This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Tennessee Promise to offer free tuition, fees at two-year institutions (J. Sun)
School superintendents, county mayors and legislators gathered in Jackson on Tuesday to learn about the Tennessee Promise, an initiative making Tennessee the first state to offer graduating seniors two years of community college or college of applied technology free of tuition and fees. Mike Krause, executive director of the “Drive to 55” initiative of which Tennessee Promise is a component, described the project at the Southwest Tennessee Development District office. “The Tennessee Promise represents an opportunity for our state to fundamentally change our culture,” Krause said.
Overall, Tennessee students improve on state tests (Associated Press/Johnson)
Tennessee students made gains in the majority of the state’s 31 grade and subject-level tests, although some didn’t fare too well in reading, according to results released Tuesday. The biggest increases in the 2013-14 Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program results were in high school, where students made gains on five of seven tests, Gov. Bill Haslam and Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman said at a news conference. Student scores held steady in grades three through eight, with slight gains in most areas, the results showed.
2014 TCAP Tests shows Tennessee Students making gains (Clarksville Online)
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and Department of Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman today announced Tennessee students made gains in the majority of the state’s 31 grade and subject-level tests. The biggest increases seen in the 2013-2014 Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) results were in high school, where students made gains on five of seven high school tests. The 2014 results mark the second year of strong growth in a row at the high school level. Since Haslam took office, Tennessee students have made significant and sustained growth in academic achievement.
Tennessee Students Make Gains On 2015 TCAP Tests (WTVC-TV Chattanooga)
Tennessee students made gains in the majority of the state’s 31 grade and subject-level Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) tets, according to a news release from the governor’s office. In a Nashville news conference Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman announced the biggest increases seen in the 2013-2014 TCAP results were in high school, where students made gains on five of seven high school tests. They said the 2014 results mark the second year of strong growth in a row at the high school level. “Systemic change over time is hard work, but we continue to see evidence that shows our teachers’ efforts are paying off,” Haslam said.
TCAP results show growth for elementary, high school students (DNJ)
The latest round of the state assessments for Tennessee public school students show growth in most high school and all elementary subjects, with little growth in middle school subjects. Released Tuesday, results from the state’s Comprehensive Assessment Program, known as TCAP, include end-of-course exams for high school students, along with the core subject areas for students in grades 3-8. Though results for individual districts will be released later this summer, students in Rutherford County and Murfreesboro City schools have typically outperformed their peers statewide.
Tennessee students improve in 19 of 31 TCAP test areas (C. Appeal/Locker)
Tennessee students improved on 19 of the 31 separate grade and subject level tests that the state administers annually under the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program, state officials announced Tuesday. The tests measured gains students in grades 3 through 12 during the just-concluded school year over the previous year. The biggest increases were in the high school grades, where students made gains on five of seven test subjects: English 1, English 2, algebra 1, algebra 2 and biology 1. Decreases we’re recorded in English 3 and U.S. history. But of the four tests — reading language arts, math, science, social studies — administered to students in grades 3 through 8, for a total of 24 separate tests, students showed gains in 14 and declines in 10.
TCAP scores show gains in Tennessee high schools (Nooga)
Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman today announced Tennessee students made gains in the majority of the state’s 31 grade and subject-level tests. The biggest increases seen in the 2013-14 Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program results were in high school, where students made gains on five of seven high school tests. The 2014 results mark the second year of strong growth in a row at the high school level. Since Haslam took office, Tennessee students have made significant and sustained growth in academic achievement.
TCAP test results show gains for Tenn. Students (WKRN-TV Nashville)
Tennessee students made gains in the majority of the state’s 31 grade and subject levels, results from the annual TCAP tests show. The biggest increases seen in 2013-2014 were in high school, where students made gains on five of seven high school tests. The results mark the second year of strong growth in a row for high school students. “The ultimate goal of our work is to send more students out of high school with higher skill levels, and today’s results show that we are making good progress,” Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam said. Student scores held steady in grades 3-8, with slight gains in most areas including math and science.
TCAP Results Show High School Students Make Biggest Gains (WTVF-TV Nash)
Students in Tennessee made gains in the majority of the state’s 31 grade and subject level tests this year Governor Bill Haslam and Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman announced Tuesday that the biggest increases seen in the 2013-2014 Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program results were in high school, where students made gains on five of seven high school tests. “This was the second year in a row we have seen particularly strong growth in high school,” Huffman said. Haslam said only 31 percent of Algebra II students were proficient in 2011, but this year’s tests showed nearly 50 percent of students are proficient.
