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AFP: Victories Won Against Common Core in Primary

Press release from Americans for Prosperity – Tennessee; August 13, 2014:

NASHVILLE – Americans for Prosperity-Tennessee (AFP-TN), a grassroots organization that advocates for economic freedom, is continuing its issue campaign on Common Core, which director Andrew Ogles said is a hot-button issue for many in the state.

(Click here to listen to the radio ad running across the state on Common Core.)

AFP- TN state director Andrew Ogles said the following:

“There’s no doubt our issue advocacy campaign to stop Common Core has made an impact. In the last six weeks we’ve spent approximately half a million dollars bringing the issues with Common Core to light, and this is just the beginning. Our support has helped bring together a broader coalition of parents, community leaders, and legislators. Together we can stop Obama’s radical education agenda and stop Common Core.”

The overall defeat of Common Core supporters this legislative cycle shows that the public is indeed opposed to this one-size-fits-all takeover of the education system. For example, the Williamson County school board saw four pro-Common Core school board candidates lose their election bid, three of them being incumbents. State Representative Glen Casada soundly defeated his pro-Common Core opponent. Meanwhile, officials who opposed Common Core remained in office.

“Moderates claimed Common Core would be a non-issue. That claim has been proven false across the state. Conservative legislators like Senator Mae Beavers and Representative Courtney Rogers were able to fend off moderates with Common Core ties,” said Ogles.

AFP-TN has been engaged in educating the public on the problems of Common Core for weeks, and plans to continue ramping up its issue advocacy efforts heading into the legislative session.

USACE Reschedules Harpeth River Feasibility Study Public Workshop

Press release from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District; Nov. 4, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Nov. 4, 2013) – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District has rescheduled a public workshop that was cancelled Oct. 1, 2013 because of the government shutdown. It is now set for 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013 at the Franklin Board Room located at 109 3rd Avenue South in Franklin, Tenn.

Areas in the study include Bellevue, Brentwood, Franklin and parts of Williamson County. The public is encouraged to attend and participate and provide valuable feedback on water resources issues in the Harpeth River Basin.

Topics being covered at this working meeting include flood risk management, aquatic ecosystem restoration, stream bank erosion, environmental infrastructure, storm water management and recreation.

A second public meeting is being organized to receive additional public input. An announcement will be made when details of this meeting are available.

The feasibility study officially kicked off Aug. 20, 2013 to investigate water resource problems and opportunities in the basin. This news release about the kick-off news conference is available at http://www.lrn.usace.army.mil/Media/NewsReleases/tabid/6958/Article/17506/nr-13-034-media-advisory-news-conference-aug-20-kicks-off-cumberland-harpeth-mi.aspx.

The public can obtain news, updates and information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District on the district’s website at www.lrn.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps.

TN Economy Said to Be Improving Despite Stagnant Jobs Climate

Although Tennessee’s unemployment rate has remained unchanged for the past three months, the state’s economic outlook is nevertheless improving, driven by growth in the Middle Tennessee region.

That was the take-home message from Dr. David Penn, director of the Middle Tennessee State University Business and Economic Research Center, who delivered remarks at MTSU’s Economic Outlook Conference on Sept. 27.

“Employment is still growing by one-point-seven percent every year. Depending on what happens with government employment, it’s conceivable Tennessee could reach recovery to pre-recession levels within about 12 to 18 months, at [the current] rate of growth,” said Penn.

The Tennessee heartland continues to show economic improvement, but growth has slowed across other parts of the state, Penn said, adding that statewide sales tax collections appear to be braking. The recovery’s sluggishness is actually due in no small part to the economic woes of Tennessee’s overseas trading partners, such as Japan, China and the European Union — and in general the state’s reliance on exports, he said.

Although the number of new unemployment claims is at its lowest level since 2007, and is continuing to slowly fall, the state’s unemployment rate has in fact slowly increased over the year, holding steady at eight-and-a-half percent for the past few months, despite a decline in the number of layoffs, Penn said.

Tennessee is still among the top 10 states for high unemployment rates, he added.

But the unemployment rate will be the last number to change as a result of former workers rejoining the labor force at a faster rate than jobs are created, and should not be considered an indicator of improvement, or the lack of it, in the economy, Penn said.

“[The] labor force [number] has hardly changed over the year,” Penn said. “What’s happening here is that folks are jumping back into the labor force after jumping out in 2010, when the participation rates dropped fairly significantly. They’re jumping back in, [and] the number of jobs is just barely growing enough to absorb them, keeping the unemployment rate almost unchanged over the year.”

Additionally, the rate of growth in real earned income has been “accelerating generally” since early 2012, and has been increasing at about the same pace as the national growth rate, Penn said.

Counties with the lowest unemployment rates are for the most part located in the Middle Tennessee. Several of them are about two percentage points below the state average.

Rutherford and Williamson Counties both place high on the Bureau of Labor Statistics list comparing job and wage growth in the 334 largest counties nationwide, with Rutherford ranking sixth and Williamson coming in at 15 in job growth.

