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Press Releases

Bredesn Creates ‘Race To Top’ Advisory Council

State of Tennessee Press Release; June 21, 2010:

NASHVILLE – Governor Phil Bredesen today announced 14 appointments to the Tennessee First to the Top Advisory Council, a broad-based group of Tennesseans and national experts who will provide strategic guidance, direction, and thought leadership to state policymakers overseeing Tennessee’s Race to the Top grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

“Tennessee’s education agenda has accelerated in recent years because of the shared commitment to improving education that has been developed among stakeholders including teachers, administrators, business leaders, philanthropy, and advocacy groups,” said Bredesen. “They play a vital role in helping Tennessee carry out the vision of a world-class public education system that prepares students for college, career, and life in the 21st century. The ongoing involvement of the groups represented by the First to the Top Advisory Council will help ensure we fulfill our Race to the Top goals.”

Bredesen created the Council to ensure the state is effectively implementing, evaluation and learning from the historic Race to the Top investment in Tennessee’s public school systems. The Advisory Council will:

– Provide strategic guidance on all aspects of the grant, including implementation, planning, and evaluation

– Help communicate the bold First to the Top proposals in their communities, the state, and the nation

– Promote sound decision-making by working with the First to the Top leadership responsible for executing the grant and

– Ensure continuous alignment between the state’s reform plans and the ambitious goals to accelerate student achievement across Tennessee.

The Advisory Council will not direct grant funds, oversee programming, or supervise staff. The panel consists of elected officials, educators, leaders of stakeholder organizations, and representatives of philanthropic foundations – all of whom are deeply invested in Tennessee’s future. Those appointed to serve include:

– Dan Challener, Public Education Foundation

– Mayor Karl Dean, Metropolitan Government of Nashville & Davidson County

– Senator Bill Frist, Tennessee SCORE

– Tomeka Hart, Memphis City School Board

– Linda Irwin, Niswonger Foundation

– Gary Mabrey, Johnson City-Jonesborough-Washington County Chamber of Commerce

– State Representative Mark Maddox, Weakley and Carroll counties

– Al Mance, Tennessee Education Association

– Superintendent Jim McIntyre, Knox County Schools

– Gary Nixon, State Board of Education

– Colleen Oliver, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

– Superintendent Mary Reel, Milan Special School District

– Teresa Sloyan, Hyde Foundation

– State Senator Jamie Woodson, Knox County

Ex-officio member include officials from Tennessee’s Department of Education and Higher Education Commission. Representatives of national organizations with expertise in education, including Mass Insight Education, the Data Quality Campaign, Achieve Inc., the Tennessee Consortium on Research, Evaluation, and Development, and the National Council on Teacher Quality will also serve as ex-officio members.

Categories
News

McMillan: Money Isn’t Everything In Dem Guv’s Race

She may not have a lot of money in her campaign war chest, but Kim McMillan says she makes up for it in political drive.

McMillan, a former Democratic majority leader in the Tennessee House of Representatives, says she’s not letting modest campaign contributions stand in the way of her winning the party’s gubernatorial primary this August.

“I may not have the most money of all the candidates, but I clearly believe that I have enough to be a viable candidate,” McMillan told TNReport during a visit to the Capitol on Tuesday.

In her latest campaign finance breakdown, McMillan reported thus far gathering $106,931 to fund her bid for governor.

Both her opponents ended the same reporting period with much more money in their political piggy banks. Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle had $588,042 on hand and Jackson businessman Mike McWherter had $619,999.

But McMillan — elected six times to the state House, and now a political science instructor at Austin Peay State University — says that when it comes to stimulating campaign energy and the passion for her cause, message is more important than money.

In 2002, McMillan became the first female ever to be elected Tennessee House majority leader. She was reelected to that post in 2004.

In 2006, Gov. Phil Bredesen appointed her to his cabinet as a senior adviser.

She worked in his administration for two years and said she’d like to continue with several of the policies and priorities he forged throughout his two terms in office.

McMillan says she’s been particularly impressed with, in her view, Bredesen’s record of responsible adherence to fiscal discipline while adequately funding important government programs and initiatives.

McMillan’s said her leadership style as governor would involve lots of give-and-take with constituencies not often heard from on Capitol Hill.

“A Kim McMillan governorship would be all about listening to the people of Tennessee, responding to their needs, and trying to address those things that are important to them,” she said.

One item on her to-do list as governor is exploring ways to duplicate Austin Peay’s partnership with Hemlock Semiconductor for other universities across the state. Together, Hemlock and Austin Peay are launching a two-year degree program in chemical engineering technology that’s aimed at preparing students for jobs like those offered by the global solar-system component supplier.

“That’s the way we create jobs. Working outside the box, working and partnering with our educational institutions, and we can do it all across the state of Tennessee,” she said.

McMillan lives in Clarksville with her husband and two teenage children.

Andrea Zelinski can be reached at andreazelinski@tnreport.com.

Categories
Featured News Tax and Budget

Guv Budgets $164M in Bonuses Amid Cutbacks

Despite plans to slash health care for the poor and issue pink slips to hundreds of state employees, Gov. Phil Bredesen wants to give teachers and the state workers who keep their jobs a bonus check.

The governor’s $28.41 billion proposed FY2011 budget calls for issuing government, higher education and some K-12 workers a one-time gratuity amounting to 3 percent of their yearly salary. It is designed to help offset a three-year pay freeze for state employees, administration officials say.

The average state employee who makes $47,000 a year could collect an additional $1,410.

“I know our state employees are glad to be working, but they have been without raises since 2007 and I would like to recognize their dedication by using some of our reserves to continue the enhanced 401k match at its current level and also pay them a three percent bonus,” Bredesen said in his State of the State speech Feb. 1.

The administration is, however, leaving to lawmakers’ discretion the question of whether all employees should receive a flat 3 percent bonus, or if it ought to be weighted differently for different income levels, said Finance Department spokeswoman Lola Potter.