TN education leaders announce TCAP results, praise progress (WMC-TV Memphis)
Governor Bill Haslam joined state education leaders to announce the results of the 2013-2014 TCAP scores. It’s an announcement Tennessee education leaders have waited for all year. The new Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) is supposed to give educators a better idea of how students are performing. The test results are pretty good. “Just three years ago, only 31% of our algebra 2 students were on grade level. Now nearly 50% have reached that mark,” Gov. Haslam said. That improvement along with growth in many other subjects made educators across the state smile.
Student test scores released in Tennessee (WCYB-TV Johnson City)
Students continue to improve on standardized tests in Tennessee. Tuesday the Tennessee Education Commission released results of the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program in Nashville. Governor Bill Haslam and Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman said higher standards decreased the minority achievement gap in math and reading for students in grades 3 through 8. Also, in 2011 only 31 percent of Algebra 2 students were on grade level. Now half reach that mark. Huffman said the momentum won’t stop here.
Reading scores dip lower among Tennessee middle school students (TFP/Sher)
Tennessee high school students showed strong improvements in most high school subjects but scores for children in grades 3-8 sometimes flattened and reading even showed a slight dip in several grades on reading. “I will emphasize: The progress we’ve made is still very very significant, but we’ll use the data to see how we can do better,” Gov. Bill Haslam said as he and Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman released 2013-14 results on the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP). The tests are taken by students in grades 3-8 and also include end-of-course exams for high school students.
Test scores flatten for middle grades, rise in high school (Tennessean/Garrison)
Tennessee’s latest round of results on end-of-year standardized tests show a strong bounce in most high school subjects, but a slight drop in junior-level English and a flattening at the middle-school level after years of growth in those grades. That plateau marks a new development after statewide results steadily climbed each year on the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program, taken by students in grades 3-8, and end-course-exams for high schoolers, since Tennessee changed its academic standards in 2010.
Muted Fanfare For TCAP Results As Debate Swirls Over Test’s Reliability (WPLN)
Tennessee education officials have begun their annual release of standardized test results. This year’s TCAP scores are mixed, with improvements in math and slight declines in reading. The explanation has less to do with teachers and test-takers and more to do with the test itself. Elementary and middle school reading scores were an area of concern last year too, so 5,000 teachers were put through additional training. And according to the standardized testing, it didn’t do any good. “I think there’s some level of a question of whether TCAP captures some of the work our teachers are doing in reading,” Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman told reporters.
Haslam makes appointment to 10th Judicial District (Associated Press)
Gov. Bill Haslam has appointed Stephen Crump district attorney general for the 10th Judicial District. The 47-year-old Crump replaces Steve Bebb, who submitted his resignation in May after serving the district for nearly 40 years as district attorney general, criminal court judge and assistant district attorney general. Crump will serve the remainder of Bebb’s term and is currently unopposed in the general election to fill the seat. The 10th Judicial District includes Bradley, McMinn, Monroe and Polk counties.
Stephen Crump takes over as 10th District DA (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)
Stephen Crump is now officially the new district attorney general for the 10th Judicial District after Gov. Bill Haslam appointed him effective immediately. Crump, 47, replaces Steve Bebb, who submitted his resignation in May after serving the district for nearly 40 years as district attorney general, Criminal Court judge and assistant district attorney general. “Stephen is active in his community and has extensive public and private sector experience,” Haslam said in a news release. “The 10th Judicial District will benefit from all that he brings to the table, and I appreciate him serving in this capacity.”
Howard Baker laid to rest (Tennessean/Sisk)
Former Senate Majority Leader Howard H. Baker Jr. was buried Tuesday afternoon in the small town on the Cumberland Plateau where he was raised and where he returned after a political career that made him one of the most respected men in Washington. About 140 invited guests — including Vice President Joe Biden, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam — attended the closed service at the First Presbyterian Church, where Baker was a member. Afterward, Baker was laid to rest with military honors in the churchyard cemetery.
