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June 27 TN News Digest

This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.  

Tenn. scores up in all but 1 of 24 student tests (Associated Press/Schelzig)

Proficiency levels are up in all but one of 24 of the latest assessment tests of elementary and middle students, Gov. Bill Haslam announced Tuesday. The Republican governor credited the state’s recent emphasis on improving education standards for the improved test results of students in grades three through eight. “We are making efforts on a broad front,” Haslam said. “There is a renewed focus on teaching in Tennessee, and I think our teachers get a lot of credit for that.”

Haslam announces Tennessee Students continue to Improve (C. Online)

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and State Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman today announced that statewide student performance on the 2012 Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) improved for the second year in a row, as the state continues to push toward academic achievement through its First to the Top education reforms. Students reached higher levels of proficiency in 23 of 24 TCAP achievement tests in grades three through eight. Achievement also increased on most high school “End of Course” exams.

TCAP scores show some improvement (City Paper)

Student performance in Tennessee has generally improved for the second straight year, based on Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program results released by Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration Tuesday. A greater percentage of high school students performed better on “end of course” test scores over last year in English II, Algebra I and II, and Biology. Results slightly dropped, however, in English I and U.S. History. In fact, test scores in U.S. History dropped for at least the second straight year, based on results posted on the state Department of Education website.

Test scores show Tennessee students more proficient (Times Free-Press/Sher)

Student proficiency levels in grades 3-8 rose this year in all but one of 24 categories covered under the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program, Gov. Bill Haslam and Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman announced Tuesday. It was the second straight year of increases in the percentage of students achieving proficiency or better in subjects ranging from reading and social studies to math and science. Meanwhile, achievement also rose in four out of six subjects for high schoolers taking “end of course” exams, officials said.

Tennessee students show test-score improvements in key areas (N-S/Humphrey)

Students statewide showed improved average test scores in 23 of 24 Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program categories this year, according to data released Tuesday. Gov. Bill Haslam declared the score results “great news” that “makes it hard for anyone to argue that Tennessee is not on the right path now in education.” Tuesday’s release did not include district-by-district results, but Knox County Schools Superintendent Jim McIntyre said the state’s overall progress was encouraging.

TCAP and high school scores show gains across Tennessee (C. Appeal/Locker)

Students better on 23 of 24 tests Tennessee students in grades 3-8 statewide achieved higher levels of proficiency in 23 of 24 Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program tests this year over last, state officials announced Tuesday. High schoolers increased their proficiency levels on four out of six end-of-course exams, including significant gains in math and science. Gov. Bill Haslam and state Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman gave teachers and students credit for the gains.

TCAP results show math, science gains (Tennessean/Sisk)

Tennessee elementary school students showed gains in math and science, and high school students showed some improvement on achievement tests, according to data released Tuesday. Students in grades three through eight posted a gain of 6 percentage points on math tests and an increase of 5 percentage points on science tests administered through the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program. “The continued success of students is a testament to how much work Tennessee teachers have done in the classroom,” Gov. Bill Haslam said in a prepared statement. “

TCAP scores rise slightly after state reforms (Tennessean/Sisk)

Math and science numbers see biggest increases Tennessee students showed gains in math and science, but reading scores essentially were flat in the first year of testing under reforms that have tied test scores to teacher pay. Students in third through eighth grades improved 6 percentage points on math tests and 5 percentage points on science tests administered through the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program. But scores in reading moved up only 2 percentage points, failing to reach the state’s goals.

State reports TCAP gains for second straight year (Nooga)

Although scores for individual school districts are not expected to be released for another month, Gov. Bill Haslam and state Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman said they were pleased to announce Tuesday that statewide performance on annual TCAP tests had improved for the second year in a row. TCAP, an acronym for Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program, is a timed, multiple-choice assessment that measures skills in the subject areas of math, reading, science and social studies.

Students post TCAP gains across state (Daily Times)

For the second consecutive year, student performance on the 2012 Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) has improved statewide, according to data released Tuesday. Students reached higher levels of proficiency in 23 of 24 TCAP achievement tests in grades three through eight. The only test without a higher proficiency rate was eighth grade reading/language arts, which leveled off at 47.2 percent. “The continued success of students is a testament to how much work Tennessee teachers have done in the classroom,” said Gov. Bill Haslam, in a press release.

TCAP Results Improve Broadly, But Some Gains Not As Big As Hoped (WPLN)

Tennessee students improved in most categories of the statewide comprehensive test, compared to last year. There was only one exception – in eighth-grade reading, scores merely stood still. Third- through eighth-graders overall gained more than 5 percent in both math and science, and a little over two percent in social studies and reading and language arts. In some categories the gains were smaller than the state would’ve hoped. Still, Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman says the results are hardly a “disappointment.”