Members of Tennessee State Employees Association oppose Bredesen’s proposed layoffs. But they’re uninterested in trading away the potential bonuses to help keep co-workers employed, and would “ride us out of town on a rail” were the suggestion put seriously forward by union leadership, said Robert O’Connell, the association’s interim director.

Democrats at the Capitol are generally voicing enthusiasm for the $164.7 million bonus package as well.

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner, who applied last year to lead the state employee union, believes the bonus is overdue, and said he doesn’t want to see pay schedules “get any further behind.” Sen. Roy Herron, D-Dresden, described the bonus proposal as essentially a “cost of living adjustment” for state workers who are “struggling to get by, too, like a lot of other Tennesseans.”

But the bonus package will ultimately have to draw support from Republicans, who control both chambers of the General Assembly. And some aren’t so sure it’s a wise fiscal move while dipping into savings to fund government operations.

After all, the governor is also proposing to increase a number of taxes and fees to boost state revenues in addition to lopping off $200.7 million from TennCare, laying off 767 government employees, and pulling about $202 million from the state’s rainy-day reserves to stave off further budgetary belt-tightening.

“I agree that we have some employees that are hard workers and probably are not being paid what they should be for the job they are doing. But it seems kind of hard to justify giving somebody a bonus when you’re laying other employees off,” said Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, an owner of an insurance company who said he’s resorted to cutting employee hours to avoid reducing staff during tough economic times.

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, said it’s too early to tell how the issue will shake out. Ramsey, a candidate for governor, said he can see “the contradiction, so to speak” in handing out bonuses while simultaneously shedding jobs. He echoed the governor’s sentiment that most people who continue to work in this economic climate are probably just thankful for a steady paycheck.

“The average person working a job right now is just happy to have a job and no one is getting raises at this time,” he said.

In fact, large and mid-sized companies across the country are expecting to offer modest pay increases this year to valued employees, according to a recent study by Mercer, Inc., a global consulting, outsourcing and investment services company.

Of the companies surveyed for the study, salaries are projected to grow by about a 2.3 percent average in 2010, according to Mercer’s “2009/2010 U.S. Compensation Planning Survey Update,” which also reported that salaries grew 2.1 percent last year.

Thirty percent of firms had pay freezes in place during 2009, but that number is expected to drop to 14 percent this year, according to the November analysis involving more than 350 U.S. employers.

The federal government would need to OK the TennCare cuts. If it doesn’t, lawmakers will have to find somewhere else to slice out $200 million. House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada said the state may have to consider using the bonus money if those cuts aren’t approved.

To offset the TennCare cuts, the Tennessee Hospital Association is proposing a tax on hospitals’ revenues. But, Casada said, that plan could also fall through.

“We don’t have too many other options to look for, for that size and that amount of money. So, yes, the teacher, employee bonus could be in trouble under those two scenarios. By fact, there’s no other alternative,” he said.

One option floating around the capitol is cutting down the size of the bonus, said Casada, a member of the House Finance, Ways & Means Committee.

“Is 3 percent too much? Is 2 percent too much? I don’t know. In my opinion there needs to be something, but how much?” he said. “That’s where everyone is right now.”

Workers in about 44,800 state government jobs — from driving TDOT trucks to working as a head administrator — would get a $45.6 million chunk of the total, according to Bredesen administration. Professors, staff and other workers filling 21,400 jobs in Tennessee colleges and universities will split $51.3 million in bonuses.

State employees and workers in higher education last saw a raise in 2007.

Legislators last offered a $400 bonus two years ago to state employees with at least three years on the state payrolls, said the Finance Department’s Potter. During the 2006-07 budget year, employees who were scheduled at least 1,600 hours, or 30 hours a week, received a $350 bonus. Both bonuses omitted employees on mandated pay schedules.

The K-12 public schools system employees, who would also receive bonuses under the governor’s plan, are not included in the ongoing state employees pay freeze. Some 64,750 teachers, 4,300 administrators and other licensed education personnel like guidance counselors and school psychologists would split $67.8 million.

The thing that ought to make the bonuses most palatable to lawmakers concerned about spending is that it is one-time money only, said Sen. Jim Kyle, D-Memphis, whereas pay raises cost the state year after year.

“It’s a lot easier to find $170 million in non-recurring money than it is to find $50 million in recurring money. If we’ve got the money, I’d rather give our employees a bonus than I would let that money sit in a savings account. They need that money,” said Kyle.

Kyle, the Senate Democratic leader and a 2010 candidate for governor, has said he’s generally pleased with the proposed budget, but that the cuts to TennCare and state staffing levels could change as lawmakers tinker with the budget over the next few months.

Andrea Zelinski can be reached at 615-489-7131 or andreazelinski@tnreport.com.

Categories
Liberty and Justice News

BTW, Effects of Laws Against DWSMSing Still Unknown

Text messaging behind the wheel of a moving vehicle is illegal in Tennessee and about 20 other states. But there’s continuing debate on just whether the laws here or elsewhere are showing any demonstrable policy successes.

That topic was the subject of a short discussion detour on this week during a AAA Auto Club presentation before the House Transportation Committee.

At this point, it is still “too early to measure statistical results (of the texting ban) in Tennessee” that was signed into law last spring, said Don Lindsey, public affairs director for AAA of East Tennessee.

But Lindsey said one of the only studies in the country to study texting behavior before-and-after passage of an anti-texting law — a “direct observation” survey of thousands of California motorists that was sponsored by AAA — indicated the practice had dropped off by more than two-thirds.

According to a AAA press release, visual surveys conducted prior to the texting ban showed that about 1.4 percent of Orange County drivers were texting while driving. “The two post-law surveys showed that level had dropped substantially — to about 0.4 percent — a decline of about 70 percent overall,” stated the release.

The release noted that “surveys of the general public and AAA’s membership” show support for texting laws running between 80 and 90 percent — but also that “20-25 percent of drivers admit to texting while driving at least once in the past.”

Lindsey told Tennessee legislators the California study gives clear indication that “laws can have an effect on behavior.”

