FRIDAY, MAY 18, 2012 Haslam signs cash grants plan (Associated Press

Gov. Bill Haslam has signed a measure to increase the amount of cash grants available to companies looking to invest in Tennessee. The administration legislation will allow the state to provide Fast Track grants for retrofitting, relocation, office upgrades or temporary space for companies investing in Tennessee. The measure passed the Senate 29-1 last month and the House concurred with that version 92-0 the next day. The current Fast Track program is limited to jobs training and infrastructure improvements. The state has appropriated $217 million to the program over the last three budget years and Haslam proposed pouring another $80 million for the current and upcoming budget year.

Haslam signs FastTrack bill to attract more companies to Tennessee (TFP/Sher)
Gov. Bill Haslam has signed a bill that offers more outright cash grants than tax incentives to attract companies to locate or expand in Tennessee. The legislation aims to support economic development in rural communities and on major projects with significant impact. Tennessee's current FastTrack program makes grants to local industrial development boards for employee job training and infrastructure improvements, such as at Volkswagen's Chattanooga plant. Haslam's initiative expands the program to help pay costs for relocation, retrofitting, office upgrades or temporary space for companies making investments in the state. "Tennessee is recognized as one of the best places to do business in the country," Haslam said in a statement. "This legislation gives us another tool in the toolbox to help make Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high-quality jobs by focusing on our rural communities and recruiting and growing significant jobs." businesstnvalley

Gov. Bill Haslam signs legislation to expand FastTrack program (Nooga)
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced today that he has signed legislation to expand the state’s FastTrack program to specifically support economic development in rural communities and for exceptional projects. The governor proposed the legislation, HB 2344/SB 2206, in January to create the FastTrack Economic Development Fund, an expansion of the Department of Economic and Community Development’s current infrastructure and job-training program. The legislation resulted from a 12-month review of ECD’s incentive programs with input from companies, site-selection consultants and economic development stakeholders. By making reimbursable grants to local industrial development boards, the fund provides additional grant support for companies expanding or locating in Tennessee, and the legislation stipulates that the fund will only be used in exceptional cases where the impact of the company on a given community is significant.

AP Interview: Haslam Mulls Expansion of Pre-K (Associated Press/Schelzig)
Gov. Bill Haslam says he's considering a funding increase for the state's public pre-kindergarten program, a move that would put him at odds with some fellow Republicans in the Legislature. The governor told The Associated Press in an interview this week that Tennessee's improving revenue picture could allow the state to resume pre-K expansion. The pre-K program is currently available to at-risk children – education jargon for those eligible for free and reduced lunches. Haslam's Democratic predecessor Phil Bredesen had called for making pre-K available to any family that chooses to enroll their child, but those plans were put on hold because of the recession. Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville is among several Republican lawmakers who have been vocal critics of the pre-K program.

Haslam announces Larry Martin to oversee TEAM Act Implementation (C. Online)
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam today announced that Larry Martin will join his staff to oversee implementation of the Tennessee Excellence and Accountability Management (TEAM) Act. His responsibilities will include coordinating and collaborating throughout state government agencies to effectively begin recruiting new employees on all levels, updating performance evaluations in all departments, and a review of employee compensation that includes the salary study funded in the governor’s FY 2013-2014 budget. “Getting the TEAM Act passed into law was only the beginning of our work,” Haslam said. “Now we must make sure it is implemented effectively, which includes creating meaningful performance evaluations, truly getting a full picture of employee compensation, and changing the culture now that we can recruit the best and brightest to serve. I am grateful that Larry has agreed to take on this challenge for the taxpayers of Tennessee. Our goal is to build a state workforce that is dedicated to and focused on customer service, efficiency and effectiveness.”