Haslam: State Ready for Supreme Court Ruling (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam says the state is ready for Thursday’s expected Supreme Court ruling on the federal healthcare overhaul, no matter what the Court decides. That’s because the state has been carefully keeping its options open for the last year. If the federal law stands, the state’s main responsibility would be setting up an insurance exchange. It’d be a state-run website like Expedia where people could comparison-shop for health insurance.

Tennessee No. 14 in economic growth, analysis shows (Memphis Business Journal)

Tennessee’s economy grew at the 14th-fastest rate between 2010 and 2011, according to a new analysis of U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis data. According to MBJ affiliate publication On Numbers, Tennessee’s gross state product grew by 1.91 percent in that period. Gross state product is the annual output of goods and services at the state level, much as gross domestic product gauges such activity at the national level. In 2011, Tennessee’s GSP totaled $234 billion.

Rutherford nets $466,000 waste tire recycling grant (Daily News Journal)

Rutherford County is set to receive a $466,000 waste tire recycling grant for fiscal 2014, according to state Sens. Bill Ketron and Jim Tracy. The announcement comes after Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau released the recipients of 41 grants to help Tennessee communities recycle tires and keep them out of landfills, according to a statement. “These grants are very helpful in assisting counties with their tire recycling efforts,” said Tracy, R-Shelbyville.

TN sets conditions for transporting wild hogs (Tennessean/Young)

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture handed down an order by the state veterinarian Tuesday specifying conditions under which wild-appearing hogs can be transported in the state. The order, issued in support of newly passed legislation making it illegal to transport and release “wild-appearing hogs” without proper documentation, goes into effect on July 1.

Tennessee launches 16th driving trail (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)

Tourism officials on Tuesday launched a self-guided driving trail that connects farmland and small towns in nine West Tennessee counties. The Cotton Junction Trail is being launched by the state Departments of Tourism Development and Transportation. The trail starts in Memphis and heads east and north along 320 miles of roads through Carroll, Crockett, Fayette, Gibson, Haywood, Madison, Shelby, Tipton and Weakley counties.

Collierville receives $756K transportation grant for gateway (C. Appeal/Duvall)

$756K will aid gateway Collierville has been awarded a $756,846 grant from the Tennessee Department of Transportation, which town officials hope will draw economic development to the downtown area. Phase I of the “Center Connect Project” would connect U.S. 72 to Collierville’s downtown, as well as make improvements to Center Street including new crosswalks, sidewalks, landscaping, bicycle racks and park benches.

State beginning site certification program (Associated Press)

The state is beginning a site certification program to aid investment and expansion. The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development said the program will set a consistent standard to help companies decide where to locate. According to a department news release, a hallmark of the program is ensuring that Tennessee sites are ready for development, whether through marketing the top ones available for a prospect or helping uncertified locations get better prepared.

Chattanooga State, VW team up for Car Mechatronics Program (Times Free-Press)

Chattanooga State Community College will start a new program in conjunction with Volkswagen Group of America Chattanooga Operations for the fall of 2012. The Car Mechatronics Program is designed to produce multiskilled car technicians trained to work on all aspects of the body, mechanical and electrical/electronic systems in Volkswagen automobiles, according to a news release. The nine-semester program will be housed at the Volkswagen Academy and students will cover everything from basic metalworking and electrical systems to hydraulics and technical drawings.

UT snares ‘New Careers in Nursing’ grant (Knoxville News-Sentinel)

Five students interested in the field of nursing at the University of Tennessee each will receive a $10,000 scholarship this fall from a $50,000 grant that the College of Nursing has received. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has donated the money to the college through its New Careers in Nursing Scholarship Program. Research from UT’s Center for Business and Economic Researchpredicts that there will be a shortage of 14,910 RNs in Tennessee by 2020.

UT College of Nursing fighting nurse shortage (Associated Press)

The College of Nursing at the University of Tennessee has received a $50,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation New Careers in Nursing Scholarship Program. The funding will help pay for five students who meet certain criteria: They are making a career switch to nursing and are underrepresented in the field. The grant comes in the aftermath of a report by UT’s Center for Business and Economic Research predicting an increasing shortage of registered nurses this decade.

MTSU to sign memorandum (Daily News Journal)

Agreement allows academic, cultural exchange with students, faculty The leaders of Middle Tennessee State University and Meliksah University in Kayseri, Turkey, met in Murfreesboro on Monday to finalize an academic and cultural exchange between the two institutions that would begin as early as the spring of 2013. Meliksah, founded in 2008, is one of four universities serving the Anatolia region ofTurkey. The private university, with an enrollment of about 2,000 students, is known as a research center with an emphasis on mechanical engineering, science and economics.

