage of summer-grade gasoline after the explosion and fire at the Valero refinery last week, prompting officials to ask the EPA Wednesday for a waiver to sell winter-grade fuel in Shelby County despite air quality concerns. Wholesale gasoline distributors and tanker truck drivers are working overtime to bring in fuel from other terminals, but shortages at some retail outlets can be expected in the next few days, according to the Tennessee Fuel and Convenience Store Association.
High gas prices are irrelevant if there is no fuel to pump. It’s a reality that could be right around the corner for those in Shelby County. “I think that’s a terrible thing,” said Johnny Ware, as he filled up his truck with gas.
Tennessee revenue collections were up slightly in July, Tennessee Finance and Administration Commissioner Mark Emkes said this week. The state’s revenue increased to $843.3 million, up 1.17 percent compared to a year ago.
The top constitutional officers of the state of Tennessee, including the treasurer and comptroller, will be in New York today and Friday in an effort to persuade the bond-rating agencies Fitch and Moody’s not to downgrade the state’s triple-A status. They’ll be making the case that the state is not like the federal government, which had its credit rating downgraded by the third major rating agency, Standard and Poor’s, earlier this month.
Finding a route for a southern extension to the U.S. 45 Bypass, widening Interstate 40, reconfiguring cloverleafs, and realigning the Carriage House Drive Intersection at Casey Jones Lane are all projects being considered or slated for construction by the state’s transportation department. Several projects being studied for future construction were presented at the Tennessee Department of Transportation’s second “TDOT Projects Tour.”
A 17-year veteran Tennessee Highway Patrol officer has become the first woman promoted to the rank of major. Betty Blair’s promotion was announced Wednesday by Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons and THP Col.
Trooper Brad Proffitt of the Tennessee Highway Patrol will be suspended without pay for one day following an internal investigation of his conduct during an accident involving Carter County Sheriff Chris Mathes during the early morning hours of July 5. According to the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, the suspension came for not keeping his dash-mounted video camera operating during his accident investigation.
Despite being marred by the deaths of two workers and a two-week shutdown for a safety inspection, the renovation of the Henley Bridge remains on schedule and apparently won’t impact football fans on Neyland Drive. Transportation officials anticipate reopening all lanes of Neyland Drive under the Henley Bridge by Aug. 19, according to Kristin Qualls, Tennessee Department of Transportation project manager.
The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded the University of Tennessee up to $1.3 million in grants for nuclear energy research and development. The university is getting $846,000 to develop new and advanced reactor designs.
Under a new law that critics say unfairly punishes the poor and disadvantaged, the state can now take driver’s licenses away from criminal defendants who fail to pay their court costs and fines within a year of their cases closing. The law’s supporters argue it will allow court clerks to collect millions of dollars a year in fines and fees that are largely ignored.
A closely held poll in the field last week revealed a “huge” number of undecideds in the 6th District state Senate race. Candidates Marilyn Roddy, Becky Duncan Massey, and Victoria DeFreese have 27 days until early voting starts to get the word out that there is an election and to win over the uncommitted.
During last year’s Republican gubernatorial primary, Tennessee Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey attacked rival Bill Haslam for backing Democrat Al Gore’s 1988 presidential bid, though Haslam took issue with the claim. Now Ramsey is dismissing as “silly” any criticism of Texas Gov. Rick Perry for backing Gore that year.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey urged Texas Gov. Rick Perry to run for president Wednesday after attending a meeting with Perry in San Antonio. “With the stakes this high, I don’t think any of us have the luxury of standing on the sidelines in the upcoming election,” Ramsey said in a statement.
The Hamilton County Commission’s redistricting effort — expected to be finished next week — now likely will stretch into September. Commissioners blame the Tennessee River. Commission Chairman Larry Henry hoped to approve new district boundaries by Aug. 17 but said Wednesday he likely will hold off longer.
Self-styled dealmaker Bob Corker will not get the chance to be part the super committee charged with reducing federal spending. Senator Corker has mentioned in several venues this week that he would “relish” the opportunity, as recently as Wednesday morning on WJCW AM radio in Johnson City.
Nashville Congressman Jim Cooper says the House of Representatives can’t wait until next month to reconvene. He and three colleagues have sent letters to Speaker John Boehner and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi asking them to call Congress back in session.
For states, the federal agreement to raise the debt ceiling has inspired confusion and consternation in equal parts. State officials knew that cuts in federal aid were coming their way, but when the deal was struck August 1, they had little sense of how deep the reductions would be and which programs they’d cover.
Business Facilities magazine has named Memphis as the No. 1 logistics, distribution and shipping hub in the country for 2011. “Memphis has an unsurpassed combination of air, rail, land and water shipping possibilities,” Business Facilities Editor-in-Chief Jack Rogers said in a statement.
Nashville-based SpecialtyCare has signed as the anchor tenant for the fifth floor at the future Nashville Medical Trade Center in the current convention center. Market Center Management Company, the operator of the medical mart, announced SpecialtyCare’s showroom will occupy 8,500 square feet.
A Florida-based medical group plans to establish a 32-bed mental health hospital in leased space at Cookeville Regional Medical Center. United Medical Corp., which operates multiple health care-related facilities across the country, and its affiliates, PremierCare Tennessee Inc. and Ten Broeck Tennessee, will go before state regulators this year for authority to provide both inpatient and outpatient psychiatric services.
Pharmaceutical company Pfizer Global Supply is ending manufacturing and logistics operations at its Bristol, Tenn., facility, but the plant will continue its commercial and support operations. Pfizer is looking to consolidate plants after purchasing Bristol-based King Pharmaceuticals.