Redesign Improves the Look and Function of State Website (WNWS-Radio)
The State of Tennessee has rolled out a dramatically redesigned and improved website, an important step in a broader overhaul of state web services. receives millions of unique visits annually, and the redesign represents a substantial effort to make the state’s official web portal more usable, accessible, and innovative. A key component of this effort is the extensive use of responsive design to transform and adapt for a wide variety of mobile devices. Years of usage data indicated that mobile users were almost always in search of the same content as desktop users. With’s responsive design, mobile users are finally presented the same desktop content, but perfectly adapted for smaller screens such as iPhones, iPads and Android devices. “For many Tennesseans, is the primary way they interact with and experience state government,” Gov. Bill Haslam said. “The goal of this new design is to enhance this experience by presenting users with a path to the content and services they need in the most efficient and effective way possible.”

Haslam announces First Lady's Book Club at DIS visit (State Gazette)
On Tuesday morning, Dyersburg Intermediate School students and Tennessee first lady Crissy Haslam discovered what happened at the corner of Spring Street and South Grand Avenue - just one block from home on a September afternoon. Although Haslam and the students never left the DIS gym, the group was transported to the imaginary world of author Andrew Clements as Haslam read two chapters from Clements' 1996 children's novel, "Frindle." Haslam read just enough to whet the appetite of students interested in finding out the rest of fifth-grader Nick Allen's adventures within the book's pages. She reminded students of their promise to read 20 minutes each day and encouraged them to allow books to take them places over summer vacation. "You can take trips by reading books," said Haslam. "You can go on adventures by reading books. You won't ever be bored if you have a book. If you can get to your local library, then you can check out books and read all summer long." Haslam told students about a new project, The First Lady's Book Club, scheduled to debut in June. DIS students were presented a bookmark with book club information.

State Easing Into New ‘Common Core’ Curriculum (TN Report)
State officials are beginning to phase in changes to Tennessee’s public education curriculum to include more analytical thinking and, officials hope, less teaching to the test. The state is training 12,000 classroom instructors this summer how to teach math principles under the new “common core” curriculum in grades three through eight, a system Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman says will better ready Tennessee’s youth for college and the work force. “Ironically, the schools that have the best test score gains, they’re not teaching to the test,” said Huffman. “They’re teaching really rich, complex critical thinking lessons that incorporate the skills. They’re the ones who are getting the most gains. But we need to move everyone over in that direction,” he told reporters at the John Seigenthaler Center in Nashville during a half-day workshop about the goals of the “common core,” hosted by the State Collaborative on Reforming Education. 2

Tenn. jobless rate drops for 9th straight month (Associated Press)
Tennessee's unemployment dropped slightly in April, marking the ninth straight month of decreases in the state's unemployment rate. The 7.8 percent unemployment rate is down from 7.9 percent in March and the lowest it's been since November 2008. Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Karla Davis said in a release that the decrease in the jobless rate is largely caused by fewer people seeking work. The national unemployment rate was 8.1 percent in April, also 0.1 percentage point lower than the previous month. State manufacturing jobs saw the biggest increase compared with last month, at a growth rate of 1.8 percent. Next were jobs in trade, transportation and utilities at 1.6 percent and positions in the leisure and hospitality sector at 1.5 percent.

State jobless rate now at 7.8% (Nashville Post)
Tennessee’s unemployment rate for April fell to 7.8 percent, down from the March revised rate of 7.9 percent, according to Tennesee Department of Labor and Workforce Development numbers released today. The national unemployment rate for April was 8.1 percent, 0.1 percentage point lower than the March rate. “While Tennessee’s unemployment rate has declined for nine consecutive months, April’s decrease is mostly attributable to a shrinking labor force,” department Commissioner Karla Davis said in a release. “This is similar to the monthly change that occurred on the national level.” A few economic summary highlights from the department: • The unemployment rate has declined for nine consecutive months. • Tennessee’s April unemployment rate is the lowest since November 2008. • The number of unemployed persons is the lowest since November 2008. • The number of unemployed persons has declined for 16 consecutive months. • The labor force number has declined for four consecutive months.