Goodbye, friend: Baker lauded for his statesmanship, civility (N-S/Boehnke)
Sen. Howard H. Baker Jr., a man revered by two political parties and mourned by vice presidents, international dignitaries and local neighbors alike, was laid to rest Tuesday in the cemetery across the street from the house in which he grew up. Baker, who was 88 when he died at his home in Huntsville last week, was remembered for his civility, his warmth and his ability to bring two sides together. His funeral did the same. Vice President Joe Biden, a Democrat and former Senate colleague, arrived by police-escorted motorcade with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid from Knoxville shortly before the 1 p.m. service at the First Presbyterian Church in the tiny Appalachian town.
Board in Favor of Teacher Evaluation Proposal (Associated Press)
The State Board of Education gave a nod of approval for a proposal that could allow teachers who consistently score highly on annual state-mandated teacher evaluations to bypass training requirements to advance or to renew licenses. The Tennessean reports the proposal is set for a final vote later this month. The board also officially cut ties on Monday with a policy that would have allowed teacher licenses to be pulled due to poor student growth on tests. That move came at the direction of lawmakers, who passed legislation during the last session to reverse the controversial initiative.
Gonzales sees ‘a lot of interest’ in bank mergers, anticipates more (N. Biz Journal)
Greg Gonzales, the commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Financial Institutions, says he sees a “a lot of interest” among state banks looking to enter mergers with other lenders, reflecting a point made by many observers and those in the industry. And that interest is more pronounced than several years ago. Gonzales pointed to “the costs of doing business in the marketplace” as one factor he called “significant.” Going beyond additional compliance and regulatory costs, Gonzales said that there are “a lot of people going after the same business.”
What the state’s bank commissioner looks for when approving bank mergers (NBJ)
As part of the process of getting bank mergers completed, banks need to get approval from their regulators, be it state or federal officials, depending on their charter. I met with Greg Gonzales, the commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Financial Institutions, to discuss several trends in Tennessee banking, mergers and acquisitions among them. He outlined three basics his department looks at when assessing bank deals. The first: “What is the combined organization looking like from a numbers standpoint, and the health of the combined institution?” Gonzales said.
TDOT plans changes for I-75 exit ramps in Cleveland, TN (Times Free-Press/Leach)
The Tennessee Department of Transportation has proposed changes to improve traffic flow and vehicle capacity of the exit ramps at the Interstate 75 interchange at 25th Street and Georgetown Road. In a recent meeting, Cleveland Utilities board members reviewed details of the plans, which were reported by Bart Borden, vice president of the utility’s electric division. “The project will not only expand the ramps to dual lanes, but will also provide dual left lanes onto I-75 southbound from Georgetown Road,” said Borden. “This is a great example of TDOT responding to the needs of the community.”
Bear spotted in Greeneville; TWRA asks residents to leave animal alone (WATE)
Greeneville may be privy to celebrity sightings lately, but residents of the East Tennessee town have once again been invaded – this time by a wandering bear. The small bear, possibly a cub, was spotted Monday near North Main Street and again Tuesday around Oak Hills Parkway. Greeneville Police Department confirmed Tuesday that Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officers are aware of the bear and have asked people to stay away from the bear, to not feed the bear and to not leave animals food outside.
Restrictions Loosened for Beer-Brewers, Retailers (TN Report)
Tennessee brewers can now join fellow suds-makers in surrounding states in producing higher gravity brews without the need for a specialty license under a law passed during the 2014 session. However, due to pressure from liquor retailers — in part related to the political compromise that helped win passage of legalized wine-sales in grocery stores – non-spirits retailers and distributors won’t have the same allowances as brewers until 2017. That means consumers in search of higher quality, high gravity beers will need to continue to patronize spirits establishments.
Tennessee liquor stores foresee business uptick (Times Free-Press/Bradbury)
Like a slowly breaking dam, the floodgates of Tennessee alcohol sales opened Tuesday with just a trickle. After years of statewide regulations that required liquor stores to sell only liquor, wine or high-gravity beer, a new state law took effect Tuesday that allows liquor stores to sell groceries and other items too — like low-gravity beers, corkscrews, gift bags, soft drinks, potato chips or ice. “It’s pretty phenomenal,” said Bob Monroe, general sales manager for Carter Distributing. “They in effect are going to be the same as a Pantry or a Mapco, only with wine and liquor.” It’s the first stage of new state legislation that will eventually let grocery stores sell wine.