Soon thereafter, Rep. Phillip Johnson, R-Pegram, one of 30 state lawmakers who voted against the anti-texting bill last year, stopped Lindsey’s presentation to signal his incredulity with the study’s methodology and results.

“I find it hard to attribute (the texting decline) to passing the law,” said Johnson, who chairs the Rural Roads Subcommittee. “And how do you know they were texting?”

“You could see them,” Lindsey responded.

Johnson then asked how the researchers could be sure the motorists “weren’t punching a phone number,” which is still legal.

“They could tell because they didn’t put it up to their ear. They were looking at it and reading it. They could tell for any number of reasons,” said Lindsey.

Johnson  indicated he remained unconvinced, and said that while the results might be “pretty dramatic,” “striking,” and even “shocking,” he wouldn’t read much into them.

“We have trouble with the texting law that we have right now, and I don’t think law enforcement has even applied it yet because they can’t prove it,” said Johnson.

Mike Browning, spokesman for the Tennessee Department of Safety, reported after the meeting that state troopers have issued just seven citations for infractions of the law.

“(The Department of) Safety sees texting and driving as a very dangerous distraction behavior,” he wrote in an email to TNReport.

Browning added that “(i)t is a challenge for law enforcement since dialing on a cell phone is permissible, however if officers clearly observe a motorist engaged in texting or reading a device, they are subject to citation.”

After the exchange between the AAA spokesman and Rep. Johnson during the committee hearing, another lawmaker referenced a study released last month that suggested there’s no indication laws banning the use of cell phones while driving have improved traffic safety.

That study, sponsored by the Highway Loss Data Institute, found “no reductions in crashes after hand-held phone bans take effect.”

HLDI researchers said they examined monthly collision claims before and after hand-held phone-use by drivers was banned in New York, Connecticut, the District of Columbia and California. They also looked at similar data from nearby jurisdictions without the bans for control purposes.

The researchers determined “the laws aren’t reducing crashes, even though we know that such laws have reduced hand-held phone use, and several studies have established that phoning while driving increases crash risk,” said Adrian Lund, president of both HLDI and its affiliate, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which is an automobile insurer-supported group.

“Whatever the reason, the key finding is that crashes aren’t going down where hand-held phone use has been banned,” Lund said. “This finding doesn’t auger well for any safety payoff from all the new laws that ban phone use and texting while driving.”

After that study was mentioned, it was AAA’s turn to scoff at the findings.

“It was very irresponsible of them to even comment on texting, because their study had nothing to do with texting,” said Kevin Bakewell, public affairs vice president for AAA Auto Club South. “Their study had to do with the use of hands-free, or hand-held cell phone bans in some states.

“There’s a huge difference between texting and using a cell phone.Texting obviously requires you to take your mind not only off the road, but your hands off the wheel, and you eyes off the road as well,” he added. “Their study did not even look at texting, but they did comment on it, unfortunately.”

Russ Rader, a spokesman for IIHS, acknowledged his group’s study didn’t look at texting bans, only cell phones.

“But we would not expect a different results if we had studied texting bans,” he said. “The reason for that is these laws are very difficult to enforce. Lawmakers who think these laws are going to have a significant effect on reducing crashes are likely to be disappointed — whether it is a hand-held cell phone ban or texting.”

Categories
Press Releases

Bredesen’s 2010 State of the State Speech

Press Release from the State of Tennessee, Feb. 1, 2010:

NASHVILLE – Governor Phil Bredesen today delivered his eighth State of the State Address to the members of the 106th General Assembly, speaking to achievements in areas like education, job creation and child welfare and the challenges of maintaining services in the midst of declining revenues and the national economic recession.

In addressing the proposed FY 2010-2011 budget, Bredesen said he is building on the four-year budget designed last year to guide Tennessee through the economic recession and influx of one-time stimulus funds. The Governor said he adhered to the principle of the “family budget” in crafting his proposal.

“It’s nothing more than the common-sense principle that we’re going to adjust our expenses to match our income, and we’re going to be very careful about using money from our savings account so we can keep it healthy,” Bredesen said. “It’s the way sensible families are managing through these tough times, and while the numbers for state government are much larger, the principle is exactly the same.”

Bredesen spoke of the importance to him of leaving the state’s finances stable for the next Governor and next General Assembly by matching recurring revenues and recurring expenses while moving forward on the priorities most important to the future of Tennessee, particularly in the areas of education and job creation. He also acknowledged the assistance provided by the Recovery Act, which has enabled a “softer landing” than would have otherwise been possible, making it possible to preserve jobs and plan more carefully for needed reductions.

The Governor emphasized the state’s financial position is a strong one despite the economic recession. “As I stand here tonight, we have more than $900 million in the bank in our reserve funds,” Bredesen said. “Given our strong financial position and the fact that we built up these savings to use at a time like this, I’m recommending that we draw down modestly from these reserves to soften the worst of the cuts that we would otherwise have to make.”

The use of reserves will minimize some of the cuts that were proposed for state departments including Education, Health, Mental Health, and Children’s Services. Bredesen also proposed using reserve funds to preserve 394 state jobs that would have been eliminated as a result of the tough economy.

The budget proposed by Bredesen fully funds the Basic Education Plan, the state’s funding formula for education, and the increased contribution to the state’s pension system recommended by actuaries and adopted by the Treasurer. Outside of those areas, the budget reflects reductions of about nine percent in most departments.

The budgets of Higher Education, Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities, and the Division of Intellectual Disabilities have reductions of six percent, Children’s Services is at five percent, and the Department of Correction is just one percent.

During his final State of the State Address, Bredesen also singled out Commissioner of Children’s Services Viola Miller and her staff for a recent, significant achievement by the department. On January 22, Tennessee became the seventh state to receive accreditation from the Council on Accreditation for its operation of a state-administered child welfare agency.

“Accreditation is how you assure people that your approach is right,” said Bredesen. “When Vi Miller told me she wanted to try and get formal accreditation, I encouraged her, but I have to admit I was skeptical. She persevered, and today all Tennesseans can take pride and comfort in knowing the people responsible for managing the cases of abused and neglected children have met the high standards required for accreditation.”