Tennessee unemployment rate lower in April (Memphis Business Journal)
Tennessee's unemployment rate fell slightly in April to 7.8 percent, continuing to inch downward throughout 2012 and reaching its lowest point in three and a half years. The state's rate was 7.9 percent in March, 8 percent in February and 8.2 percent in January, according to Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development data. The nation's jobless rate in April was 8.1 percent, keeping Tennessee below the national average for the fourth consecutive month. But Tennessee Labor Commissioner Karla Davis tempered any optimism on the lower rate. “While Tennessee’s unemployment rate has declined for nine consecutive months, April’s decrease is mostly attributable to a shrinking labor force,” Davis said. “This is similar to the monthly change that occurred on the national level.”

Tennessee unemployment continues to fall (Nashville Business Journal)
Tennessee's unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent in April, down from 7.9 percent in March, the Tennessee Department of Labor and W orkforce Development announced today. It marks the ninth straight month that the state's unemployment rate has fallen. Nationally, the unemployment rate stood at 8.1 percent, down from 8.2 percent in March "While Tennessee's unemployment rate has declined for nine consecutive months, April's decrease is mostly attributable to a shrinking labor force," said Labor Commissioner Karla Davis in a news release. "This is similar to the monthly change that occurred on the national level." Tennessee's April unemployment rate is the lowest since November 2008.

Unemployment Falls As Fewer Search For Work (WPLN-Radio Nashville)
Tennessee’s unemployment rate ticked slightly down again last month. It’s now at 7.8 percent – just a hair better than the national rate. One reason is more Tennesseans who are out of a job seem have stopped looking for one. April marks the ninth straight month statewide unemployment went down. But officials with Tennessee’s labor department caution that doesn’t necessarily show finding work getting easier. Rather, the state’s overall workforce has been shrinking all spring. Between March and April about 10 thousand Tennesseans evidently gave up on job searches. And officials note when those discouraged workers start trying to get hired again, it could push Tennessee’s unemployment rate back up.


Unemployment rates fall in Tennessee, Georgia (Times Free-Press/Flessner)
Unemployment fell last month in Tennessee and Georgia to the lowest level in more than three years, although the decline in Tennessee was as much from fewer people looking for work in April as it was to an improving job market. The Tennessee Department of Labor and W orkforce Development said Thursday that the jobless rate in April fell in the Volunteer State to 7.8 percent, the lowest Tennessee rate since before Barack Obama was elected president in November 2008. In Georgia, the jobless rate dipped in April to 8.9 percent, the first time in more than three years the rate has dropped below 9 percent. "W e now have the lowest unemployment rate, the fewest unemployed workers, and the most jobs in Georgia in more than three years," Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said Thursday in announcing the new employment figures. "Our job market continues to improve at a modest and steady rate." Tennessee's jobless rate was below both the national and Georgia rate last month. But the employment gains have been slower in Tennessee in recent months. businesstnvalley

Comptroller Finds Incomplete Implementation of ‘Complete College Act’ (W PLN)
Now that funding for public universities in Tennessee depends on their graduation rates, the state comptroller says data they submit needs to be verified. State auditors have been tracking implementation of a set of laws meant to get more students finishing a degree. Prior to passage of the Compete College Act of 2010, universities were funded based on enrollment numbers. Now that graduation rates are the key, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission is being asked to do more than take a college’s word for the stats. THEC executive director Richard Rhoda agrees oversight can improve, but he doesn’t believe schools could inflate graduation figures to get more money. “We have kind of chuckled about that around here because the way to game the system is to have more successful students. So should an institution go in that direction, everybody is a winner.” Overall, the Comptroller’s report is positive, but it says public universities still haven’t made it easy to transfer credits from two-year to four-year schools in every degree program.