Lawsuit loan company to leave state after new law (Associated Press)
A new Tennessee law targeting loans to finance the costs of lawsuits is leading an Illinois company to leave the state. Oasis Legal Finance, one of the country’s largest consumer legal funding services, announced it is leaving the Tennessee market as the law goes into effect Tuesday. The bill sponsored by Sen. Jack Johnson of Franklin and fellow Republican Curtis Jonson of Clarksville was signed into law by Gov. Bill Haslam in April. The Senate bill passed 27-2, while the House approved its version 52-36 – just two votes more than minimum needed to clear the chamber.
ACLU of Tennessee eyes challenge to welfare drug testing (Associated Press)
The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee is looking for people interested in challenging a new law mandating drug tests for some applicants for the state’s Temporary Assistance to Needy Families. The law, passed in 2012, took effect Tuesday after the state Department of Human Services spent two years developing a plan for implementing the drug-testing program. ACLU-Tennessee says the law “raises serious constitutional concerns” and had urged Gov. Bill Haslam to veto it two years ago, calling it vague, singling out a particular group for differential treatment and allowing “an intrusive search without probable cause.”
Report: Medicaid expansion would benefit thousands in Tennessee (CA/Collins)
Thousands of Tennesseans would have better access to potentially lifesaving health care and would no longer have to worry about getting hit with crippling medical bills if the state expanded its Medicaid coverage, according to a new White House report. At least 234,000 people across the state would have health insurance by 2016, and more than 57,000 would be able to take advantage of preventive health care such as cholesterol screenings, mammograms and Pap smears, said the report, which looks at the consequences of states’ refusal to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.
Council Delays Action on Pension Plan Changes To October (Memphis Daily News)
Memphis City Council members voted Tuesday, July 1, to delay final votes on a set of ordinances to change the city’s pension for new hires and employees on the job for less than 10 years. The council had planned to vote on the pension changes at its July 15 meeting. But the council moved to delay it further after a council day briefing of several hours from Segal Consulting of Atlanta, the consulting firm hired by the council specifically to advise it on pension plan changes proposed by Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. The delay means council members are considering alternatives to Wharton’s plan.
Blackburn assails Obama administration on possible Fort Campbell cuts (LC)
Responding to a recent U.S. Army draft report projecting possible deep cuts to Fort Campbell’s military and civilian force, Congressman Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn. 7th District) excoriated the Obama administration, saying, “What’s driving this is the President’s agenda to cut the military.” “In (the President’s) mind,” said Blackburn, “he thinks the War on Terror is dead, and I know – and a lot of men and women at Fort Campbell know – that it’s not. This is one of the reasons I have been very consistent in my efforts to remove the sequester from our military.”
Cohen Touts Labor Union Endorsements (Memphis Daily News)
U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis, rolled out endorsements Monday, June 30, from much of the leadership of local labor unions in his re-election campaign. The endorsements in the Aug. 7 congressional primary pitting Cohen against challenger Ricky E. Wilkins included the AFL CIO Tennessee Labor Council; the local of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; Boilermakers local 263; the Memphis Building Trades Council; Sheet Metal Workers local 4; and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers local 474.
3rd District candidates Fleischmann, Wamp debate today (TFP/Brogdon)
The incumbent is a two-term, staunchly conservative congressman who earned his spot in Washington on a nationwide wave of tea party buzz. He finished April with $640,000 in total campaign support. The 27-year-old challenger has never held public office, ran two years ago largely on the strength of his father’s name and finished third in a four-man contest. By April he had half the money his competitor did. So why is U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann vs. Republican challenger Weston Wamp even a contest? Because in 2012, Wamp won Hamilton County — the largest voter bloc in the district — and he’s been heavily canvassing the other 10 counties since March.
Weston Wamp running TV ad in 3rd District (Nooga)
Weston Wamp’s campaign began running its first TV ad in the 3rd Congressional District Monday. The 30-second ad, “Lois,” features a voice-over by the candidate telling a story about his great-grandmother, Lois Wamp, who built a skating rink in Alabama in 1945 and sent four children to college. “Like every entrepreneur I work alongside at Lamp Post Group, my great-grandmother had a burning desire to leave things better than she found them for her family and her community,” Wamp said. “Unfortunately, that attitude does not exist in Washington any longer, and that is at the heart of why I’m running for Congress.” Wamp is challenging Rep. Chuck Fleischmann in the Aug. 7 Republican primary.
