This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Gov. Bill Haslam, first lady Chrissy Haslam and state education Commissioner Kevin Huffman visited Cleveland Middle School on Friday to thank teachers, administrators and students for helping to make Tennessee the nation’s fastest-improving state in academic growth. “It is a significant step forward due to a lot of incredible work by teachers and educational leaders of our state,” Haslam said. “People who are in the education world nationally are looking at Tennessee with their jaws wide open, because this news is such a big accomplishment.”
Governor Bill Haslam paid a special visit to Cleveland Middle School. The Governor and First Lady made their rounds to 7th and 8th classrooms to celebrate Tennessee’s academic growth. Tennessee is leading the nation in education gains. In fact, Tennessee’s overall growth in these areas marks the largest collective test-score jump in the federal assessment’s history. “In the past we’ve tested somewhere in the 40s now we can say that we are solidly in the 30s when it comes to education achievement,” says Governor Haslam.
The Governor says Tennessee’s recent improvement in national education rankings is something the state’s teachers can be proud of. “4th and 8th grade reading and math in the past we have tested somewhere in the 40s, now we can say is a state now solidly in the 30s when it comes to educational achievement” The Governor added that while I.T and technology in our classrooms has played a major role it is not the only factor. “If you have all the technology in the world in one classroom and a really great teacher in the other i’ll take the great teacher with a piece of chalk and chalk board every time.”
Gov. Bill Haslam was pelted with questions from first, second and fourth-graders at Bearden Elementary School on Friday as he visited the school to celebrate and to thank teachers and students for helping make the state tops in academic growth in the country. He was joined by his wife, Crissy, state Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman and other school and county officials. “We’re trying to go around the state to make certain that teachers know how much we appreciate them,” Haslam said.
Gov. Bill Haslam says, despite pockets of dissatisfaction, the majority of teachers are happy with what’s happening in Tennessee schools, including the evaluation process. The governor was in Knoxville Friday at Bearden Elementary School on the last stop of a four school appreciation tour touting the results of the Nation’s Report Card, which showed Tennessee leading the nation in academic growth. The event should’ve been a slam dunk for the Governor and his Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman. The national report card of states, released Thursday, shows Tennessee with significant gains in fourth and eighth grade reading and math.
Friday, Governor Bill Haslam, first lady and education commissioner Kevin Huffman stopped by Bearden Elementary School to praise Knox County Schools for educational gains. On Thursday, the National Assessment of Educational Progress report card showed Tennessee is the fastest improving state in the nation in reading and math. The results are based on a U.S. Department of Education sponsored test that’s taken by 4th and 8th graders in all 50 states. Tennessee students showed the most improvement seen in the test’s 10-year history.
“Tennessee is #1 for growth.” That was the message written on a brightly colored cake decorated with an apple, calculator, ruler, paper and pencil presented Friday by Gov. Bill Haslam to staff and students at Holston Middle School The visit came the day after state officials learned that of all the states Tennessee made the largest gains on the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests last year. The scores of students across the Volunteer State improved 22 points over the previous year. Not every school in the state takes the test. Schools are randomly selected each year.
Gov. Bill Haslam personally thanked students and staff at Holston Middle School for their hard work today. The state was recently recognized for its improvements on a national standardized test. “Thank you so much,” Haslam said as he shook Sullivan County Director of Schools Jubal Yennie’s hand. “We appreciate your work.” Tennessee students had the largest gains of any other state on the National Assessment of Educational Progress testing. Students improved 22 percent over last year. “There are 60,000 teachers in Tennessee,” Haslam said.
One day after Tennessee made national news for producing the largest gains on the Nation’s Report Card, 150 of the best teachers in the county received the VIP treatment in Tunica, infused coffee bar included. Greeting them at the Harrah’s convention center was the 14-member teacher team from Shelby County Schools that planned and pulled off the $75,000 ECET regional conference, compliments of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “You ask a lot of questions, and people pointed you in the right directions,” said Arlington High anatomy and physiology teacher Janet Pennington.
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam joined Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder and Major General Terry “Max” Haston of the Tennessee Military Department today to recognize four veteran state employees and more than 525,000 Tennessee veterans of all ages and eras. The Governor’s Veterans Day event was held at the Tennessee Tower Plaza in downtown Nashville. Specialist Gabriella Saulsberry served nearly three years in the United States Army while working as a Personnel Clerk in Heidelberg, Germany.