State of Tennessee flags Signal Mountain School staffers' licenses (TFP/Harrison)
Five Signal Mountain Middle/High School staff members disciplined for drinking alcohol on a senior trip may appeal to the state to keep their teaching licenses after the Tennessee State Board of Education recommended their licenses be suspended for one year. Those five members and two others were suspended without pay in April after the county schools' central office staff investigated their behavior during the five-day cruise to the Bahamas in March. They were chaperones on the trip. Hamilton County school board Chairman Mike Evatt said the school received notice of the state action Tuesday. "Our office is obligated to send a report to the state. They evidently thought this was serious enough to do something further about it," Evatt said. Prinicipal Tom McCullough -- who announced his retirement early Wednesday -- said the incident did not affect his decision to retire, though he acknowledged that "any time a school principal has to deal with issues like this it can cause a lot of stress."

I-24 bridge repairs, various road closures to cause weekend detours (City Paper)
Crews contracting with the Tennessee Department of Transportation will again shut down a section of Interstate 24 east of downtown Nashville this weekend for bridge repair work. The road closures are set to begin at 9 p.m. Friday and continue till 5 a.m. Monday. During the scheduled closures, I-24 eastbound and westbound will be closed from the I-24/I-65 split north of downtown to the I-24/I-40 split east of downtown. The project also requires the closing of sections of Main Street and Woodland Street underneath the interstate. In addition, from Mon., May 21, through Wed., May 23, there will be temporary lane closures on Main Street and Woodland Street, from South 5th Street to Interstate Drive, to perform bridge repairs. One lane will remain open in each direction. All scheduled work is weather permitting. This weekend the Goodguys Rod & Custom Association’s Nashville Nationals car show will be at LP Field. Those trying to access the car show entrance from I-65, I-24 or I-40 should take the Demonbreun Street Exit, then Second Avenue to Korean Veterans Boulevard and across the Gateway Bridge to South Second Street to LP Field.


Tennessee Department of Agriculture says a Berry Good Crop is Almost Gone (CO)
Tennessee has enjoyed a good year for strawberries in most places across the state, despite some cantankerous cold spells. The end of the strawberry crop just a couple of weeks from now signals the beginning of the summer produce season, with wave after wave of favorites lasting until a hard frost closes down harvests for the year. Local strawberry patches will likely have berries for a few more weeks. “Strawberries at the end of the season will be smaller than those first ‘king’ berries, but some people say they think the later berries are even sweeter, with stronger flavor,” says Tammy Algood, produce marketing specialist for the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. “Just be sure to call the grower before heading out to the patch so you’ll know strawberries are still available.” By mid June, early summer vegetables like yellow squash, zucchini, peas and new potatoes will join the produce parade. Most of the state’s farmers markets and on farm produce sheds will be open for business by July 1st.

Law to clear some convicts' records in Tennessee (Commercial Appeal/Whitten)
Nonviolent criminals can pay fee, restitution to wipe slate clean Tennesseans who have committed certain nonviolent crimes will be able to have their criminal records expunged for a $350 fee under a bill expected to become law July 1. The legislation, sponsored by state Rep. Karen Camper and state Sen. Reginald Tate, both D-Memphis, passed by a wide margin earlier this year. Tennesseans convicted of a single felony or misdemeanor for nonviolent theft, certain types of fraud, vandalism, or other nonviolent crimes may qualify. They must have stayed crime-free for the past five years and paid all restitution and penalties. "If you've had diversion or have other crimes on your record, you wouldn't be eligible for this program," said Rob Clark, legislative assistant to Camper. "This is not for career criminals; it's for people who may have messed up once and are now trying to do the right thing and be a benefit to society." Camper said her office put on a two-part, felony-friendly job fair in September and the turnout inspired her to do more. (SUBSCRIPTION)

