This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Gov. Bill Haslam wants Tennessee’s teacher salaries to become the fastest improving in the nation, a long-term and still-unfunded goal that complements a controversial new pay plan that rewards educators who perform the best. The Republican governor used an announcement recognizing the state’s “Teacher of the Year” nominations Thursday to unveil an objective he says is one of the most important his administration has taken on: bumping teacher salaries in Tennessee, which currently sit at the bottom 10 nationwide, to the very top in growth.
Gov. Bill Haslam set a goal Thursday for Tennessee to have the fastest rate of growth in teacher salaries, in the aggregate, by the time he leaves office. “This is a long-term goal, and I think it is one of the most important ones we’ve taken on,” the governor said during a Capitol ceremony attended by dozens of educators in town for the Tennessee Teacher of the Year awards Thursday night. “Teachers are the single most important factor in student achievement, and higher accountability for teachers and proven results should be met with better rewards.”
After nearly three years of demanding more from Tennessee public school teachers, Republican Gov. Bill Haslam vowed Thursday to pay them more by boosting their pay. The governor, who is running for re-election next year, promised in a state Capitol news conference that educators’ salaries would grow at the fastest percentage pace of any state in the nation by the time he leaves office. “This is a long-term goal, and I think it is one of the most important ones we’ve taken on,” Haslam said. The move comes as the governor and his education commissioner, Kevin Huffman, come under increasing criticism from teachers as well as nearly half of the state’s 137 school superintendents who recently signed a petition letter to Haslam which blasted Huffman.
Gov. Bill Haslam declared Thursday a new goal of increasing Tennessee teacher salaries at the fastest rate in the nation annually for the rest of his term in office — an objective that has apparently already been met during the past two years. A previous goal, he said, was to have Tennessee as the “fastest-improving state in academic achievement by 2015,” and test scores show the state on target toward meeting the goal. In the process, the governor said, there is “no question that we are asking more of teachers than we ever have” and it is appropriate to raise their salaries.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam pledged Thursday to improve the salaries of the state’s teachers amid criticism of his education commissioner who has proposed changes that include tying teacher licenses to student test data. Haslam said at a news conference that by the time he leaves office he wants Tennessee’s teacher salaries to have grown more than teacher salaries in any other state. “This is a long-term goal, and I think it is one of the most important ones we’ve taken on,” said the Republican governor, who is up for re-election for a second four-year term next year.
Gov. Bill Haslam wants Tennessee’s teacher salaries to become the fastest improving in the nation, a long-term and still unfunded goal that complements a controversial new pay-plan overhaul that rewards educators who perform the best. The Republican governor used an announcement recognizing the state’s “Teacher of the Year” nominations Thursday to unveil an objective he says is one of the most important his administration has taken on: bumping teacher salaries in Tennessee, which currently sit at the bottom 10 nationwide, to the very top in growth.
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam joined Department of Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman Thursday to announce the administration’s goal of becoming the fastest improving state in the nation when it comes to teacher salaries. “We’re asking our students to be the fastest improving in the nation in education achievement, and the data is showing that we’re making real progress,” Haslam said. “Teachers are the single most important factor in student achievement, and higher accountability for teachers and proven results should be met with better rewards.”
Tennessee will make raising teacher salaries a budget priority, Gov. Bill Haslam announced Thursday afternoon at a press conference before the state’s Teacher of the Year celebration. “We’re asking our students to be the fastest improving in the nation in education achievement, and the data is showing that we’re making real progress,” Haslam said. “Teachers are the single most important factor in student achievement, and higher accountability for teachers and proven results should be met with better rewards.”
Governor Bill Haslam says he’s committing to raising teacher salaries faster than any other state. Haslam acknowledged Tennessee teacher pay ranks near the bottom nationally. Haslam’s long-term goal isn’t exactly to pay teachers the best, so much as to keep raising their pay the fastest, from its relatively low current level. Haslam and Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman wouldn’t forecast specific numbers, like how much they want teachers to start at. Huffman says that comes later.