The Governor also expressed his appreciation to the members of the General Assembly for their extraordinary work in the recently completed special session on education.

“This is the way it is supposed to work. Both individuals and organizations with specific interests found ways to keep those interests in check and come together for a common good,” Bredesen said. “There was no splitting along partisan lines. The final vote was genuinely bipartisan and made overwhelmingly clear to everyone that these reforms are not my plan, they’re not a Democratic plan or a Republican plan. These reforms are Tennessee’s plan, and that is going to make a tremendous difference in both K-12 and higher education in the years ahead.”

Bredesen specifically thanked teachers and the Tennessee Education Association. “If anyone ever had any doubt about your dedication first of all to the good of the children of our state, the way in which you handled yourselves during the special session has put them to rest.

“Teaching is a profession that has many more dimensions than can be simply measured by students’ performance on a written test,” Bredesen said in acknowledging the concerns expressed by teachers regarding the use of student achievement in teacher evaluation. “I understand there are many factors beyond your control. Let’s work together to find an approach that is both fair to your teaching profession and that gives our citizens confidence that the money they have invested in our schools is being used well.”

Bredesen’s 2010 State of the State Address and materials related to the proposed budget can be found at www.TN.gov.

STATE OF THE STATE ADDRESS

Governor Phil Bredesen, February 1, 2010

Lieutenant Governor Ramsey, Speaker Williams, Speaker Pro Tem DeBerry, Members of the 106th General Assembly, Justices, Constitutional Officers, friends, guests and my fellow Tennesseans.

Once again, I stand before you tonight to report on the State of our State and to present and recommend a budget prepared in accordance with the requirements of our Constitution.

As we begin, I want to once again recognize the men and women of our state who are serving our country abroad this evening. As we gather here, about 1,200 members of the Tennessee National Guard are deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. This coming Friday, we’ll see off more than 3,000 members of our 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment being redeployed to Iraq. Most of these men and women spent 2005 there, and now five years later are returning again. Included among these soldiers returning to Iraq is a member of this body, Lieutenant Colonel John Mark Windle. Since 9/11, nearly 20,000 Tennessee National Guard Soldiers and Airmen have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. In their response to our nation’s war on terror, these men and women have proved again Tennessee’s claim on the title “The Volunteer State.”

I’ve invited some representatives of these men and women to join us here tonight and would ask you to each stand as I introduce you, and then we would all like to show our appreciation:

Master Sergeant Rosie Biggs has been deployed with the 168th Military Police Battalion out of Dyersburg. This battalion conducted detainee operations in Iraq, and she returned last fall to Tennessee.

Captain David Roberts returned in December from his fourth deployment to Afghanistan, his third as a member of the Tennessee Army National Guard. He was a Security Force Team leader and completed over 250 missions.

Senior Airman Jessica Webb is a member of the 118th Airlift Wing, and recently won the 2009 Airman of the Year award for the entire Tennessee Air National Guard. When she is not serving as a Command Post Controller she is one of Tennessee’s teachers, working at Love Chapel Elementary in Erwin.

And finally, I’d like to ask General Max Haston to stand with these representatives of his soldiers and airmen. General Haston is Tennessee’s new Adjutant General and took over from Gus Hargett just last month. He comes from a family with a long and distinguished history of service in our Guard. At the change of command ceremony last month, his father, Jerry Haston, who was a Master Sergeant for 44 years in the Tennessee Guard, watched his son be promoted to Major General and saw him assume command of the Tennessee National Guard. I can tell you there was one proud Master Sergeant at that ceremony.

For each of these men and women here tonight, and for all of the colleagues they represent, would you please join me in showing your appreciation?

= = = = =

These Tennesseans are with us tonight to receive your thanks on behalf of their colleagues. Once again, there are Tennesseans who are missing. Since I stood before you last year, another 11 Tennesseans have lost their lives in the war on terror, for a total now since 2001 of 114 brave men and women. As we have done in the past and as is proper tonight, I ask you to join me in recognizing their sacrifice with a moment of silence.

= = = = =

I want to begin this evening by thanking the members of the General Assembly for the extraordinary job you have just done in our special session on education. I know the weeks were stressful, but the way you conducted your business is exactly the way it is supposed to work.

There was nothing superficial about the results: the changes you made to the law were real and will change the way that both K-12 and higher education work – for the better – in the years ahead. A lot had been worked out ahead of time by representatives from both parties and both chambers as well as the education community, and the result was a genuine melding of ideas from different points of view. It was a better product for that. Both individuals and organizations with specific interests found ways to keep those interests in check and come together for a common good. There was no splitting along partisan fault lines; the final vote was genuinely bipartisan. There’s a governor’s race going on, and two of the candidates, from different parties, are major players in the legislative process. In a lot of places, this would be a prescription for trouble, but one of my favorite memories of the session was seeing Jim Kyle and Ron Ramsey sitting next to each other, at the end of my table, calmly and productively working on moving the reforms forward.

In the end, not only was the vote bipartisan, but it was also overwhelming, and made clear to everyone that these reforms are not a Bredesen plan, they’re not a Democratic plan, they’re not a Republican plan. These reforms are Tennessee’s plan and that is going to make a lot of difference in the years ahead.

I want to also say a special word of thanks to the Tennessee Education Association, the TEA, the teachers’ union. To Earl Wiman and Al Mance, and to my friend Jerry Winters and all the members you represent, thank you. I know you become a political whipping boy from time to time, and I know you have a job to do for your teachers. Your cousins in some other states have not always been as concerned with putting students first as they might be. But if anyone ever had any doubt about your dedication to the good of the children of our state, the way in which you handled yourselves in the special session have put them to rest. You’re good to work with; you’ve taught me a lot. You are a class act, and I thank you.