High court approves new rules for judges (Associated Press)

The Tennessee Supreme Court has adopted new ethics rules for state judges. One rule deals with the disability and impairment of a judge or attorney. It instructs judges to take “appropriate action” if they believe another judge or attorney is impaired by drugs, alcohol or other physical, mental or emotional condition. Last year, a Knox County judge resigned after it was revealed he had been addicted to prescription painkillers that he was buying illegally.

Supreme Court adopts new ethics rules for judges (Nashville Post/Nannie)

Tennessee Supreme Court has adopted a comprehensive revision to its ethics rules. “Maintaining a high standard of judicial ethics is paramount to the public’s trust and confidence in the courts and the judges who preside over them,” Chief Justice Cornelia A. Clark said in a statement Tuesday. The rules changes impacting the state’s judiciary most tangibly are in essence a restatement of earlier rules governing the political activities of judges, but with modifications.

State attorneys doing more free legal work (Associated Press)

Tennessee court officials report state attorneys are doing more free legal work this year. According to the Board of Professional Responsibility, 46 percent of Tennessee attorneys report performing pro bono work this year, up 6 percent from a year ago. The board said 3,860 lawyers have done more than 329,000 hours of legal services without charge. The Tennessee Supreme Court, in its “access to justice” campaign, has identified increasing pro bono work as a priority.

Corey Currie kicks off campaign for state House (Jackson Sun)

Democrat is running against Rep. Jimmy Eldridge in District 73 State legislative candidate Corey Currie met with Jackson community members Tuesday evening to let them know who he is and what he is about. Currie, a Democratic candidate hoping to represent Madison County’s District 73 in the state legislature, kicked off his campaign with a rally at the Central West Tennessee Association of Realtors on Old Humboldt Road.

About Half a Billion in Gov’t Bacon ID’d by Beacon (TN Report)

In Tennessee, taxpayer money has been used to dabble in the movie-making business, prop up car companies, and promote country music heritage — in Virginia. Such projects are cataloged in a new Pork Report tracking $468 million in waste and public malfeasance in the past year, $216 million worth of loin, butt and chops at the state level, the Center says. Authored by the Nashville-based Beacon Center, the report identified more than $182 million in what the center calls “corporate welfare.”

‘Pork’ report assails Metro, TN over economic development (Nashville Biz Journal)

Beacon Center of Tennessee is assailing $468 million in what it considers wasteful spending in an annual report, with Metro and state government taking its share of hits. The free-market advocacy group — which has become increasingly embroiled in tax policy debates in the past year — released the report this morning. The $468 million involving state and local governments around Tennessee blows away last year’s $371 million, but president Justin Owen said the amount waxes and wanes, capturing only the “most egregious” examples each year.

Fiscal hawks deride funds for Chattanooga VW sign, EPB Internet (TFP/Sher)

Volkswagen and EPB defended themselves after a statewide advocacy group said Tuesday they were among the biggest wasters of taxpayer money in Tennessee last year. Both companies said they have enhanced the image of Chattanooga around the U.S. and the world and also improved the quality of life for residents. A state grant for a massive $266,000 “Volkswagen Chattanooga” sign on top of the plant and EPB’s venture into cable and high-speed broadband Internet are among targets skewered in a “Tennessee Pork Report.”

Texts to warn about threats (Tennessean/Bonner)

Public will receive alerts on phones The first line of defense for the next severe weather warning, missing-child alert or presidential announcement may appear on your phone like a text message. On Tuesday, Metro’s Office of Emergency Management announced a new alert system created by the federal government to warn the public of impending danger. The messages could begin as early as the end of the week.

Emergency Officials Rolling Out New Emergency Alerts for Phones (WPLN-Radio)

Your cellphone may start receiving emergency messages you never asked for, like severe weather warnings or Amber Alerts, as early as this month. The notices will appear much like text messages, although technically they’re not. There’s no charge for the notices, and they’ll automatically go to all phones that have the right software to get them. Users can opt out of receiving everything except messages issued directly from the White House. Metro officials are concerned people will be scared when the first alerts come through, and emphasize that there’s no reason to react by calling 911.

Commissioners seek to block school referendum (CA/Kelley, Connolly, Bailey)

The Shelby County Board of Commissioners filed a petition in federal court Tuesday to block Aug. 2 elections that could create six new suburban school districts, arguing that those who sought the elections are deliberately discriminating against black residents. The lawsuit alleges that “race was a motivating factor behind the enactment of the Shelby County Municipal School Acts and that such Acts are purposefully discriminatory.”

