This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
APSU grad, former 101st soldier to lead state Drive to 55 plan (Leaf Chronicle)
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam on Wednesday announced that Mike Krause will join the Governor’s Office as executive director of the Drive to 55 and Tennessee Promise initiatives. Krause, who attended Austin Peay State University and is a former 101st Airborned Division soldier, will lead and manage the launch and implementation of Tennessee Promise and oversee all Drive to 55 efforts, according to a state news release. This includes the statewide Seamless Alignment and Integrated Learning Support (SAILS) early math remediation program, online innovation initiatives, Degree Compass expansion, adult student analytics and research, veteran education efforts, and the development of post-secondary scorecards.
Haslam names Krause to head college initiatives (Associated Press)
Mike Krause, an assistant executive director at the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, has been appointed to head up Gov. Bill Haslam’s initiatives to improve college graduation rates in the state. Krause will manage the launch of the newly enacted Tennessee Promise program, which will cover community college tuition for any high school graduate in the state. The free tuition offer is part of Haslam’s “Drive to 55” plan to improve the state’s graduation rates from the current 32 percent to 55 percent by the year 2025 in order to help improve overall job qualifications and attract employers to the state.
Haslam taps Mike Krause to lead Drive to 55, Tennessee Promise (C. Online)
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam today announced that Mike Krause will join the Governor’s Office as executive director of the Drive to 55 and Tennessee Promise initiatives. Krause will lead and manage the launch and implementation of Tennessee Promise and oversee all Drive to 55 efforts, including the statewide Seamless Alignment and Integrated Learning Support (SAILS) early math remediation program, online innovation initiatives, Degree Compass expansion, adult student analytics and research, veteran education efforts, and the development of post-secondary scorecards.
Haslam taps Mike Krause to lead ‘Drive to 55’ push (Tennessean/Garrison)
Gov. Bill Haslam’s has carved out a new position to take on one of Tennessee’s biggest education challenges. And it has its first leader. Mike Krause, who currently serves as assistant executive director for academic affairs at the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, is set to take on the new role of executive director of the governor’s “Drive to 55” initiative to push the percentage of Tennesseans with post-secondary credentials to 55 percent by 2025. That includes launching and implementing Tennessee Promise, which beginning in 2015 will offer free tuition at community college to the state’s high school graduates.
Haslam names leader of Drive to 55, Tennessee Promise (Nashville Post)
Gov. Bill Haslam has tapped a top Tennessee Higher Education Commission executive to lead the state’s new Drive to 55 and Tennessee Promise initiatives. Mike Krause will join the Governor’s Office as executive director of the higher education programs early next month. He will lead and manage the launch and implementation of Tennessee Promise and oversee all Drive to 55 efforts, including its early math remediation program, online programs and the development of post-secondary scorecards.
Poll Shows Tennessee Voters Favor Free Tuition Plan (Associated Press/Johnson)
A majority of Tennessee voters support Gov. Bill Haslam’s program to cover a full ride at two-year colleges for any high school graduate, as well as higher education standards, according to the latest Vanderbilt University poll released Wednesday. “It speaks to the importance of education,” said Josh Clinton, professor of political science and co-director of the poll, which surveyed 1,245 registered voters between April 28 and May 14. Vanderbilt conducts its poll twice yearly, bookending the legislative session in an attempt to determine how closely lawmakers’ actions mirror voter attitudes and priorities.
Vanderbilt Poll Gives Snapshot Of Tennesseans’ Views (WTVC-TV Chattanooga)
A majority of Tennessee voters support Gov. Bill Haslam’s program to cover a full ride at two-year colleges for any high school graduate, as well as higher education standards, according to the latest Vanderbilt University poll released Wednesday. ‘It speaks to the importance of education,’ said Josh Clinton, professor of political science and co-director of the poll, which surveyed 1,245 registered voters between April 28 and May 14. Vanderbilt conducts its poll twice yearly, bookending the legislative session in an attempt to determine how closely lawmakers’ actions mirror voter attitudes and priorities.
Lincoln, Bordering Counties To Get Federal Aid In Wake Of Tornado (WTVF-TV)
A disaster declaration has been granted for Lincoln County and its bordering counties for flooding and tornado damage last month. The declaration includes Bedford, Franklin, Giles, Lincoln, Marshall and Moore counties in Tennessee. Homeowners and businesses affected by the bad weather will be eligible for low-interest federal loans. On April 28, Tennessee experienced an outbreak of severe storms producing heavy rain, hail and damaging winds. One of the homes destroyed belonged to Glenn Sandmeyer and his family.
Five Clarksville residents appointed to state boards (Leaf Chronicle)
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam this week announced the appointments of 116 Tennesseans to 39 boards and commissions. They included five Clarksville residents and one Woodlawn woman. “I appreciate the commitment of these men and women and want to thank them for their willingness to serve the state,” Haslam said in a news release. “Tennessee will be well represented on these boards and commissions.” Appointment terms are varied due to differing statutory requirements or term limits determined by specific qualifications.