Gov. Bill Haslam announced Thursday that he wants Tennessee to become the fastest-improving state in the nation when it comes to teacher salaries. “We’re asking our students to be the fastest improving in the nation in education achievement, and the data is showing that we’re making real progress,” Haslam said. “Teachers are the single most important factor in student achievement, and higher accountability for teachers and proven results should be met with better rewards.” During the Haslam administration’s first years in office, the state has seen three consecutive years of growth in TCAP results, including the largest gains in Tennessee history last year.
The hard-line stance of Republican House members on the government shutdown is generating increasing anger among senior Republican officials, who say the small bloc of conservatives is undermining the party and helping President Obama just as the American people appeared to be losing confidence in him… “This is a huge distraction,” said Gov. Bill Haslam of Tennessee. “Instead of that being the conversation, we’re talking about the government shutdown, and the average citizen can’t help but say the Republican Congress isn’t helping.”
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam made a couple of stops Oct. 1 in Trousdale County. Many of those stops included visiting Award School Trousdale County Elementary School where he talked fractions with students, and announced new business growth and a water grant at Trousdale County High School.
The budget sequestration adopted two years ago by Congress will force Tennessee to cut the jobless benefits paid to those unemployed more than six months by 5.5 percent, starting Saturday. Jeff Hentschell, communications manager for the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, said about 20,000 Tennessee claimants currently receiving emergency unemployment compensation will be affected by the cuts and others will see the benefit reductions after their 26 weeks of state jobless benefits are exhausted, if they can’t find a job.
Ever since the government shutdown began, many people have raised concerns over SNAP, the federal program that provides food stamps to low-income families. The people who run Tennessee’s program say most of the people who get assistance from SNAP are getting their benefits on time. However, there was a technical glitch at one of the data centers last weekend that caused delays for a few folks. They stressed those delays had nothing to do with the federal shutdown and that SNAP has enough of a surplus to keep running through October.
“We’ve already broken several laws.” That startling statement — made by a career state employee — describes how the Haslam administration handled one questionable contract. It’s contained in new email messages just obtained by NewsChannel 5 Investigates — messages in which that state employee complained about taxpayer money being steered to a company with connections. The emails emerged as part of a legal claim, seeking damages, filed by Sanders Moving Company. Sanders is a Nashville firm whose history dates back to the horse and buggy days. Last year, the Haslam administration abruptly canceled a moving contract that the longtime Tennessee company had with the state.
A two-day “preview” of Sex Week — a racy student program that evoked outrage in the state legislature last spring — will return to the University of Tennessee campus next week. The truncated event will run Oct. 8- 9 and center on one event each evening. A pastor, sex educator, health professional, professor and student will host a panel discussion titled “Falling into Your Sexuality,” said Brianna Rader, co-founder of Sex Week at UT. “There is a panel with representatives that you think about when you make decisions about your sex life,” she said.
A political adviser to Republican state Sen. Stacey Campfield has been dismissed from his state job as the senator’s executive assistant for apparently violating legislative staff rules. The Knoxville News Sentinel reports that Bryan Dodson spent most of August in Knoxville instead of at his Nashville office as rules for legislative staff require. According to Dodson’s work time sheet for August obtained by the newspaper, Dodson wrote that he worked 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. on all work days during the month. Beside the date Aug. 12, he wrote on the form “in Knox” with a line and arrow going down through Aug. 30.
Amy Ball works in a state of limbo. Too essential to stay home, she reports daily to her federal job in Nashville, despite the partial shutdown of the government. But there is no guarantee she will be paid, and she has no way of knowing how long that uncertainty will last. “A lot of the American people think if you’re a government employee, you make a lot of money,” Ball said in an interview this week from the Hendersonville apartment she shares with her 10-year-old son, Jacob. “I just think the American people should know we have responsibilities, we have bills.”