VP Biden to welcome governors to Nashville meeting (Associated Press)
Vice President Joe Biden will help kick off the National Governors Association summer meeting in Nashville next week. The event begins on July 10 and runs through July 13. The agenda includes discussions of innovations around the states in areas like education, workforce, health care, veterans and jobs. The meetings include several “governors-only” sessions, in a private, off-the-record setting. Biden is scheduled to attend the opening session of the meeting. Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, who served as NGA chairman when he was Tennessee governor in the 1980s, will attend a session on the role of education in economic development.
U.S. to Reduce and Delay Highway Funding Beginning in August (Wall St. Journal)
Federal funding for repairing bridges and highways will be reduced or delayed starting in August, and the restrictions will last until Congress reworks financing for the Highway Trust Fund, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said Tuesday. Mr. Foxx said in letters sent to all 50 states that the dwindling trust fund made the funding cuts necessary. States are typically reimbursed immediately for certain transportation projects, but the new restrictions will direct money to states just twice a month. The administration’s warnings come as the White House is trying to turn up pressure on Congress to boost funding for the federal fund, whose balance is expected to dwindle to zero next month from $8 billion at the end of May.
States Hit the Brakes on Road Projects As Federal Fund Goes Broke (Stateline)
Instead of shifting into high gear during what is normally the peak of construction season, state transportation departments around the country are easing off the gas pedal as the federal Highway Trust Fund barrels toward insolvency sometime next month. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that the highway account of the Highway Trust Fund, which allocated $37 billion to the states for highway projects in the fiscal year that ends September 30, will run out of money in August unless Congress can come up with a solution before then. (The mass transit account of the fund is in slightly better shape, but not by much.)
Census Considers How to Measure a More Diverse America (New York Times)
When Alexa Aviles received her census form in 2010, she was frustrated by the choices. Like all Hispanics, Ms. Aviles, a Puerto Rican who lives in Brooklyn, was first asked to identify her ethnicity and then to answer a question about her race. Ms. Aviles, 41, who works for a nonprofit, thought, “I’m all of these!” In annoyance, she checked Hispanic, and then identified herself as white, black and “some other race.” Mustafa Asmar, a Palestinian-American waiter in Paterson, N.J., does not like his options either. Arab-Americans are broadly classified as white in the census. “When you fill out white or other, it doesn’t really represent the Middle Eastern population,” said Mr. Asmar, 25. “I don’t feel like I’m white. I don’t know what else to put.”
Proposed charter school rejected (Ashland City Times)
The organizers of the proposed Cumberland Academy charter school plan to appeal the Cheatham County School Board’s decision to reject the school’s application. The board voted 5-0 on June 24 to deny the application for Cumberland Academy, which would be one of the first rural charter schools in the state. Board member Willy Johnson was absent. The organizers have until July 30 to submit their appeal. “We still feel empowered and committed to our mission. We look forward to the appeal and continued conversation,” said Jimmy Hopper, a Cheatham County Central High School social studies teacher who submitted the application along with former Cheatham Middle School teacher Jonny Gersten.
Sniff test: Commission’s allocation in one-time school money needs review (JCP)
The $600,000 in one-time money approved last week by the City Commission for use in fiscal year 2015 by Johnson City Schools must first pass a Tennessee Department of Education sniff test. Tennessee Public Chapter 305, enacted last year, allows the city to give one-time money to the school system and not be responsible for maintaining that appropriation from year to year. That had been the case under what is known as the “Maintenance of Effort Rule” (T.C.A. Section 49-3-314(c)). Maintenance of effort regulations are unlike rules found in most areas of government.
Guest columnist: Want wine in food stores? Sign the petition (Tennessean)
Sixteen thousand — that’s approximately how many registered voters in Davidson County must sign a petition in support of wine in retail food stores to put the measure on the ballot this November. Customers at Kroger and other retail food stores across the state expressed strong support for legislation that would allow local municipalities to hold referendums on where wine can be sold. The bill’s passage by the Tennessee General Assembly in March was a great victory for consumers. But there is still a great deal of work to be done before wine can appear on grocery store shelves.
Editorial: Truant students can’t meet higher academic goals (News-Sentinel)
Showing up is 80 percent of life, director Woody Allen once said about the importance of just being where you are supposed to be when you are supposed to be there. The maxim — or one of its many variations — often holds up in the real world. If you make your doctor’s appointment, the chances of being treated for a medical condition rise astronomically. If you get to work on time, you have a shot at keeping your job. There is an obvious application when it comes to school. Students who show up for class, of course, have a better chance of doing well in school than truants.