I want now to talk for a moment with the teachers in our state. I do understand that some of the changes we have made, especially those regarding the use of student achievement in teacher evaluation, cause some of you concern. I’ve talked with a lot of teachers these past few weeks. Some hate these changes, some love them, many are concerned but waiting to see. I want you to know that I understand and respect your concerns, and understand that teaching is a profession that has many more dimensions than can be measured by a student’s performance on a written test. I also understand that there are many factors beyond your control; the influence of home and parents, and the personalities of the students themselves. Let’s work together to find an approach that is both fair to your teaching profession and which gives our citizens confidence that the money they have invested in our schools is being used well.

The reforms you approved in our higher education system were far-reaching as well. There is now a lot of work to be done to flesh out those reforms, and I plan to spend a good deal of time during my final year as governor working to move this along.

There has already been one very positive development. Dr. Shirley Raines at the University of Memphis has been working for some time now to put together a coalition of life sciences organizations to work with the University to help grow its standing as a research institution. The General Assembly’s approval of the UT Energy Campus at Oak Ridge has brought her long-simmering effort to a boil.

In the past week, this has enabled Dr. Raines to finalize a memorandum of understanding with nine of these organizations, including St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center. This Memphis Research Consortium holds great potential: it can help the University to grow its research mission and it can help lay the foundations for an even more robust biotech economy in Memphis.

Almost three weeks ago, standing right here I challenged the University of Tennessee to become one of the top 25 public research universities in the United States in the next decade. Tonight, I challenge the University of Memphis to do the same in its peer group. Dr Raines, I challenge you to lead your University to become one of the Top 25 metropolitan research universities in the next decade. To both Dr. Simek and Dr. Raines: you have a job to do. We consistently reach those upper levels in our sports programs, there is no reason we can’t do the same with our academic achievements, either in Knoxville or in Memphis.

= = = = =

This is the eighth and final time that I will report to you on the State of our State; it is the eighth and final time that I’ll present a budget to you. We’ve had a share of easy years and tough years, but by any standard these past two years have been extraordinary. This coming one will be as well. The recession which has gripped our nation has been felt strongly here in Tennessee. We have seen unemployment and housing issues affect far too many of our families. Our state revenues have plummeted, creating tough challenges for us to maintain the services that our citizens want.

There are many things about this recession that we can’t affect here in Tennessee. Believe me; I’m very aware of the pain and uncertainty that this recession is causing in homes all over our state and I’m very gratified by the renewed focus in Washington on our economy. I wish the Congress and the President well in their efforts to address these difficult issues. There are many things we can’t address from Tennessee and what I’ve tried to do is to concentrate on two things that we can: managing our own house – state government – to live within its means, and continuing to look for ways to move forward on those things on which our future depends. Every day, every week, every month and every year is precious, and the state of our economy should never be an excuse for failing to advance the things that are most important to us.

Even as we have made some painful cuts, we have made some amazing progress as well. The special session just ended and its reforms to both K-12 and higher education is an example of that. The work we’ve done in setting higher standards in our K-12 system has gained us national recognition. We have attracted major private investments in the past 18 months that will benefit us for years to come. The Volkswagen plant in East Tennessee and the Nissan investment in electric vehicles in Middle Tennessee help secure our place in automotive manufacturing. Our concentration on green technologies and jobs have produced investments of more than a billion dollars each by Hemlock and Wacker. The Pew Charitable Trusts has named Tennessee one of the top three states in the nation for green jobs. To Matt Kisber, and his partner in this work Reagan Farr, great job fellows. To Jim Neeley and Jim Fyke and all the members of my Jobs Cabinet, for all you have done to advance this work, thank you as well.

We’ve talked about education and economic development before, but I’d like to take a moment this evening to celebrate an even more recent and quieter victory.

Vi Miller has run our Department of Children’s Services for the past six years. I know that Vi and all the people who work in her department privately take great pride in loving and helping the many unfortunate children that come into their world. I also know that there may not be a more publically thankless job in state government; their successes are quiet – the final adoption of a precious child to a loving home and family. But when things don’t work out, they are front page news and the subject of brutal Monday-morning quarterbacking.

When Vi Miller joined us, she told me that she wanted to try to achieve formal accreditation for the department. I encouraged her; my own background is in health care where, as with children’s services, the outcomes are not always what you would want. In child welfare, just as in health care, accreditation is how you assure yourself and the outside world that even when the results are imperfect, your approach is right, that you’re doing the best that anyone knows how to do.

I have to admit I was skeptical. The Department of Children’s Services had a host of internal tensions and philosophical differences. We didn’t have nearly the budget that other states devoted to child welfare. The Department was the subject of legal action in federal court brought by an outside advocacy group and it was operating under the terms of a consent decree – the so-called Brian A Decree – that the state entered into in 2001. May I say as an aside, the advocacy group in question – Children’s Rights in New York City – has educated me about the very constructive role that advocates can play. They have been very tough and Ms. Lowry has certainly made both the Commissioner and me angry more than once. It’s best when we work these things out ourselves, but if there has to be a forced marriage, this particular one is the way it ought to be.

Despite the problems and my misgivings, Commissioner Miller persevered and started the accreditation process in May of 2005; they developed new policies, they found problems and improved record-keeping, they trained some people and they fired some. They fixed environmental issues in their offices and redid emergency preparedness plans. They underwent onsite reviews for almost a year.

Commissioner Miller, would you please stand? I’m pleased to announce tonight that on January 22nd, Tennessee became the seventh state in the Union to operate a fully accredited child welfare system. Vi, to you and all of your team, congratulations.

= = = = =

Let’s move on now to our state’s financial situation, and to the budget which is being presented to you tonight. My goal throughout this recession has been to remain true to the principle of the “family budget” that I talked about when I first became governor. It’s nothing more than the commonsense idea that we’re going to adjust our expenses to match our income, and we’re going to be very careful about using money from our savings account. It’s the way sensible families have to manage through these times, and while the numbers for state government are much larger than for any family, the principle is the same.

In addition, while there was no way to avoid some use of our rainy day funds as revenues continued to fall, it has been important to me to have our finances stabilized so that I could pass on to the next Governor a budget that matched recurring revenues and expenses. I’ve spoken before about the value I place on good stewardship.

