Categories
Education Featured NewsTracker

Quality of State’s Workforce Questioned

One of the messages that came out of Gov. Bill Haslam’s education summit last week was a complaint from employers that’s not entirely new: It’s hard to find good help these days.

Amid discussion about the state’s education system, a few attendees said issues preventing a labor-ready workforce ran a little deeper than what the reforms of the past few years have been getting at. In a nutshell, there’s a significant element of Volunteer State’s workforce, especially at the entry levels, that can’t do basic high school math, don’t communicate or take directions very well, have trouble passing drug tests and oftentimes exhibit a general aversion to hard work.

Greg Martz, a Tennessee Chamber of Commerce board member and plant manager at DuPont, said the problems facing employers are fairly straightforward. The younger generation, in particular, lacks “interpersonal skills,” which he in part blames on their overuse of texting and other modern phone technology. And they also tend to have trouble solving real-world problems, which he theorized might have something to do with an overemphasis in public-school classrooms on rote memorization rather than critical thinking.

Ken Gough of Accurate Machine Products in Johnson City agreed.

“Math skills are very weak, analytical skills are very weak, the ability to solve problems, very weak. Drug testing? It’s a real problem with the entire workforce,” said Gough, a voice for Tennessee’s small business community at the governor’s “Progress of the Past Present an Future” conference. “Just the understanding that they have to show up every day for work, on time and ready to go to work, those are things that quite literally have to be taught.”

He added that while some of these problems are “not primarily a school problem,” schools could help provide solutions.

Sen. Todd Gardenhire, a Chattanooga Republican, said he’s heard it all before. A year ago, Gardenhire told the crowd of conference attendees, he made inquiries among representatives of Japanese-owned companies doing business in the Southeast as to what could be done to encourage the hiring of more Tennesseans.

While he had expected to hear issues with infrastructure and taxes, Gardenhire said it came to a “unanimous three things” that weren’t those at all.

“Number 1 was your workforce can’t do ninth grade math. Second, your workforce can’t pass drug tests. And third, your workforce won’t work. They don’t have a work ethic,” Gardenhire said he was told.

Gardenhire said all those are components of what he’s telling kids around Chattanooga when he goes on local motivational-speaking tours. He said he informs students that what they need to do to achieve success in life is “learn math, stay off drugs and show up on time for work.”

The invitation-only education forum was called by Haslam and the Republican speakers of the General Assembly, and featured several presentations on the reforms enacted over the past several years and discussion of the state’s education system by all of the major stakeholders in education, including lawmakers, teachers, administrators, parents and business leaders.

Haslam said that the plan was not to come out with some statement from the group at the summit, but that this was just the “beginning of a discussion” about what issues face Tennessee, how we got to where we are and what some “potential paths” are for the future of the state’s education system.

During one of the summit’s discussion periods, Randy Boyd, chairman of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, emphasized the need to focus on “talking about K to J, not K to 12,” in order to “be at the point where high school graduation equals college readiness.”

“Our alignment needs to be aligned with the workforce needs, not necessarily with anything else,” Boyd said.

Categories
Press Releases

AFP Protests Common Core at TN Education Summit

Press release from Americans for Prosperity – Tennessee; September 18, 2014:

NASHVILLE – A coalition of groups gathered together at Legislative Plaza to protest Common Core. An invitation-only education summit was hosted across the street during the protest. Seventy-four activists and parents showed up to urge lawmakers to repeal Common Core.

Americans for Prosperity provided support for the activists while debuting their tour bus. Currently the bus is wrapped with a Stop Common Core message; over the next three months AFP-TN will utilize the bus to promote free-market issues.

Andrew Ogles, AFP-TN state director stated: “As one of the most conservative states in the country Tennessee should take the lead in setting its own education standards, stopping the federal over-reach that is Common Core. Just like ObamaCare, Common Core is a Trojan horse for the federal government to take over state budgets.”

In addition, AFP-TN activists will be knocking on 4,000 doors across the state on Saturday to stop Common Core. Sign up at www.iamafp.com

Categories
Press Releases

Herron: Guv’s Education Summit will Ignore GOP’s ‘War’ on Public Education

Press release from the Tennessee Democratic Party; September 18, 2014:

NASHVILLE, Tenn.– Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Roy Herron released the following statement today on the governor’s education summit in Nashville:

“Today’s education summit and its focus on Common Core is just a minor skirmish that ignores the major battles being waged by Republicans in their on-going War on Public Schools. This administration’s education policies feed fat cats while starving students and teachers. Out-of-state corporations and in-state segregation academies are pilfering, plundering, and profiting from the private pickpocketing of public funds.

“Virtual schools have been a complete failure, sending tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to an out-of-state corporation while students receive one day (nine hours) a year in actual instruction. The K-12, Inc. Virtual Academy has been literally the worst performing school in the state.

“Instead of giving needs-based scholarships to tens of thousands more qualified students, or giving Tennessee’s teachers the two-percent raise he’d promised them, the state’s first billionaire governor has continued abolishing the inheritance tax on billionaires, so that hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars go to rich heirs and heiresses while schools do without.

“The administration’s vaunted “Tennessee Promise” promises much but delivers little and has simply moved money from the lottery scholarship fund in a shell game while adding not a single dime in new funding for education and also hurting four-year universities.

“We should be investing in the success of our public schools, our teachers, and our students, not draining hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars into private pockets. Rather than taking our students to a ‘summit’, these Republican raids on taxpayer dollars for out-of-state corporations and in-state segregation academies will take Tennessee schools down the wrong road.”