No undercover investigation of horse abuse if Tenn. bill had passed (CA/Locker)
Two West Tennessee state legislators tried to pass a bill this year that would have made it a crime to conduct the kind of undercover investigation that produced video of horse abuse, resulting in federal and state charges against a Collierville walking-horse trainer and three associates. The bill was filed in January by state Sen. Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, and Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, and appeared en route to passage in the Senate until it ran into opposition in a House subcommittee last month and died for the year. As originally introduced, their bill -- House Bill 3620/Senate Bill 3460 -- would create a new state criminal offense "for a person to apply for employment with the intent to cause economic damage to the employer by means of unauthorized recording of video or audio while on the premises of the employer and releasing such recordings to a third party." The bill also declared that "All recordings taken in violation of this section shall be confiscated and, after used as evidence, destroyed." (SUB)

Cooper, Black Join ‘Fix Congress Now’ Caucus (W PLN-Radio Nashville)
Nashville Democratic Congressman Jim Cooper says support is growing for his ‘No Budget, No Pay’ Act. But the legislation still hasn’t caught the eye of the power brokers on Capitol Hill. Cooper is trying to tie lawmaker’s salaries to their ability to pass a budget. He has forty eight cosponsors in the House and eleven supporters in the Senate. That’s a lot more support than most bills get, but it still doesn’t guarantee the legislation will ever reach the House floor. But Cooper says he’s confident party leaders will eventually take his legislation seriously. “I think leadership is deeply worried we’ll get a lot of cosponsors, and then they’ll have to react. And they’ll just do whatever’s popular. If we can show them that this is popular with rank and file members they will be the first to be on board.” Cooper pushed his bill at a press conference announcing the “Fix Congress Now Caucus.” The group is comprised of ten House members who say they want to bring a more cooperative spirit to Washington. The bipartisan caucus includes Tennessee Republican Congresswoman Diane Black and has signed off on Cooper’s “No Budget, No Pay” act. 5

Scott DesJarlais 'bought' by lobbyists, say Tennessee Democrats (TFP/Carroll)
Tennessee Democratic Party officials are renewing accusations of "pay-to-play politics" in U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais' office. Statewide Democratic leaders initially raised the issue in late March, saying the first-term Republican received re-election help from a nuclear energy company five days before he urged government officials to "free up funds" for one of the company's projects. A minute long video released Thursday describes DesJarlais as "bought and paid for by the Washington lobbyists." The online video explores DesJarlais' relationship with USEC Inc., a Maryland-based nuclear energy company and a contractor at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Numerous residents commute there from DesJarlais' 4th Congressional District. On March 14, 2011, USEC's political action committee sent $1,000 to DesJarlais' re-election campaign. Two months later, the congressman signed a letter asking White House officials to "make rapid completion" of a loan guarantee for the company's "American Centrifuge" project. On Oct. 31, 2011, USEC's PAC sent another $1,000 to DesJarlais. Five days after the check arrived, the congressman signed a separate letter urging the Department of Energy to "take administrative action now to free up funds" for USEC.

Postal Service announces mass layoffs (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/O’Neil)
The United States Postal Service announced today it will close 48 mail processing and distribution centers this summer, cutting 13,000 jobs. The Shallowford Road center was marked for closure earlier this year, but won’t close this summer. But the life of the center and its more than 250 jobs is likely short. The Postal Service plans to close an additional 92 centers by February 2014, then another 89 by the end of 2014. When all 229 centers have been closed, about 28,000 post jobs across the country will be eliminated, saving the service $2.1 billion annually. “We simply do not have the mail volumes to justify the size and capacity of our current mail processing network,” Patrick Donahoe, postmaster general and chief executive officer of the postal service, said in a statement. “To return to long-term profitability and financial stability while keeping mail affordable, we must match our network to the anticipated workload.” The postal service lost $3.2 billion in the quarter ending March 31, compared to $2.2 billion during the same quarter last year. Year-to-date, the postal service has lost $6.5 billion following a $2.6 billion loss the year before.