However, when it comes to wage growth, Williamson far outpaces Rutherford, coming in at eighth while Rutherford lags behind at 249.

Davidson comes in at No. 86 nationally for job growth and No. 254 for wages. Knox, Hamilton and Shelby are also included on the list, coming in ranked at Nos. 260, 193 and 186, respectively, in employment, and 12, 290 and 216 for wages.

The Metro Nashville region, which includes Murfreesboro and Franklin, ranks No. 1 in private sector job growth among the largest metropolitan areas in the United States with a growth rate of four-and-a-half percent, according to BLS statistics. Private sector job growth rates for most of the counties in the Nashville area are much higher than the Tennessee state average of about two percent, with Rutherford County’s growth rate at almost eight percent, while Williamson County’s is about five percent and Davidson is at three-and-a-half percent.

“Job creation is booming for the Nashville Metro [area],” Penn said.

TDOT: Expect Construction Work In Williamson, Wilson Counties

Press Release from Tennessee Department of Transportation; March 15, 2012:

Please make special note of the closures below:

WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Widening of I-65 from SR 248 (Goose Creek) to SR 96

• Thursday March 15, 8PM-5AM, There will be alternating lane closures on I-65 southbound in order to pave the roadway.

• Friday March 16, 8PM through Saturday March 17, 12 Noon, There will be alternating lane closures on I-65 southbound in order to pave the roadway and shift traffic.  One lane will remain open.

WILSON COUNTY, Resurfacing I-40 from East of SR 840 to East of US 70

• Friday March 16 through Sunday March 18, 8PM-6AM, There will be alternating lane closures on I-40 eastbound and westbound at MM 238.0 for bridge work.

WILSON COUNTY,I-40 Widening from Central Pike to East of SR-109

• Sunday March 18 through Thursday March 22, 8PM-5AM, There will be alternating lane closures of the outside travel lane of I-40, both EB and WB (closures in one direction at a time only) from Central Pike to one mile east of SR 109 to drill test borings at various locations along the shoulder.  At least one lane will remain open at all times.

For real-time updates on all TDOT projects in Tennessee, please visit our website at www.tennessee.gov/tdot and click on the SmartWay logo. For the latest traffic or weather conditions, please call 511 or visit www.TN511.com. TDOT is also now on Twitter.  For up to date traffic tweets for the Nashville area follow Nashville511 ( http://twitter.com/nashville511 ) on Twitter.  For statewide traffic tweets just follow TN511 ( http://twitter.com/TN511 ).  Smart phone users can use the new TDOT SmartWay Mobile website at http://m.tdot.tn.gov/SmartWay/ to access TDOT’s SmartWay cameras, messages displayed on overhead Dynamic Message Signs, and information on construction related lane closures and incidents on interstates and state routes. Motorists are reminded to use all motorist information tools responsibly.  Drivers should refrain from texting, tweeting or using a mobile phone while operating a vehicle.  TDOT advises drivers to “Know before you go!” by checking traffic conditions before leaving for their destination.

Williamson and Rutherford See Huge Growth, Memphis Lags in Census

New census numbers underscore a more diverse Tennessee, a struggling Memphis, and booming Williamson and Rutherford counties.

Both counties’ growth exceeded 44 percent compared with the last decennial count; Williamson’s population at the 2010 census topped 183,000; Rutherford’s, 262,000, according to census data compiled by USA Today. Rutherford County Mayor Ernest Burgess attributed the surge in his county to a high quality of life and economic opportunity.

The figures also show a growing Hispanic population in Tennessee — 1 in 10 Davidson County residents is Hispanic, the Tennessean noted — and integration gains throughout the South, according to a measure that tracks whether blacks and whites reside in the same neighborhoods.

The Associated Press explains:

Thirty-two of the (South’s) 38 largest metro areas made such gains since 2000, according to a commonly used demographic index. The measure, known as the segregation index, tracks the degree to which racial groups are evenly spread between neighborhoods. Topping the list were rapidly diversifying metros in central Florida, as well in Georgia, Texas and Tennessee.

Missing out on the overall 11.5 percent boom in the Volunteer State was Memphis, whose population experienced only the second decline since the yellow fever outbreak of the 1870s, according to the Commercial Appeal. Memphis’ population shrank by 0.5 percent to just under 647,000 residents, even though its suburbs and the county as a whole saw population growth.

Davidson County grew 10 percent to almost 627,000 residents, Knox County grew 13 percent to a population topping 432,000, and Madison County grew 7 percent to more than 98,000 residents.

‘Class, We Have a Visitor Today…’

Trish Potts, a 6th-grade language arts teachers in Williamson County, got the chance to look Gov. Bill Haslam in the eye Friday and say, “It’s hard right now to be a teacher, because there’s a lot of teacher bashing going on.”

It was a friendly conversation, part of a breakfast talk between the governor and about a dozen teachers and administrators at Hillsboro Elementary and Middle schools, part of an ongoing effort by Haslam to meet with educators and ask them questions, rather than tell them about policy.