On a normal day, Diane Ferguson is finance manager for information technology for the Internal Revenue Service here. On Thursday, she was watching “the judge shows” on TV and avoiding anything that costs money in case her furlough lasts more than a few days. “I would like to be out buying shoes, but I’m trying to refrain from any unnecessary spending,” Ferguson said of the sudden life of leisure enforced on her by the federal government shutdown. As a manager, Ferguson said she had to inform 14 people Monday that they would be furloughed with no guarantee that they will receive back pay when the Congressional gridlock over Obamacare is somehow resolved.
As the federal government shutdown continues, federal campsites notified people they have to pack up and move out by noon Friday. All Army Corps of Engineers sites, including those at Percy Priest Lake, are closing because federal workers are being furloughed. Corps officials say they regret closing the campgrounds, but they don’t have enough employees to keep them open. Corbin Caudill had just one afternoon of fishing left Thursday at Percy Priest Lake before having to move to a state park.
U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper backed a proposal Thursday to end the federal government shutdown by repealing a new tax on medical devices, but the plan appears to have little chance of passing. Cooper, D-Nashville, said he would join a group of moderate congressional Democrats and Republicans seeking to reopen the federal government by reversing the 2.3 percent levy on medical devices that starts Jan. 1. Senate Democrats and President Barack Obama have been cool to the prospect of offering any concessions in exchange for ending the shutdown.
Nashville Democrat Jim Cooper is supporting a bi-partisan compromise to end the partial government shutdown and get 800,000 federal workers back on the job. Broadly, the It funds operations for six-months and repeals the medical device tax in President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. In a statement, Cooper says Congress needs to “stop partisan bickering.” However, the proposal is a non-starter to leadership on both sides of the aisle.
Add Republican U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann to the list of congressmen who are having their salaries withheld or donated to charity during the partial federal government shutdown. “Rep. Fleischmann has asked the Chief Administrative Officer of the House to withhold his pay until the temporary lapse in appropriations is resolved,” said Tyler Threadgill, the congressman’s spokesman, in an email. So far, the partial shutdown, which some Republicans characterize as more of a “slow down,” shows no signs of being resolved. Earlier this week, U.S. Reps. Diane Black, R-Tenn., and Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., said they are donating their salaries to charity during the partial shutdown, which affects some 800,000 workers in “nonessential” jobs nationwide.
Two Tennessee Representatives say they’ll forgo their salaries, along with dozens of other members of Congress, while the federal government shutdown drags on. Nashville Democrat Jim Cooper and Gallatin Republican Diane Black both say they’ll donate their salaries to charity. A rule says they would still get paid otherwise, even as hundreds of thousands of federal workers wonder when they’ll see another paycheck. Members of Congress make $174,000 a year, which comes to almost $500 per day, before taxes.
Applying for jobless benefits is typically a straightforward affair. But it is shaping up to be a mess for 800,000 furloughed government workers and confounding state officials who run the benefit programs. Applications from federal workers have been flooding state unemployment offices since the shutdown began Tuesday. It will likely be weeks before workers see benefit payments, which would be a small share of what they typically earn. The flurry is throwing a spotlight onto a complex, little-used program funded by the federal government but administered by states, each of which has its own eligibility rules and compensation levels.
Tennesseans hoping to get an LG cell phone with their federal marketplace-purchased health plan may have to wait. The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance has asked Community Health Alliance, the statewide health insurance co-op, to stop its cell phone promotion, for now. “We’ve asked them to pump the brakes until they are able to demonstrate to the state that the phones do fall under the wellness incentive program,” said Kate Abernathy, spokeswoman for the state agency. The co-op, which received $73 million in federal funding, is selling health plans on the marketplace in five of the state’s eight regions.
Tennessee officials have put a temporary halt on a nonprofit group’s plans to provide free cellphones to new members qualifying for health insurance through the new federal health insurance exchange. Community Health Alliance Mutual Insurance Co., a Knoxville-based health insurance cooperative in Tennessee, announced earlier this week that it would offer a free smartphone to qualifying members. Members could qualify for the phones by pledging to take certain steps to maintain their health, such as visiting a doctor within 180 days after the start of their coverage.