A change in the way UT in Knoxville charges freshmen for credit hours could graduate students faster and save them $3,600 in tuition. Avoiding a fifth year of housing costs could do wonders for the wallet, too. But the new plan might require perfection to pay off. Starting this semester, new Volunteers pay for 15 credit hours instead of 12, an unprecedented move for the University of Tennessee among universities in its peer group. The new model, which applies to this fall’s 4,300-plus freshmen and 1,400-plus transfer students, was approved by the board of trustees in 2012 in hopes that an increased minimum “full-time” course load would see more students graduate in four years and help retention rates.
Tennessee’s general fund revenues fell $97 million short of projections in the first quarter of the state’s budget year. Corporate franchise and excise tax collections came in at $352 million, or $87 million below the budgeted estimate, and a 14 percent drop from the same year-ago period. Sales tax collections were $1.77 billion in the quarter, missing projections by about 1 percent. But sales tax revenues posted a 3.4 percent growth compared with the first quarter of last year.
As Gov. Bill Haslam begins hearing budget proposals from his top commissioners next week, the state is looking at another month of lagging state revenues. Last month the state collected $17.8 million less than expected in October, missing the bar in the state’s sales, franchise, excise, gasoline, motor fuel, tobacco and other state taxes. The inheritance and estate taxes were one of few that raked in more than the state expected. “We are very disappointed with the negative growth rates reported in corporate tax collections for October and the preceding two months,” said Larry Martin, state commissioner of Finance and Administration.
All Maj. Robert E. Ricks wanted to do was update his ROTC battalion’s motto, but he wound up kick-starting a new chapter of Cherokee history. Since his appointment as head of UTC’s Military Science department in December 2012, Ricks made it his mission to better reflect Chattanooga’s role in Cherokee history by revising the battalion’s call-and-response. But after conversations with the Cherokee Nation, Ricks and his reserve officers are ready to build a cultural bridge with the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation through a special internship program this spring.
It’s that time of year again where the leaves are falling and sticks and branches litter the yard. But with that comes the potential for for wildfires that can cause extensive damage. In the past week, East Tennessee has seen wildfires burn roughly 70 acres in Anderson County, and more than 300 acres in Cocke County. October 15 through May 15 is considered Tennessee’s fire season due to the lack of precipitation that typically falls. athan Waters with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Forestry Department is urging anyone who is burning brush piles or camp fires to practice extra caution.
Mayor Karl Dean has reached an agreement for a public-private partnership to move ahead on building a new minor league ballpark for the Nashville Sounds at Sulphur Dell in the Jefferson Street/Germantown area. Details of the proposal, including financing, will be presented the Nashville Sports Authority and Metro Council during two information sessions on Monday, Nov. 11th. The project requires approval from the Nashville Sports Authority, the Metro Council and the State Building Commission. The Metro Council could vote for the legislation on first reading on Nov. 19.
Mayor Karl Dean has reached agreements with the Nashville Sounds and state officials on a deal to build a new baseball stadium at Sulphur Dell in North Nashville. The financing details, including how much taxpayers will be expected to contribute, are not being released by the Dean administration. City officials are expected to present the plan at a Sports Authority meeting on Monday. If Metro Council, the state Building Commission and the Sports Authority sign off on the deal, it would clear the way for construction to begin, and the project to be completed in time for opening day of the Sounds’ 2015 season.
Plans to build a new minor league ballpark near Nashville’s Bi-Centennial Mall took a big step forward Friday. According to a news release, the city has reached an agreement with the state – which owns the land – to build on the site of the historic Sulphur Dell stadium. The Sounds have also agreed to lease the 8,500-seat facility from the city, assuming it gets built. The deal – which will be more fully described Monday – also involves a property swap with a private developer. Mayor Karl Dean and owners of the Sounds are still shooting to be ready for the 2015 season. But there are several significant hurdles to go, including a vote of the Metro Council.
Mayor Karl Dean announced this afternoon Metro has reached an agreement with the state, the Nashville Sounds and a private developer to allow for a new minor league baseball stadium to be built at Sulphur Dell on the city’s north side. Details, including the financing plan, will be revealed Monday at two information sessions with members of the Nashville Sports Authority and Metro Council.