State taking mobile career centers to 34 counties (Associated Press)
Tennessee jobs officials are taking the state’s Career Center services to more than 30 counties this spring and summer. The Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s three “Career Coaches” are mobile units that are staffed with state interviewers. The interviewers can help job applicants register for work, search for a job and follow up later. Labor Commissioner Burns Phillips says the mobile units will go to counties with high unemployment rates. To see a schedule of Career Coach visits, go to http://www.getonthecoach.tn.gov .
Tennessee to let schools out of TCAP requirement due to score delay (TN/Garrison)
A move by the state Department of Education to make exams better aligned to Common Core standards has delayed the release of end-of-year test scores, leaving school systems scrambling for answers. The unexpected 10-day postponement will mean a four-year-old law designed to give more meaning to standardized tests won’t be applied to many students. State education officials on Wednesday agreed to offer waivers to all local districts that request to be shielded from a 2010 statute that required a student’s score on the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program account for 15 to 25 percent of the student’s final grades.
Report cards caught in glitch: TN late in delivering TCAP (TFP/Hardy, Walton)
The TCAP is everything. It determines which schools are failing and which are succeeding. It’s a critical measure in teacher evaluations and a mandated component of student grades. Yet the Tennessee Department of Education was unable to deliver the results of the most important test of the year on time, a move that immediately elicited criticism of Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman and his administration’s focus on standardized test scores. The delay complicates student report cards, as state law requires schools to use TCAP results for 15 to 25 percent of students’ final grades in third through eighth grades.
State grants waiver so students can get grade cards without TCAP (N-S/McCoy)
Knox County Schools was among a number of districts in the state granted a waiver Wednesday from the Tennessee Department of Education that will allow them to send report cards to students despite the absence of TCAP scores. Schools systems learned late Tuesday that scores from the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program, commonly known as TCAP, would be delayed from the state. A state law requires that TCAP scores be included as a percentage of the second semester grade for students in grades 3 through 8.
Delay in TCAP scores won’t delay local report cards (Johnson City Press)
When report cards go home this month, the final grades for hundreds of students in the area will not include scores that were mandated by the state three years ago to be averaged in as achievement measures. On Tuesday, the Tennessee Department of Education notified all 140 school districts in the state that the TCAP scale scores for students in grades 3 through 8 would be 10 days late, pushing the date local school systems will receive them past the last day of school. Karla Kyte, Washington County Schools director of elementary education, said Wednesday morning that system Director Ron Dykes was seeking a waiver from the state to allow grades to be calculated and sent home with students Friday without the standardized test scores.
County grades to lack TCAP adjustments (Daily News Journal)
Rutherford County Schools will issue report cards next week without scores from spring tests for students in grades 3-8. District spokesman James Evans said the state Department of Education notified school systems Tuesday that the quick scores used for the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program would be delayed by as many as 10 days. The Tennessee Department of Education narrowed TCAP to better align with Common Core standards. “The state said they wanted more time to analyze everything. We will issue report cards next week without the TCAP scores,” Evans said.
TCAP Score Not Part Of Metro School Students’ Grades (WTVF-TV Nashville)
Metro Nashville Public Schools asked for and received a waver to exclude TCAP scores from students’ final grades. Tennessee’s Department of Education notified school leaders on Tuesday that there would be a delay in sending districts their scores. Waiting for TCAP results, taken by third through eighth graders, would also delay report cards into the summer vacation. That’s why Sumner and Davidson counties asked the state for an exemption, so they could distribute those report cards without a delay. “There would be cost associated…the postage alone would be more than $10,000,” Metro Nashville Public School Spokeswoman Meredith Libbey said about the concerns regarding waiting for the TCAP results.
Teachers’ union bemoans delay of TCAP scores (Associated Press)
The head of Tennessee’s largest teachers’ union says the state’s decision to delay the release of students’ assessment scores is one main reason why such scores shouldn’t be given a lot of weight. TCAP scores are used in the calculation of final grades for students primarily in grades 3 through 8. The Department of Education recently informed school superintendents that the delay is needed because of a change in assessments. The department was apologetic and said districts could delay the release of final grades or finalize them without the scores and then make revisions when the scores are released.
DHS looking for federal food program sponsors (Tennessean/Wilson)
State officials are still seeking Nashville organizations and nonprofits willing to participate in a free summer food program in the city. The Department of Human Services continues to take applications from sponsors such as churches, community centers and schools who could house a Summer Food Service Program. The program provides free meals to low-income students while school is out. DHS and the U.S. Department of Agriculture kicked off the state-level program in Memphis last week. In 2013, more than 350,000 meals were served by 343 feeding sites in Nashville as part of the federal program, DHS spokesperson Devin Stone said.