County Commission Files Motion to Stop Muni Schools Votes (M. Daily News)

The Shelby County Commission is asking Memphis Federal Court Judge Hardy Mays to call off the Aug. 2 referendums in all six Shelby County suburbs on forming municipal school districts. And the commission, in a motion to file a third party complaint, wants Mays to declare unconstitutional the state laws permitting a move to municipal school districts before the consolidation of Shelby County’s two public school systems in August 2013. Attorneys for the commission filed the legal motion Tuesday, June 26, the day after a private attorney-client meeting with the commission.

Chattanooga City Council OKs budget, pay raises (Times Free-Press/Hightower)

The Chattanooga City Council narrowly approved a $209 million budget Tuesday night. Along with it will come no property tax hikes and pay raises for city employees and police officers. Councilwoman Carol Berz, chairwoman of the budget and finance committee, said after the council meeting that she thought for the most part the city budget talks went fairly fluid. “I think it ran smoothly because everyone was able to express all their concerns,” she said.

Hamilton County boosting budget for reappraisal (Times Free-Press/Haman)

The true cost of the housing bubble could soon be felt by Tennessee’s county governments, whose most important source of revenue is property taxes. Next year, Hamilton County must reappraise each parcel in the county, as required by the state every four years. Assessor of Property Bill Bennett said his office is bracing for the possibility that the overall value of the county’s real property will decrease as a result. “This may be the very first time in the history of reappraisals that it might go down some,” Bennett said.

Hawkins commissioner’s status still in limbo as county awaits AG’s opinion (T-N)

Hawkins County officials are still waiting for an attorney general’s opinion regarding the status of District 2 Commissioner Dustin Dean, who found out a year and a half into his term he actually lives a few feet inside District 3. Fellow District 2 Commissioner Jeff Thacker said during Monday’s Hawkins County Commission meeting that if the attorney general’s opinion resolving this issue hasn’t been received by next month’s meeting, he intends to submit a resolution for commission approval setting the district lines back to where they were in 1991.

Sen. Lamar Alexander: Counsel needed to investigate leaks (News-Sentinel/Collins)

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander called Tuesday on Attorney General Eric Holder to immediately appoint a special counsel to investigate whether the Obama administration was responsible for national security leaks. Alexander, R-Tenn., and 30 other GOP senators argued in a letter to Holder that naming a special counsel to lead the investigation would remove the appearance of politics or undue influence. “The numerous national security leaks reportedly originating out of the executive branch in recent months have been stunning,” the senators wrote.

Saltsman says leave ‘part of plan’ for Fleischmann campaign (TFP/Carroll)

Despite recent setbacks regarding litigation and his own critical remarks about his job, Chip Saltsman, U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann’s chief of staff, said Tuesday that his indefinite, unpaid leave of absence is “all part of the plan.” Saltsman has been on leave since June 8, but Fleischmann’s office never publicly announced the news. Interviewed Tuesday, Saltsman, who earned more than $156,000 last year as Fleischmann’s top aide, said he left the government payroll to supervise “all aspects of Chuck’s campaign” on a volunteer basis until at least Aug. 2, when Fleischmann faces three challengers in a hotly contested 3rd Congressional District Republican primary.

DOE removing guards at nuke waste facility (News-Sentinel/Munger)

The U.S. Department of Energy confirmed that it is removing the security guards at its Transuranic Waste Processing Center in Oak Ridge, replacing the guards with a new automated security gate at the plant’s entrance on Highway 95. DOE spokesman Mike Koentop, in an email response to questions, said the move will save an estimated $500,000 per year. The changes are expected to take effect July 1, he said.

$1.5B restaurant chain quietly moves HQ here (Nashville Post/De Lombaerde)

In economic development terms, the loss of two publicly traded restaurant headquarters may turn out to not be such a bad thing.The holding company that seven weeks ago completed its purchase of O’Charley’s and on Monday announced plans to buy J. Alexander’s has recently moved its corporate offices from Denver to the 100 Oaks complex that had served as O’Charley’s headquarters. Just what that move has entailed so far for American Blue Ribbon Holdings, which is 55 percent-owned by title insurer Fidelity National Financial, is unclear.

New parent of O’Charley’s, J. Alexander’s moves HQ to Nashville (N. Biz Journal)

The holding company that recently purchased Nashville-based O’Charley’s Inc. (Nasdaq: CHUX) — and that announced plans Monday to also purchase the J. Alexander’s chain (Nasdaq: JAX) — has quietly moved its corporate offices to Nashville, Nashville Post reports. American Blue Ribbon Holdings, a subsidiary of Fidelity National Financial, has moved its corporate offices from Denver to O’Charley’s existing digs in the 100 Oaks area, the Post reports. The Post was unable to reach company officials for comment.