Stephen George, editor of The City Paper since January 2010, has announced he is leaving the position. “This city and this family of publications have been extraordinarily good to me,” George said.
Even after a federal judge’s 146-page ruling on Monday, a specially called meeting of the Shelby County Schools board on Wednesday made it clear that more negotiations remain before school consolidation will proceed. The standing-room-only meeting lasted less than 30 minutes and largely consisted of David Pickler, the longtime chairman of the SCS board, reading into the record a long resolution seeking exhaustive information and access to Memphis City Schools’ inner workings, including a forensic audit of the system.
Shelby County Schools board members sent a long list of requests for very specific information to Memphis City Schools officials Wednesday, Aug. 10. The 20-part resolution is the county school board’s first formal response to this week’s ruling in the federal court lawsuit over schools consolidation.
Shelby County Schools are back in session, but this year it’s the adults with the major homework assignment: consolidating with Memphis City Schools. The Superintendent and the Board Members say they are ready to start the take over and want total access to the Memphis system in order to start the process.
U.S. District Court Judge Hardy Mays met with all sides in the Memphis City Schools/Shelby County Schools consolidation case the day after he ruled in the case that will change the face of local public education. The closed conference with the attorneys that lasted an hour Tuesday, Aug. 9, was a reminder that the case isn’t over.
Everybody claims victory in the school-merger suit, but the judge inclines toward Norris-Todd. After federal judge Hardy Mays, who was in charge of the multiple consolidated litigations regarding the pending merger of Memphis City Schools with Shelby County Schools, issued his ruling on Monday, one metaphor kept turning up in public responses, both formal and informal.
Rhea County commissioners were warned this week that the financial assumptions behind a planned $35 million bond issue to pay for a new high school are based on “perfect-world scenarios that are not going to take place.” Steve Randolph, a certified public accountant with 44 years experience in county, city and school finances, encouraged commissioners to re-examine plans for the bonds.
Memphis police say an administrator has been found dead at a private school in an apparent homicide. Police say the body of the 48-year-old woman was discovered by a teacher shortly after 11 a.m. Wednesday at Memphis Junior Academy, a private school in east Memphis.
Student suspect charged with 1st-degree murder Saying he didn’t like Suzette York and she made him angry, Eduardo Marmolejo told police Wednesday that he had planned to kill his principal since May. The 17-year-old student at Memphis Junior Academy chose Wednesday because he knew he’d be alone in a classroom with York, 49, according to a police affidavit.
Loss of federal cleanup funds hits Tenn. hard Police and sheriff’s departments in states that produce much of the nation’s methamphetamine have made a sudden retreat in the war on meth, at times virtually abandoning pursuit of the drug because they can no longer afford to clean up the toxic waste generated by labs. Despite abundant evidence that the meth trade is flourishing, many law enforcement agencies have called off tactics that have been used for years to confront drug makers: sending agents undercover, conducting door-to-door investigations and setting up stakeouts at pharmacies to catch people buying large amounts of cold medicine.
Missouri has always been a poster child for a glaring deficiency in the federal education law known as the No Child Left Behind Act. To its credit, Missouri uses rigorous tests to measure how well and how much students are learning.
Tennessee might be the first state to seek a waiver from the performance standards of the No Child Left Behind Act, but it (is not) the only state to do so. Gov. Bill Haslam said that the NCLB law, enacted with bipartisan support during the first term of President George W. Bush, has outlived its usefulness as written. The Obama administration is seeking a new law or revisions to the current one, which has been up for revision since 2007.
One of the rights of passage for American teens is a trip to a testing center to take the exam that if passed allows them to obtain a driver’s license. It is a visit that involves equal amounts of anticipation and trepidation.
“Detroit” used to be a virtual synonym for “cars,” because so many American automobiles were made in and around Detroit. But in recent decades, we have seen car manufacturing grow all around the nation — with Chattanooga now being a big center for making Volkswagens, and other Volunteer State sites making cars or car parts.
We’re not surprised that Tennessee was again picked as the top state for automotive manufacturing strength, and we hope that ranking results in even more good paying manufacturing jobs coming to the Middle Tennessee area. Business Facilities magazine recently announced Tennessee’s repeat as the top automotive state, citing the recent ribbon cutting of the $1 billion Volkswagen auto assembly plant in Chattanooga as well as Nissan’s ongoing construction of the $1.6- billion manufacturing plant in Smyrna to eventually build the Leaf all-electric car and the batteries to power it.
Innovation drives successful school systems One of my earliest teaching assignments took me to a troubled urban school where far too many of the adults in the building had long since given up on the students. Discipline was poor, and the principal spent virtually all her time making rules and punishing students.
There is time. It will be nearly two years, just before the start of the 2013-14 school year, before the Memphis City Schools officially is no more. So ruled U.S. District Court Judge Samuel “Hardy” Mays on Monday in a 146-page ruling that provided some much-needed clarity around the consolidation of the city and the Shelby County Schools.
There’s no joy in the demise of a venerable institution such as Lambuth University, the private school in Jackson, Tenn., that closed on June 30 after 168 years. A situation created by financial problems, declining enrollment and the loss of accreditation becomes a new opportunity for students in West Tennessee on Aug. 27 when classes begin at the University of Memphis Lambuth Campus.
Never has the world economy depended so much on the success of developing nations. A misguided focus on budget cutting has plunged the European Union and the United States down paths that will prolong their economic stagnation and perhaps tip them into another recession.
Polarization in Washington, D.C., was on garish display in the recent struggle over the debt ceiling. Polarization also is escalating at the state level. In some states — Wisconsin and Minnesota are prime examples — political adversaries are facing off within the state. Dysfunction has been the result in those two states, just as it has been in Washington.