State uses back up plan for victim notification system (WKRN-TV Nashville)
The state has a service that allows victims to receive alerts when an offender is being released from jail, and has a back up plan in case the service gets interrupted. The service is called TN SAVIN, Tennessee’s Statewide Automated Victim Information Notification Service, and works through a Web site called VINELink. VINE is directly connected to the booking computers in county jails across the county. When a victim or anyone concerned about an offender’s release signs up for the service, they get a phone call and e-mail to alert when that offender’s custody status has changed and is being released from jail.
UT, TBR get $1 million to expand online learning pilot program (N-S/Boehnke)
A year after it spent $1 million to pilot new online learning technology at its colleges and universities, the state is doubling down on that investment and expanding the program. The University of Tennessee, in a partnership with the Tennessee Board of Regents, will receive an additional $1 million to continue using technology developed by Coursera and edX, companies that are considered forerunners in the realm of massive open online courses. UT, however, is using the software to deliver courses only to its own students so far.
Tennessee’s Doctor Profiles Missing Crucial Information (WTVF-TV Nashville)
Do you really know everything you should about your doctor? State law says you have the right to know whether your doctor has been disciplined by a hospital or the state medical board. But a NewsChannel 5 investigation has discovered that the state’s online profile of doctors is missing crucial information. NewsChannel 5 Investigates first exposed problems with missing information seven years ago and now we’ve found more problems. The state Health Department’s website is supposed to be the place you can turn to get information about doctors. But it’s up to the doctors to make sure that information is accurate.
Troopers to boost Memorial Day enforcement (Associated Press)
The Tennessee Highway Patrol is ramping up traffic enforcement over Memorial Day weekend in an effort to reduce the number of injuries and deaths from accidents. Last year, 10 people were killed in crashes during the THP’s 78-hour holiday enforcement period, four fewer than in 2012. Seven of last year’s deaths were alcohol-related and three weren’t wearing seat belts. The enforcement plan includes a “no refusal” period in which troopers can seek search warrants for blood samples in cases involving suspected drunken drivers in Cumberland, Giles, McMinn, Rutherford, Sevier, Shelby, Washington and Weakly counties.
Tennessee to halt roadwork for Memorial Day travelers (Tennessean/Brown)
Motorists hitting the road this holiday weekend will encounter fewer lane closures on Tennessee roads. The Tennessee Department of Transportation announced all construction-related closures on state roads and interstates will be suspended starting at noon Friday and continuing through 6 a.m. Tuesday to allow more room on busy roads. “More than half a million people are expected to hit the roads in Tennessee this Memorial Day weekend,” TDOT Commissioner John Schroer said in a news release.
Dyer Co. Man Charged with TennCare Fraud (WBBJ-TV Memphis)
A Dyersburg man is charged for a second time with doctor shopping with his TennCare benefits. According to the state office of inspector general, Donald Buckner is charged in Carroll County with two counts of TennCare fraud. Investigators said he went to multiple doctors to get morphine. In April he was charged with three counts of doing the same thing in Dyer County. If found guilty, Buckner could spent up to 10 years in prison.
Lawmaker Threatens To Withhold Funds In Meth War (WTVF-TV Nashville)
A prominent state lawmaker is sending letters to court clerks in all 95 counties and the director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation citing a NewsChannel 5 investigation into the state’s war on meth. Rep. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport, is demanding that they follow the law. “When your report came out, I thought ‘I am going to act instantly,'” Shipley told NewsChannel 5 Investigates. Our investigation revealed the law requiring Tennesseans to show their driver’s license when buying cold medicine is not working properly. We found hundreds of convicted meth offenders were not blocked from buying pseudoephedrine, which is a key ingredient in meth.
Tennesseans approve of electric chair (Tennessean/Sisk)
Tennesseans approve of using the electric chair for executions, according to a new poll from Vanderbilt University. Fifty-six percent of the state’s registered voters say they support a Tennessee law passed this year that would allow electrocutions if lethal injection drugs are not available. The state has not executed a death row inmate since 2009, in part because of difficulty in obtaining lethal injection drugs. Other states have gone ahead with lethal injections, despite questions about how the drugs were obtained, how they were administered and their effectiveness.
Tennesseans favor legal pot, at least for medical uses (Tennessean/Sisk)
A large majority of Tennesseans say they favor legalizing marijuana or making it available for medicinal use, according to a new poll taken for Vanderbilt University. Nearly one-third of Tennesseans believe marijuana should be legal for personal use and another 44 percent say it should be available legally for medical reasons. Only 22 percent say marijuana should be illegal in all circumstances, pollsters found. Vanderbilt asked the question for the first time this spring after state lawmakers rejected a bill that would have permitted medical marijuana.