I want to talk about our finances in three parts tonight. First, to walk you through just where we are right now, with regard to both expenses and our reserves. Second, I’ll describe to you the basic budget that I recommend. Third, I believe we are in a strong enough position and it is raining hard enough that we can use some reserves to soften the worst of the cuts.

Just today, our President announced that he was proposing to extend for an additional six months a portion of the financial help to the states that was in the Recovery Act. This would take the form of funding in the Health and Human Services budget to continue through the first and second quarters of 2011 the higher Medicaid match that has been in effect since last year; this is the so-called enhanced FMAP about which you have heard. I very much appreciated the help to state finances in the Recovery Act; it enabled a much “softer landing” than would otherwise be possible, and allowed us to preserve jobs and plan more carefully for the reductions we would need to make. I thought it was a good move.

We were all very aware that these funds would disappear at the end of December this year, and have carefully planned how we transition from using those funds to once again standing on our own. That was the four-year budget that we presented to you last year. We have a good plan, and I think that it is important that we stick with it and not get our heads turned by the possibility of more one-time money.

Accordingly, the budget you are being presented makes no use whatsoever of any additional stimulus funds. If the Congress passes what the President is proposing, we or the next Governor and General Assembly will deal with it once it actually happens. For now, let’s stick with the plan.

First, our state’s financial position: we’re in a very strong one. As I stand here tonight, we have over $900 million in the bank, in uncommitted reserves in our rainy day and TennCare reserve funds. We will draw those down modestly in the next few months according to the plan you approved. We’ll end this fiscal year with about $850 million in our two major reserve accounts.

In the budget that you passed last spring, there was a plan to draw down our reserves by $430 million this year. As you know, this year’s revenues have fallen short of last May’s projections by about $178 million. One might therefore expect that our reserves would decline by that additional amount, or a total of slightly over $600 million this year. I’m pleased to report to you tonight that we have handled this year’s entire additional problem with additional expense reductions, so that our reserves will end this year at the levels you budgeted despite the revenue shortfalls. In fact, we’ll have an additional $100 million to carry forward.

In short, we are on track with the plan you approved last spring, and have further adjusted it “on the fly” with additional spending reductions to match the additional revenue shortfalls that have occurred.

Second, the budget itself. The budget document that you are receiving tonight reflects the four-year plan we submitted last year, with further reductions to reflect the further revenue declines that we have experienced along with the rest of the country. As you will see, this is a very difficult budget, and will seem even more difficult as the year unfolds. Many cuts that were in the budget you passed last year were deferred using stimulus money but will hit in the months ahead. There are in essence cuts from two different years becoming effective at the same time.

First of all, I want you to know that once again, our state’s Basic Education Program, the BEP, is fully funded.

To achieve that, we had to make one common sense adjustment and froze the growth in the capital outlay component this year. This relates to the growth component only, the underlying capital project allocation remains. Across state government, we are doing very little capital construction this year. It seems fair to ask public education to do the same.

Over the past several years, I have clearly pursued a strategy of constraining the growth of TennCare so that we can fund education at acceptable levels; put simply, doing a better job of balancing our investments in our two major line items: TennCare and Education. We have been very successful at this. Since its inception in the mid 1960s, Medicaid for many years had been a smaller part of our total budget than K-12 education. In 1981, the cost of Medicaid was about half of what we spent on K-12 education. However, Medicaid passed K-12 education in total funding in 1992. After that, it exploded; in the 2004 budget, TennCare was 34 percent and K-12 was 15 percent, a ratio of 2? to 1 in favor of TennCare. In the budget you have before you, TennCare is 24 percent and K-12 education 19 percent, back to a ratio of about 1? to 1. It is my hope in the years ahead we can continue to improve this balance.

In addition to the BEP, we have also put an absolute priority on our pension system, and once again we have fully funded the increased contribution that was recommended by our actuaries and adopted by the Treasurer. The soundness of Tennessee’s pension system is something we can be rightfully proud of.

Outside of these areas, what you will see are budget reductions that average about 6 percent. This year it was not feasible to make these reductions across the board, and there are a number of departments that have contributed a full 9 percent and others much less. Higher education, Mental Health and the Division of Intellectual Disabilities Services are at 6 percent, and Children’s Services is at 5 percent. In the Department of Correction, the only plausible way to get to anything approaching 9 percent would be to close one or two prisons; I’ve declined to do that and so their reduction is just 1 percent.

In the Department of Safety, the proposed reductions would have meant the elimination of 85 filled trooper positions and 56 filled positions in the driver’s license stations. Rather than do this, we have proposed a revenue measure to prevent this; an increase in the driver’s license fee from $3.90 to $5.75 annually, the first increase since 1988. We have also extended the license term from five years to eight. This will have the added benefit of partially funding the much needed digital upgrade to their radio system as well.

With these reductions, we had a budget that was consistent with the four-year plan I presented last year. To achieve these reductions in their entirety required the elimination of a variety of programs that are of real value. It’s not a pleasant list. It also would require additional layoffs of 1,363 people in addition to the elimination of 456 unfilled positions.

That brings me to the third aspect of this budget, the use of some reserve funds to soften its effects.

The problem that we were faced with it this: we were looking at some very difficult cuts. At the same time, our reserves are strong and the prospects for a return to growth in the months ahead look far better today than they did a year ago. In this environment, should we go all the way with these cuts, or should we make some judicious use of our reserves to soften their effect?

We decided to present a plan that used reserves to fund the continuation of a number of programs for a two-year period. The reason for funding for two years instead of one was to give a new Governor some breathing room at the beginning of his or her term, and to give additional time for the economy to recover and perhaps make the cuts a moot point. The programs that we have protected in this manner include:

· In the Department of Education, the Coordinated School Health Program, the Career Ladder extended contracts and family resource centers;

· In the Department of Health, Safety Net Grants to the Federally Qualified Health Centers and the Diabetes Prevention Program;

· In the Department of Mental Health, Community Mental Health Recovery Services and Alcohol and Drug Services;

· In the Department of Children’s Services, the home visitation programs and the Juvenile Justice Prevention Grants;

· In the Division of Intellectual Disabilities Services, the Family Support Services Program; and

· In the Department of Human Services, the grants to Human Resource Agencies and Community Action Agencies.