“Have Your Members of Congress Signed the ‘Defund ObamaCare’ Letter? Find Out Here!” So reads an Aug. 14 article posted on the website of FreedomWorks, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit group that “has done more than any other organization to build the Tea Party movement,” according to a 2010 New York Times article. Leading the charge in the U.S. House of Representatives was Tom Graves, a Republican from Ranger, Ga., near Calhoun, who represents northwest Georgia, including Dade, Walker, Catoosa and Whitfield counties.
Tennessee’s congressional delegation is safe following a shooting near the opposite side of Capitol Hill on Thursday afternoon. Representatives for all nine of Tennessee’s congressmen and both of its senators confirmed that they and their staffs had not been hurt in the shooting around 2 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. Details on the shooting are still coming to light. The U.S. Capitol was put on lockdown after gunshots were heard near the Hart Senate Office Building on the northeastern end of Capitol Hill. The building is the farthest of the three Senate offices from the Capitol. None of Tennessee’s lawmakers work out of the building.
U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-1st, told the Johnson City Press a few minutes ago that he was standing at the podium on the House floor when chambers were locked down after a shooting near the Capitol. “I was in the middle of a speech on the floor regarding veteran’s affairs when security entered the building and locked it down,” he said while observing armed guards at each entrance and exit. “We heard a shooter was down, but you’re watching it on television, and you may know more than I do.”
The Tennessee Valley Authority says fiscal 2013 was a record year for hydroelectric power generation. During the year ended Monday, TVA’s 29 hydroelectric dams provided 18.5 million megawatt-hours of energy. That’s enough electricity to serve more than 1.2 million homes in TVA’s seven-state region. TVA attributes the record to above-average precipitation. Rainfall was 121 percent of normal in the Tennessee Valley, with nearly 62 inches. Runoff, which is the amount of rainfall that actually reaches streams and creeks, was 136 percent of normal — almost 30 inches.
TVA today announced that it generated more electricity at its 29 hydroelectric dams in fiscal 2013 than any other year in its 80-year history. TVA said the dams provided 18.5 million megawatt-hours of energy, breaking the previous record set in 1973 by 122,000 megawatt-hours. TVA said that was enough electricity to serve more than 1.2 million homes in its service area of seven southeastern states for an entire year. The agency said above average rain and runoff fueled the increase in hydro generation with the Tennessee Valley getting nearly 62 inches of rainfall and almost 30 inches of runoff in fiscal 2013.
Above average rainfall kept Tennessee Valley Authority dams running full-throttle throughout the summer. When it gets hot and dry, TVA has to stop releasing water along the Tennessee River system in order to make sure lakes stay high enough for navigation. But not this year. The fiscal period that ended this week broke the previous record for hydropower generation set in 1973. There was enough electricity produced just by the rivers to power 1.2 million homes for an entire year – 18.5 megawatt hours.
Tennessee has a lot of momentum in the automotive sector, but it needs to better its workforce and do more to encourage innovation, says a new report released today by the Brookings Institution. “The state needs to reset for a very competitive new period,” said Mark Muro, a co-author of “Drive! — Moving Tennessee’s Automotive Sector Up the Value Chain.” For Chattanooga, which is a key part of Tennessee’s auto segment after landing the Volkswagen assembly plant, the stakes are high, a local official said.
A native Tennessean and former political campaign manager is the new director of community engagement for the Tennessee Charter School Center. John Little will focus on the center’s efforts to educate parents and coordinate charter school supporters. He worked previously with the Tennessee Charter Schools Association and Nashville Preparatory Charter School. He also served as director of recruitment for former Gov. Phil Bredesen’s Children’s Cabinet, a statewide mentoring program, and has managed and organized political campaigns.
There is little about student loan debt that qualifies as good news, but a recent national ranking lists Tennessee as one of the nation’s 10 lowest states in that category — and that is at least worth some comfort. The study was conducted by NerdWallet, a San Francisco-based website that focuses on financial literacy and offers a great deal of information about college costs and how to cope with them. The study listing Tennessee as the sixth lowest state for loan debt of its college graduates was based on 2011 figures, the most recent public data available, according to a story in The Chattanooga Times Free Press.