Poll finds little backing for legislature control of abortions (TFP/Sher)
Only about one in four Tennessee voters currently backs giving the state Legislature more power to regulate abortion, according to a poll released Wednesday. The latest Vanderbilt Poll shows 71 percent of the 1,245 registered voters surveyed said they oppose changing the Tennessee Constitution to grant state government more power over regulation. If approved, Amendment 1 on the November ballot would overturn a 2000 state Supreme Court ruling that limited legislators ability to place new restrictions on abortion. State lawmakers would still face some restrictions under federal court rulings.
Poll: Voters don’t want more legislature control on abortions (N-S/Humphrey)
Most Tennesseans oppose giving state legislators more control over abortion but would like to see marijuana legalized in one way or another, according to a Vanderbilt University poll released Wednesday. In both cases, the results might seem contrary to the thinking of the state’s Republican supermajority legislature. The same poll, which surveyed 1,245 registered Tennessee voters between April 28 and May 14, found the Legislature’s approval rating at 49 percent, down from a high of 65 percent in 2011.
Poll: Tenn Voters Oppose Giving Lawmakers More Power Over Abortion (WPLN)
Tennessee voters generally remain pro-life when it comes to abortion, but 71 percent aren’t so sure about giving lawmakers more power to regulate it, according to a poll conducted by Vanderbilt University. To be clear, the question didn’t read the exact language of the amendment; it just summarized it and then asked whether voters favored giving the state legislature the constitutional authority to regulate abortions. The actual amendment suggests the same thing but has more nuanced wording: “Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion.
Alexander foes remain unknown (Tennessean/Sisk)
Tennesseans have a lukewarm opinion of U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, but they don’t know enough to have an opinion about his opponents in the Aug. 7 Republican primary. Less than half of the state’s registered voters say they like the job Alexander is doing as senator, a potentially troubling sign for his bid for a third term. But even larger portions say they have never heard of his most serious Republican foe, state Rep. Joe Carr of Lascassas, who has raised $866,383 and spent $393,235 on his Senate campaign. “Sen. Alexander has a very comfortable lead,” said John Geer, a professor of political science at Vanderbilt University.
Shelby County teachers’ absence rate nearly double national average (CA/Roberts)
Every day in Shelby County Schools, roughly 10 percent of teachers are out sick — nearly double the national average — posing significant questions about the quality of learning in their classrooms that day. “As a school board, we all agree that teachers being in front of their classrooms is important for improving student achievement,” said chairman Kevin Woods. “We definitely are waiting to hear from HR and Supt. (Dorsey) Hopson on how they intend to decrease the number of absences.” The U.S. Department of Education began monitoring the rate in 2009 as a possible civil rights issue.
Frank Daniels: Is education a cure? (Tennessean)
In one quick quip, Vincent Durnan, director of the University School of Nashville, a private school nestled on the edge of Vanderbilt University’s campus, captured the angst that drives the debate over education. The attitude of many people, Durnan said, “is that childhood is an illness that education is supposed to treat.” It so often seems that way, doesn’t it? What is worse is watching how the search for a proper “treatment” has all the doctors squabbling, the parents tense and confused, and the patients leery of the medicines they are forced to take. We know too many acronyms
An independent study would be beneficial (Commercial Appeal)
It is hard to fathom how millions of gallons of wastewater from an automobile plant could not have an adverse impact on the scenic Hatchie River, the only untouched tributary of the Lower Mississippi River. The wastewater would come from the Memphis Regional Megasite, a 3,840-acre industrial park that is under construction adjacent to Interstate 40 between Memphis and Jackson. The park is a $150 million state initiative to attract an auto plant to West Tennessee. State and local officials are backing a plan to discharge as much as a billion gallons of wastewater a year into the Hatchie near the edge of the Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge. The state Department of Environment and Conservation has issued a draft permit to allow the discharges.
Health providers, poor pay price for funding shortfalls (News-Sentinel)
Knox County’s school system is not the only segment of county government feeling the pinch of a budget that gets more austere with each annual cycle. The Knox County Health Department’s spending on indigent care has decreased $1.25 million over the past five years, a situation exacerbated by rising costs. That has made it a challenge to provide basic health care services to a particularly fragile segment of the community. And the state of Tennessee, by not accepting the federally funded expansion of Medicaid, is not doing the county, its health care providers or its low-income residents any favors.
Past time to fix problems at VA and take care of our vets (J. Sun)
As we prepare to celebrate Memorial Day to honor those who have served our nation in the military and given their lives, we find another group of dedicated military veterans being neglected. The plight of veterans struggling to get medical treatment from the Veterans Administration is outrageous. It is long past time for our nation to fulfill its promise of lifetime health care to those who served. But what we find is that veterans wait months and perhaps even die unnecessarily before receiving the care they were promised. Our veterans have been long suffering on this issue, which has been festering for years.