The teachers Friday got the opportunity to describe the rewards, frustrations and challenges they face. The discussion was cordial, and the educators seemed pleased to get the opportunity to interact with the governor.

But the friendly chat came with the background of major education changes being proposed in the state, including tenure reform by Haslam and an attempt to end collective bargaining rights for the state teachers union by the Legislature.

Haslam appeared to fully appreciate what he heard. He was inquisitive and engaging about issues the teachers face in the classroom. There didn’t seem to be an outright complaint in the room, but the teachers certainly gave Haslam information they felt he needed to hear.

“We’re not educating kids. We’re growing citizens,” Potts said. “We’re teaching them how to get along with each other. We’re teaching them social skills. We’re teaching them life skills, how to deal with life. Because of that, this is a cherished profession.”

Potts said it would be helpful if people understood that teachers are molding citizens and that the job is not just about test scores.

Jason Loudon, a 7th- and 8th-grade social studies teacher, put his finger on perhaps the greatest irony of the job.

“It’s the most gratifying job, but it’s the most thankless,” Loudon said.

Haslam appeared to agree.

Haslam also visited a couple of classrooms of young children and interacted with them. One of the first things he did upon arrival was to look at a special display where students had written on cards what they would do as governor if they had the chance.

One of the student ideas read, “I would try to lower job unemployment.” Another read, “I would change how many school days there are in a week.” Another, “I would help ones in need.” And one, “I would lower gas prices,” which Haslam definitely noticed and enjoyed, thinking about his former job in the Haslam family business, the Pilot Flying J Travel Centers that sell gas.

But the focus was on teacher feedback. Haslam heard teachers describe how much time they put into the job, how they felt some of the most valuable professional development time they know — and want more of — is to spend time with their peers and get ideas from them.

He heard about the importance of communicating with parents. He heard how some teachers are using new communication techniques like Twitter, but he heard that not all students have Internet access.

“It’s easy for those of us in policy roles to think we know the answers to everything,” Haslam told reporters after the meeting. “It’s easy to get caught up in theory or what you’re reading about in other places.

“It’s a very different world if you’re in the classroom and preparing to be in that classroom 60 hours a week. Education is the key to what we want to do, and I want to make certain I’m always talking to people who are actually hands-on doing that.”

Potts was one of the teachers who filled him in on the realities of the workload on a teacher.

“Most of us are putting in 10-11-hour days, six days a week,” she told Haslam. “I think the general public believes we get here at 8:30 and leave at 3:30. I don’t know a single teacher who’s ever done that.”

Loudon talked about the role teachers play in a student’s life. He said teachers may be the last best chance some students have to be productive, and he put that in perspective with teacher evaluations that are such a hot political topic.

“We’re the last hope. We’re the only avenue to reach a lot of these kids,” Loudon said. “None of that stuff is assessed.

“We’re held accountable by very rigid standards given the variables in play.”

Loudon said he didn’t know if the evaluation process addresses what is actually going on in the classroom.

“As the direction of the country goes further and further toward it being the end-all and be-all whether a teacher is a good teacher or not, I think we all feel threatened by that, considering how much time and heart we pour into the profession,” he said.

“The key to recruiting teachers is to be real with them on the front end, that it’s not all roses. The kind of satisfaction you can feel when you see a kid learn something is the best feeling in the world. It’s the best profession in the world. But when you’re attacked nationally, as you’re the enemy almost, it’s ‘You’re the one that’s keeping my child from learning,’ or ‘You’re not enough for my kid,’ ‘My kid needs more.’ ‘My school needs more.'”

Haslam did allude to the purpose of his tenure proposal, which includes the evaluation of teachers, which has been the subject of substantial debate in the Legislature.

“I think the vast majority of teachers are great,” Haslam told the group. “I want to make certain we do have things in place where we don’t have the wrong person in front of children every day.

“I understand why people are nervous about the evaluation system, because so much does ride on it. I guess I would argue that not having any kind of evaluation system and not using metrics to measure things would be the wrong direction to go. Our task is to figure out how to get that right.”

After the session as Haslam talked with the media, he elaborated on his tenure plan, which he wants to change from a three-year probationary period to five years. The bill has been passed in the Senate and will be considered next by the House Education Committee.

“Tenure was a bill we proposed because we think it’s important. Teaching should be treated like the profession these folks described,” Haslam said.

“We want to make certain we reward those great teachers, and that those folks who are working to get better, we’re acknowledging that. And then people that maybe shouldn’t be in the classroom, that we address that as well.”

In his discussion with teachers, Haslam was told how in such a litigious environment it’s not uncommon for parents to bring lawyers to meetings about their children.

Haslam was asked later about the current perception of teachers being widely vilified.

“It is a perception, some because of current political issues, but maybe even beyond that,” Haslam said.

“When we grew up, the teacher was right, and now the teacher is challenged all the time. There maybe is a societal view that teachers are people who can always be subject to criticism. All of us should be willing to hear the things we could do to be better, but I do think unfortunately our society has started to say that teaching doesn’t have to be treated like other professions do, and that’s just wrong.”