Magneti Marelli brings 800 auto supply jobs to Middle TN (Tennessean/Williams)

Small-town Pulaski to get boost from new plant that makes auto headlights With a subsidiary of the Italian automaker Fiat poised to add 800 new jobs to its auto supply plant in Giles County, the current unemployment rate of 8.9 percent in this rural outpost won’t hold up for long. Expect it to ease lower — and soon. The auto supply project will bring so many new jobs to such a small county — population 29,273 — that an expanded Magneti Marelli SpA plant means some workers will have to be recruited from other nearby counties, including from north Alabama, said Daniel M. Speer, executive director of the Pulaski-Giles County Economic Development Commission.

Clarksville Growth Summit focuses on attracting industries, jobs (Leaf Chronicle)

Local leaders met Tuesday to discuss the area’s ballooning population, and talk pivoted around strategies to use that growth to attract businesses. Representatives from local and state governments were on hand at the second-annual Growth Summit, and many said it offered a chance to soak up tips for capitalizing on local growth. “What you heard today from all of the speakers is that we need to be proactive and address on the front end issues that we know we’re going to have in the future,” City Mayor Kim McMillan said.

Great Hearts charter school plan rejected (Tennessean/Rau)

The Metro Nashville school board voted Tuesday to reject a controversial proposal from Arizona-based Great Hearts Academy to open five new charter schools across the county, including one in affluent West Nashville. The board signed off on a bid for a second school from KIPP Academy, which serves disadvantaged students, and an application from Purpose Prep for a school in North Nashville. School board member Ed Kindall said Great Hearts’ proposal included individual schools that would lack racial diversity and didn’t have an adequate transportation plan.

School Board Rejects Great Hearts Charter, Approves Purpose Prep, KIPP (WPLN)

The Metro school board rejected an appeal Tuesday night from a Phoenix-based charter-school operator that had hoped to expand into Nashville. It’s likely the final rejection this year for Great Hearts Academies. Charter schools are publically funded, but they’re run privately. A major sticking point for the school board ended up being Great Hearts’ plan for so-called “locational diversity.” It wanted to gather student bodies that reflect surrounding neighborhoods, starting with a location in affluent West Nashville.

School board rejects Great Hearts, approves KIPP and Purpose Prep (CP/Garrison)

A heated Metro school board discussion on diversity — with one member citing a fear of resegregation — ended with a 7-2 vote Tuesday to deny an amended, but still controversial, charter for Great Hearts Academies, halting the Phoenix-based group’s plan for five schools in Nashville. “In final analysis, if we open this floodgate, in five or 10 years we’re going to have schools with blacks, schools with Hispanics, schools for the poor, schools for whites,” veteran board member Ed Kindall said of Great Hearts’ plan.

Montgomery County Schools ‘turn the corner’ after hacking (Leaf Chronicle)

District will spend $167,000 responding to security breach The school system is set to spend $167,000 so far to respond to a security breach that resulted in the release of Social Security numbers belonging to past and present students and employees. That money has been split between $87,000 for software and hardware and $80,000 for experts’ analysis of the breached content, Clarksville-Montgomery County Schools Director Michael Harris said after Tuesday night’s School Board meeting.

 

OPINION

 

Editorial: Commission wise to solicit input for invocation policy (News-Sentinel)

The Knox County Commission prudently delayed a vote on its policy of beginning each session with a prayer in order to solicit community viewpoints. An action that would prompt fervent opinions from all sides should be made cautiously and intelligently. Tradition should be observed, but the entire community must be included. It is a fine line that commissioners must walk. Chairman Mike Hammond said he brought up the idea of codifying the commission’s unwritten policy of inclusiveness after a lawsuit was filed against the Hamilton County Commission.

Gail Kerr: Wanted: County clerk who can keep nose clean (Tennessean)

WANTED: A person to sell car tags to Nashville drivers. Must be honorable, honest and have a strong ability to resist temptation. The successful candidate will get a six-figure salary and a job for life, with a pension thrown in at retirement. You’d think that would be an easy job description to fill, right? Not so much. All of the last four Davidson County clerks since 1980 have been accused of everything from stupid stunts to outright corruption. With the resignation of John Arriola this week, the job is open again. Arriola resigned after District Attorney Torry Johnson told him if he didn’t, Johnson would open a grand jury investigation and pursue criminal charges.

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