This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Gov. Bill Haslam said Wednesday that he’s concerned an effort by fellow Republicans to defeat three Democratic state Supreme Court justices in August could “muddy the waters” for a separate constitutional amendment on judicial selection that goes before voters two months later. But Haslam said after an appearance at Lipscomb University that he has not tried to dissuade Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey from targeting the justices. “He has the full right to go do that and make his argument,” Haslam said. “It’s just not something I’m going to be taking part in.” Ramsey has been meeting with business leaders, victims’ rights advocates and others to make the case that the three justices facing election this summer should go.
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam is giving the state’s sitting supreme court his vote of confidence. The affirmation comes as the state’s lieutenant governor launches a campaign to unseat the justices appointed by Democrats. Only one Tennessee Supreme Court justice has been voted out of office under the current retention election system. And Ron Ramsey is taking aim at three. In a PowerPoint obtained by News Channel 5, the lieutenant governor is trying to convince business groups that Chief Justice Gary Wade, and justices Connie Clark and Sharon Lee are “soft on crime” and that the Attorney General – who they appoint – is the “enemy of job creators.”
Gov. Bill Haslam said Wednesday he won’t take part in the Republican campaign to unseat three Tennessee Supreme Court justices appointed by former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen, but he won’t try to discourage it either. Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, is leading the effort to defeat Justices Cornelia Clark, Sharon Lee and Gary Wade in their Aug. 7 retention elections for new eight-year terms. The national Republican State Legislative Committee has indicated it may join the campaign, and several out-of-state conservative interest groups are considering funding it.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said Wednesday that he sees “danger” in an anticipated Republican attack on three state Supreme Court justices. Still, the governor said he won’t ask the man behind that effort to stop. Haslam said he believes that Supreme Court justices are not just like other candidates and that political campaigns should not be new trials of old cases — even though our NewsChannel 5 investigation discovered that’s exactly what may be about to happen if Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey gets his way. “I’m not going to be a part of that effort, I’ll just put it that way,” Haslam told reporters.
Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman said Wednesday that a report showing the state’s high school seniors’ below-average performance in math and reading is partially due to them not being exposed to recent education changes that have more rigorous standards. Tennessee was among 13 states that voluntarily participated in the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test, also known as the nation’s report card. Twelfth-graders in those states were tested last year from January to March. The average reading score of students in Tennessee was 282, which was lower than the national average score of 287 for public school students, according to the results released Wednesday.
Tennessee’s top education official wants a more uniform structure to decide how state education dollars are divided up among public school districts — but what that would look like is still unclear. Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman said it won’t be until the next meeting of Gov. Bill Haslam’s Basic Education Program Task Force this summer that alternative education funding plans will be discussed. But at the task force’s second meeting on Wednesday, Huffman, who chairs the panel, said he doesn’t support the fact that the current system relies on two separate models to dictate funding levels for districts.
Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman said Wednesday that a report showing the state’s high school seniors’ below-average performance in math and reading is partially due to them not being exposed to recent education changes that have more rigorous standards. Tennessee was among 13 states that voluntarily participated in the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test, also known as the nation’s report card. Twelfth-graders in those states were tested last year from January to March.
Students in Tennessee are graduating high school unable to demonstrate reading and math comprehension at the same levels as peers in other states even as the nation as a whole is showing stagnant growth. Achievement gaps between demographics, meanwhile, are proving just as unmovable as ever. Those realities, reaffirming what state officials know is a tough climb to improve public high school education here, are spelled out in results from the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress — known as the “nation’s report card” — released Wednesday for high school seniors.
In its first year participating in the senior reading and math skills analysis by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, Tennessee scored at the back of the pack of the 13 states that volunteer their scores. Only 17 percent of Tennessee’s seniors were proficient in math; 31 percent passed NAEP’s reading test. Only West Virginia had a poorer showing. NAEP is considered the gold standard in national testing. A representative sample of students in all states take the test, making it possible to compare scores. The test was given to seniors last year.
Despite years of efforts to lift U.S. academic performance, 12th-graders showed no improvement in math or reading in federal test scores released Wednesday, underscoring concerns that the country isn’t generating career- and college-ready graduates. Students’ 2013 performance in the National Assessment of Educational Progress didn’t budge since the prior one in 2009. About 38% of students scored proficient or higher in reading, while about 26% did so in math—matching the 2009 results. A majority of students received marks of below basic or basic for both subjects in both years.
The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development announced today that Nancy Williams has been named Tennessee Main Street Program director. Williams (pictured) replaces Todd Morgan, who is leaving state government to become director of preservation field services for Knox Heritage and the East Tennessee Preservation Alliance. Williams brings to TNECD’s Rural Development team more than 30 years of experience in communication, community development, historic preservation and association management, according to a release.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has grant money available to help cities, schools and nonprofits with stream cleanup and planting projects. Each of TWRA’s four regional Aquatic Habitat Protection projects has $5,000 available, to be distributed in grants of $1,000 each. According to the agency, the grant money could be used to buy supplies like rakes, work gloves and garbage bags. It also could be used to pay waste disposal fees, advertise a project or provide support for volunteers, such as T-shirts and refreshments.
As the newly elected president of the University of Memphis, M. David Rudd plans to not only continue making improvements at the Lambuth campus but also to increase campus involvement in the Jackson community. The University of Memphis announced May 1 that Rudd would become the 12th president of the university, effective May 16. Rudd visited the Lambuth campus on Wednesday and spoke with The Jackson Sun. “I plan to be significantly involved in the Lambuth campus,” said Rudd, who has served as the University of Memphis’ provost since March 2013. “(Lambuth) is important to West Tennessee, not just Jackson and Memphis.”
Former Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice William “Mickey” Barker says an effort by some fellow Republicans in the state Legislature to unseat three incumbent Democratic justices in August elections is nothing less than “an attack on the entire judicial system.” The Signal Mountain Republican, who served nearly seven years on the state’s highest court, called the effort led by Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, a “frightening” attempt to turn the judicial branch into another “partisan branch of government.” “We have three branches of government,” Barker said in an interview.
U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn introduced legislation Wednesday that would force broadcasters to pay royalties to artists and record labels when their songs are played on terrestial radio. Currently only writers and publishers receive royalty payments when a song is played on the radio. Artists and labels, meanwhile, receive royalties for virtually every other transmission of their song – from satellite radio to streaming services. Blackburn said it was time for radio broadcasters to pay performance royalties, too. “This is a basic issue of modernizing the law to get rid of a dated loophole that only applies to AM/FM radio,” Blackburn said in a release.
A federal judge had scathing words for the teacher evaluation system in Florida, saying that the court would be “hard-pressed to find anyone who would find [it] fair” to certain teachers — but he decided that, technically, it’s legal. The case was looking at whether Florida schools could tie some teacher salaries to test scores of students that they didn’t actually teach. The ruling of unfair-but-legal wasn’t necessarily welcome news to the Tennessee Education Association. The teachers union filed two lawsuits in March over the way test scores were used in certain evaluations. But executive director Carolyn Crowder says their cases are different from the one in Florida.