In addition, we propose to preserve a portion of the filled positions that would be subject to layoffs to meet our budget requirements. Of the 1,363 total layoffs, slightly over a thousand are for good business reasons – bringing staffing ratios in line, for example, or closing an unneeded facility – and we should go ahead under any circumstances. However, there are 314 positions that we would strongly prefer not to lose. We are proposing to carry forward for two years those positions along with 80 others scheduled for layoff this spring. At the end of the two years, the economy may have made the layoffs unnecessary, and further it has been our experience that people in those positions are likely to have found other jobs making any involuntary action unnecessary.

Finally, I know our state employees are glad to be working, but they have been without raises since 2007 and I would like to recognize their dedication by using some of our reserves to continue the enhanced 401k match at its current level and also pay them a 3 percent bonus.

What you have in front of you is a straightforward budget, although putting it together this year was difficult. In its base form, it corresponds closely to the four-year plan you were presented last year, suitably reduced to reflect further revenue shortfalls. It then proposes to use $202 million of reserves to preserve some particularly important programs and several hundred jobs for two more years, in the hope that the economy will render cutting them not needed. If you adopt all of these suggested enhancements, the state’s reserves in its Rain Day Fund and TennCare will still remain above the 5 percent target. I believe it is a commonsense family budget in a very difficult time, and I hope you will consider and enact it promptly.

= = = =

This is likely my final time to address you as Governor. We still have a lot of work to do, and it’s far too early for farewell remarks. I do want to say, however, a most sincere thank you for the way you have treated me and worked with me and my administration these past years. I have never had a job I enjoyed as much or gave me as much satisfaction as serving as Governor. It has been a humbling experience. To those of you who have helped me, my sincere thanks. For those of you who have not, all is forgiven now!

I know how much so many of you care for our state and its people, and it has been an honor to work with you on their behalf. Thank you and Godspeed.

Categories
Press Releases

Bredesen Signs Special Session Education Legislation

State of Tennessee press release, Jan. 26, 2010:

NASHVILLE – Calling it a “landmark opportunity” for public education in Tennessee, Governor Phil Bredesen today signed into law two bills passed during this month’s special session of the 106th General Assembly that was focused on improving K-12 and higher education.

Joined by a bipartisan group of lawmakers – including Lieutenant Governor and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey and House Speaker Kent Williams – Bredesen put his signature on the “Tennessee First to the Top Act of 2010” and the “Complete College Tennessee Act of 2010.” The new laws enact a range of measures designed to spur improvement in Tennessee’s education pipeline – specifically, improving student performance and graduation rates at both the high school and college levels.

“With these new laws in place, we’ve now got a landmark opportunity to move Tennessee public education forward in a dramatic and positive direction,” Bredesen said. “I’m grateful to the General Assembly for its swift, bold action. And I’m thankful to the scores of teachers, parents, students, community leaders, business people, and public education advocates who worked tirelessly to lend their views and support.”

The Tennessee First to the Top Act makes several changes that have been discussed for years, but which became more pressing in order to make the Volunteer State more competitive in the federal Race to the Top initiative. Race to the Top provides $4.35 billion in competitive grants designed to encourage and reward states that are pursuing education innovation. Among other changes, the Tennessee First to the Top Act:

  • Establishes an “Achievement School District” that allows the commissioner of the state Department of Education to intervene in consistently failing schools.
  • Requires annual evaluations of teachers and principals.
  • Creates a 15-member teacher evaluation advisory committee to recommend guidelines and criteria to the State Board of Education.
  • Allows local school systems to create local salary schedules for teachers and principals, with state approval.
  • Removes limitations on use of certain student-achievement data so the data can be used in making decisions on teacher tenure.

Meanwhile, the Complete College Tennessee Act – the product of nearly year-long talks with a bipartisan group of state lawmakers on how to improve college completion in Tennessee – makes several changes designed to enhance cooperation between colleges and universities in the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) and University of Tennessee (UT) systems.

Among other changes, the Complete College Tennessee Act:

  • Funds higher education based in part on success and outcomes, including higher rates of degree completion.
  • Makes community colleges the centerpiece in Tennessee’s strategy by expanding common programs and common courses to promote consistency and quality across the two-year system.
  • Creates a statewide transfer policy so that any student who earns a two-year degree at a community college can move on to a four-year university as a junior.
  • Requires TBR and UT to establish dual-admission and dual-enrollment policies at all two- and four-year colleges and universities.

Tennessee’s college-completion strategies are a natural extension of K-12 education reform measures. Race to the Top places a premium on states that aren’t simply focused on getting kids through high school but also are looking at college enrollment.

“Combined, the new laws give Tennessee the ability to focus on our entire education pipeline in one panoramic view,” Bredesen said. “Together, they represent an important step forward in our ongoing effort to make public education Tennessee’s highest priority.”

Categories
Education News

Higher Ed Bill Catches Snag — Then Passes

Gov. Phil Bredesen’s bill designed to improve college graduation rates got hung up for a while during the legislative special session Thursday when a handful of lawmakers managed to add an amendment that others felt hadn’t been properly vetted.

The measure would have let returning adult college students cash in on class credits earned as long as 20 years ago. Currently, the policy is 10 years, according to Rep. Joe Armstrong, D-Knoxville, who sponsored the bill.

The amendment, narrowly approved 50-31 in the House, sparked concern by some members who questioned the potential price tag. The amendment had not been heard by any committees, which had spent the week reviewing higher education laws.

“There were a lot of unanswered questions,” said Rep. Richard Montgomery, R-Sevierville, who voted against the measure. “What was it going to cost? What was it going to do to colleges and universities as far as the way they schedule, as far as the way they plan for students and that sort of thing.”

Montgomery, a member of the Finance, Ways and Means Committee, said he supports the concept but that he’d like it taken up during regular session.

