April 2006

Score One for the Good Guy

Sen. Randy McNally earned his ticket to a sixth term in the State Senate in the most honorable fashion — by doing such a good job that no one filed to run against him from either party.

Currently serving as Majority Caucus Chairman and Vice-Chair of the Senate Finance, Ways, and Means committee, McNally’s quiet, efficient leadership and common-sense conservatism yields excellent representation for citizens of the 5th district.

Thanks, Randy, for the sacrifices you’ve made over the years for us — for the battles you’ve fought to ensure that right prevails over wrong, for driving back and forth to meet your commitments in Nashville and at home, for always providing a calm voice of reason and thought to the debate of issues.

And he keeps a great staff in Nashville as well: Rick is always on top of various pieces of legislation and the minefields between success and failure; Anne is the model of efficiency and one of the kindest, most helpful people you could ever meet.

With all the election turmoil this year, it’s a relief to know that one race is safely in good hands for another four years.

Freedom of Protest

In this country, the right to peaceful protest is one of our core values. However, the definition of “peaceful” may need some scrutiny, as evidenced by last Wednesday’s immigration marches (hat tip: Instapundit).

Already in Tennessee, reaction to the wheelchair protest over TennCare policy has lawmakers ready to establish some rules of engagement: although protests are perfectly legal, blocking public streets and the entrances to/exits from public buildings is not.

Sen. Charlotte Burks’ comment got my attention:

“There was staff here that had children in day cares and couldn’t go get them, and I saw a couple of them crying, and this should help that,” Sen. Charlotte Burks, D-Monterey, a co-sponsor of the bill, said before casting her “yes” vote.

Regardless of how strongly you feel about an issue, keeping others from entering or leaving a place of public business is simply unacceptable. Protest, wave signs, grill steaks at the door (making the occupants hungry), whatever… but be polite.

Consolidation Study in Memphis

The Commercial Appeal reports that an education task force formed to study consolidation of the Memphis and Shelby County school systems has instead reported on three potential methods to change the way those school systems are funded, without consolidating.

All three freeze the current school system boundaries, to avoid the conflict that inevitably arises when Memphis annexes property, and the residents don’t want to change from Shelby County to Memphis City Schools.

The differences fall in who gets taxed more, and whether those tax dollars stay in the resident’s school district or go predominantly toward the other. In all cases, taxing authority is removed from the City or County government, and placed in the hands of the school boards (and/or State Legislature).

Despite the fact that under the current system, for every dollar raised by Shelby County taxpayers for their own schools, $3 goes to the Memphis City Schools (due to the fact that the County system has three times as many students), the fact that Memphis teacher salaries are the highest in the state, and that Memphis spends more per student than any school system in Tennessee, Memphis school officials aren’t happy with the proposals:

“Every time the community, the powers-that-be, have a conversation about schools, I feel like Memphis city schools comes second,” Memphis school board member Wanda Halbert said. “That’s starting to weigh heavy on me.”

I think what would weigh heavy on me is spending that much money to produce the worst results in the state. I know that Memphis has a higher density of students that are more difficult — more expensive — to educate, but sooner or later, someone’s going to have to come up with a plan that correlates dollars with results.

That doesn’t mean that they have to produce the greatest number of National Merit Finalists, but there has to be a workable plan for improvement. Perhaps a good start would be to require that teachers show positive value-added scores for any pay increase (including cost-of-living); step increases should require documentation of extraordinary gains — perhaps measured by a combination of value-added test scores and other means.

Just paying the same teachers more — more than any others in the state — clearly isn’t getting the job done.

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