House Speaker Beth Harwell said she doesn’t support using $35 million in state money to help pay for a Nashville bus rapid transit line, dealing a damaging blow to one of Mayor Karl Dean’s key initiatives. Combined with a tepid assessment of the prospects for federal funding from the congressman who represents Nashville, the speaker’s lack of support could put the future of a project Dean has pushed at every opportunity in serious doubt. Dean and his supporters acknowledge that they have work to do but said they are still making the case for the project’s importance to Nashville’s future.
Though Mayor Karl Dean’s proposed $174 million bus rapid-transit system the Amp would largely be funded with the federal dollars, it will also need state dollars to get off the ground. The prospect of that happening, however, took a blow today, as Beth Harwell, the speaker of the House, announced her opposition to funding $35 million toward the project. “At this point in time, we have an $8 billion wish list for highway project funds that are already backlogged,” said Harwell, a Nashville Republican whose district includes a portion of the Amp’s proposed route.
Nashville Congressman Jim Cooper has words for the botched Obamacare roll-out. “The best line was from Saturday Night Live; they said it was like 1-800-FLOWERS not being ready for Valentine’s Day.” That said, Cooper sees one part working as advertised, which he thinks gets lost in all the shouting and criticism: While the cost of healthcare is still going up, it’s at the slowest speed in decades. A key argument for the insurance overhaul was to stop rising costs from eating an ever bigger slice of the federal budget pie chart. And Cooper says, apart from the bluster over last month’s botched rollout and so on, it’s doing that.
Federal government retirees oppose a U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais-backed bill to place them on Obamacare. Retired engineer Steve Schroeder said he should be able to keep his promised health insurance benefits. “I could have made 30 percent more in industry,” said Schroeder, a resident of the Blackman area west of Murfreesboro who retired as a 33-year engineer for the U.S. Air Force and finished his career at Arnold Engineering Development Center in Tullahoma. “I chose what I did because I wanted a secure employment environment. I had been through a lay off with Ling-Temco-Vought (a publically traded corporation).”
Middle Tennessee’s newly appointed top federal prosecutor on Friday vowed to carry on with the priorities of his predecessor, aggressively investigating health care fraud and pursuing stiff penalties against gangs. David Rivera, who had served as “acting” U.S. attorney since the previous prosecutor, Jerry Martin, stepped down in April, was sworn into the position on an interim basis this week. Named by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to a 120-day stint, he would have to be nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed by Congress for his appointment to be made permanent.
Florida ran out of its primary lethal-injection drug last month and relied on a new drug that no state had ever used for an execution. At Ohio’s next scheduled execution, the state is planning to use a two-drug combination for the first time. Last month in Texas, Michael Yowell became that state’s first inmate executed using a drug made by a lightly regulated pharmacy that usually produces customized medications for individual patients. The decision by manufacturers to cut off supplies of drugs, some of which had been widely used in executions for decades, has left many of the nation’s 32 death penalty states scrambling to come up with new drugs and protocols.
In an effort to boost the city’s television and film industry, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean announced the formation of the Nashville Film Television Transmedia Council on Thursday. The council, which will be comprised of government, education, nonprofit and industry organizations, is intended to promote, support and grow the local film and television industry, including bringing more film and television projects to Nashville. Seven area universities, two Metro high schools, the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp., the Pencil Foundation and the Nashville Film Institute are participating with the new council, in addition to more than a dozen nonprofit organizations related to the industry.
Add another piece to the realigned demographic puzzle of those on college campuses these days. The college students who are already older than the immediate post-high school years include students who are coming as part of training in their full-time jobs. Their goal isn’t a four-year degree and they aren’t taking the courses that go toward such degrees. Their companies are sending them to college campuses like Southwest Tennessee Community College for job training over a matter of weeks the company itself has had a hand in designing. Community colleges are the first into the breach on what is expected to be a large number of manufacturing jobs coming to the Memphis economic sector in the next four to five years.
A struggle over decades to force insurers to cover mental health and addiction services on the same basis as medical and surgical costs is headed for success under new rules issued on Friday by the Obama administration. The rules will cover most Americans with health insurance, including those in many employer-sponsored plans, in other group plans, in some but not all Medicaid plans, and in policies bought on the individual markets. The rules strengthen a 2008 law that required parity in coverage — but only when an insurer actually offered mental health and addiction benefits. It did not require such benefits. The new health care law, the Affordable Care Act, does require coverage for mental health and substance abuse as 1 of 10 essential benefits in any new health plans.