Educating the Legislature

Today was the annual Tennessee School Boards Association’s "Day on the Hill," where school board members from across the state gather to receive updates on legislation filed that could impact our school systems, as well as to talk with our representatives to keep them informed about education issues.

This year, we all know that there won’t be any big gifts under the holiday tree. There won’t even be a holiday tree.  We’re not quite to the point of burning furniture to survive, but every school board, every superintendent knows it’s going to be a tough year.

What I asked of our legislators was, "do no harm."  Please don’t pass any bills requiring us to fit more into the already-overcrowded day (e.g., HB0836 or HB1441), go back to elected superintendents (at least when we HAD some elected superintendents prior to 1992, there were clear checks and balances in place limiting the superintendents’ powers — this bill has NONE!), or any that mandate start dates, earlier TCAP dates, or anything else that makes life more difficult — unless they figure out how to appropriate additional time.

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Among the things I learned was that the "stimulus money" from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will not cover building or renovating schools,  because the $18B for that purpose in the original bill was cut from the final version.  There may be a little bit included for energy efficiency, but not much.  Not enough to rebuild the preschool.

Some money will come to the state for fiscal stabilization, but that was designated by the feds to go first to restoring dollars cut since 2006 — all in higher education.  Truthfully, we don’t know exactly what we’ll receive.  The Commissioner of Education is in DC tonight, meeting with the Secretary of Education and the VP, trying to ascertain exactly what’s in there for Tennessee schools.

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There may be a need for additional communication with Nashville, but for now, there aren’t many hot-button issues brewing.

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