At one point lawmakers in the Budget Subcommittee, Finance Ways and Means and the Calendar and Rules committees took the unusual move of congregating for brief discussions at the House floor podium to review the amendment.

Those meetings, which lasted no more than a few minutes each, gave committees a chance to review the amendment — and subsequently express that they didn’t have much of a clue how much the change would cost the state or college institutions.

Anderson, the bill sponsor, later got it stripped from the proposed legislation.

Montgomery said the measure – had it stuck — could have held up the higher education bill when the bill was reconciled in the Senate.

The full House and Senate chambers approved the bill Thursday evening, with a total vote of 125-2.

The package, which requires Gov. Phil Bredesen’s signiture, requires the higher education funding formula to rely on graduation rates rather than student enrollment.

It also shifts remedial courses from universities to courses to community colleges. The bill also makes it easier to transfer from a community college to a four-year university.

Categories
Press Releases

‘Teach Tennessee’ Expanding in 2010

State of Tennessee press release, Jan. 21, 2010:

Nashville – The Tennessee Department of Education is proud to announce the expansion of Teach Tennessee in 2010 to recruit more teachers in the high-need subject areas of math, science and foreign language. A new program, the Teach Tennessee Commissioner’s Fellows program, will augment the existing Teach Tennessee Governor’s Fellows program.

“It’s always been my goal to expand the program and allow more qualified individuals the life changing opportunity to impact the lives of children in Tennessee,” Governor Phil Bredesen said. “The program has been a great success since 2005 and I look forward to watching it grow as more professionals put their skills and experience to use in our classrooms.”

The new Teach Tennessee Commissioner’s Fellows program will train recent college-graduates who wish to teach in high-need subject area in grades 7-12. Fellows will be required to attend a 12-day Institute in East Tennessee in July and additionally must attend eight monthly Saturday sessions through April.

The Teach Tennessee Governor’s Fellows program continues to recruit mid-career professionals who wish to teach in critical subject areas in grades 7-12. The program will train those with five years work experience related to the high-need subject area they want to teach. Fellows are required to attend a 12-day Institute in Nashville in June.

“Our programs remove many of the obstacles standing in the way of a great teaching career,” Teach Tennessee Executive Director Becky Kent said. “We can give many people the chance to fulfill their goal of becoming a teacher while creating a valuable new pool of teachers for our state.”

Both Teach Tennessee programs are currently accepting applications through February 26. For more information, visit www.TeachTennessee.org.

Governor Bredesen launched Teach Tennessee in 2005 and since that time 200 fellows have been licensed with an 83 percent retention rate.

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Press Releases

Bredesen: Special Session Produces Historic Education Legislation

Statement from Gov. Phil Bredesen on passage of the “Tennessee First to the Top Act” Jan. 15, 2010:

“This has been a historic week for public education in Tennessee. I offer my sincere thanks to the leadership and members of the General Assembly for their work in passing this legislation, which will benefit the children in our schools and significantly enhance our efforts in the Race to the Top competition. As I said in Tuesday night’s speech, regardless of the outcome of any competition, this is the right thing to do for our children and schools.

“To all our teachers and principals across Tennessee, and to the Tennessee Education Association: you have my personal thank you and gratitude for coming to the table and working with us to achieve this milestone. I’m gratified by your trust in me and want to assure you that it will prove to be justified. As we move forward, we’ll work with educators across the state to ensure that everyone has accurate and reliable student achievement data to support his or her classroom instruction and enable fair and valid evaluations of teacher performance.

“Going forward, we will also need to address the issues of student responsibility and parental accountability, and I am willing to sit down with parents and teachers to do what’s necessary to ensure teachers are treated fairly.

“I encourage the members of the General Assembly to continue this progress next week by adopting the measures I’ve outlined to increase college completion rates in Tennessee and position us for future success in economic and workforce development.”

Bredesen: Special Session Produces Historic Education Legislation
Categories
News

Candidates for Governor Weigh in on Higher Ed

With lawmakers on the cusp of approving major education reforms this week, candidates for governor gathered in Nashville Thursday to offer their views on education.

Hosted by the Tennessee State Collaborative on Reforming Education, SCORE, gubernatorial hopefuls addressed issues ranging from pre-K programs to college graduation rates, improving teacher quality to linking jobs to education. Sponsored by NewsChannel 5 and other organizations, the entire one-hour forum can be viewed here.

The seven candidates — four Republicans and three Democrats — had all raised at least $250,000 for their campaign fund prior to Thursday’s forum at Belmont University.

Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat in his last year in office, called lawmakers into Special Session this week to approve his proposals to reform education in light of a pending grant proposal for $485 million worth of “Race to the Top” federal funds.

The highly competitive grant rewards states with the most creative and innovative education reforms.

Bredesen also asked lawmakers to review how the state treats higher education, an issue not specifically related to the RTTT competition. He wanted lawmakers to tackle that subject as well, but members have agreed to push off that issue until the regular session this spring.

Candidates at the forum tackled the topic anyway, offering 1-minute explanations on how they would improve the two-year and four-year college graduation rates.

“We have to combine, we have to partner between our educational institutions and our work force development efforts in our state,” said Kim McMillan, former Tennessee House Democratic leader.

“Part of the problem is that we have a lot of out students entering in college who aren’t prepared. They’re spending a lot of money on remedial courses at the college education level,” said Bill Gibbons, Shelby County District Attorney General who is running for the Republican nod for governor.

Mike McWherter, a Jackson businessman running for a space on the Democratic ticket, said Tennessee Diploma project is the key to improving higher education.

Congressman Zach Wamp, a Republican, said he wants to see high school students get “fired up about the future” with the help of distance and online learning.

Maybe the problem is too much red tape, said state Sen. Jim Kyle, who leads the Democratic party in the chamber.

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, a Republican, said students should be able to transfer more classes from their community college classes when switching to a four-year university.

Bill Haslam, Republican Mayor of Knoxville, pointed to two programs in his own city as examples of what the state can do.