Mail processing to move soon (Jackson Sun)
Postal Service to shift Jackson operations to Memphis beginning in the summer As part of a nationwide effort to reduce costs and increase efficiency, the U.S. Postal Service announced on Thursday it will consolidate its network of 461 processing facilities. The nearly bankrupt postal service is moving ahead with plans to close dozens of mail processing centers, saying on Thursday it can no longer wait as Congress remains deadlocked over how to help. The consolidation process will take place in three phases, and in Phase I, Jackson’s processing and distribution facility will move all operations to a Memphis facility. Phase I of the plan — which involves 140 facilities — will begin this summer and end in February 2013, said David Walton, corporate communications spokesman for the postal service. “We will try to make the consolidation as seamless as possible for customers. We’re (not) making changes to anything else; you will still be able to conduct postal business,” he said. “But these facilities no longer have the mail volume and have these processing centers that are not working at full capacity.” Although all Jackson area mail will be trucked to Memphis for processing, there should not be a change in the length of time it takes for mail to be delivered, Walton said.| topnews|text|FRONTPAGE

Lack of rain keeps TVA reservoir levels low (Times Free-Press/Sohn)
Despite recent rains, several reservoirs managed by TVA have lower water levels because of below-normal rain and runoff this spring. Those reservoirs -- including Hiwassee, Nottely, Normandy, Norris and Cherokee -- may not reach targeted summer recreation levels by June 1, TVA says. With lake levels at some tributary reservoirs down as much as 8 feet, recreation will take a hit, as will power production. Hydroelectric generation is running 12 percent below normal, according to TVA officials. Hydropower is the federal utility's cheapest source of electricity, but accounts for only about 8 percent of TVA's power production. But boaters, swimmers and anglers are really high and dry. The Hiwassee Reservoir, on the upper reaches of the Hiwassee River in extreme 6

western North Carolina, is the most affected. That lake is averaging about 8 feet below normal for this time of year. The Hiwassee flows into the Tennessee River near Calhoun, Tenn., 29 miles upriver of the Chickamauga Dam.

Demolition versus preservation: K-25 plan still not a done deal (N-S/Munger)
Despite another last-ditch, four-hour meeting, the latest in a decade's worth of debate, no agreement emerged Thursday on whether to preserve a piece of the historic K-25 uranium-enrichment facility and how to share the plant's World War II and Cold War stories with future generations. However, it appears that a consensus is building for a plan based on "Concept B" — the National Park Service's third choice out of three options — that would enable the Department of Energy to demolish the K-25 building in its entirety. DOE would mitigate the loss by replicating K-25 operations on a limited scale in a new building constructed adjacent to or on the original site and funding other preservation projects, including $500,000 to help purchase and restore the historic Alexander Inn — aka, The Guest House — in Oak Ridge. The total cost of the plan would be about $15.3 million, which may be a lot to come by during tough fiscal times. But it's considerably less than the National Park Service's top choice, "Concept C," which would save the original walls of the K-25 North Tower — the bottom section of the Ushaped, milelong building — and preserve two operating cells of the gaseous diffusion plant operation that produced much of highly enriched uranium for the nation's Cold War nuclear arsenal. Concept C would cost about $62 million, according to DOE estimates.












U.S. District Court Judge Tom Varlan on Thursday allowed TVA time to submit more documents before he rules on a request for an injunction against TVA's tree-cutting policies. Some Westminster Place residents are suing the Tennessee Valley Authority over its plans to take down trees in a transmission line right of way running through their neighborhood. In a motion hearing Thursday, they asked Varlan to place TVA under a preliminary injunction prohibiting it from continuing what the plaintiffs say is an over aggressive tree-cutting policy until the lawsuit can be heard. Facing the prospect of hefty federal fines for vegetation-related power outages, TVA has tightened its tree-cutting procedures involving the 16,900 miles of transmission line right of way the federal utility maintains in seven states. While TVA used to work with property owners on letting them trim their trees in power line rights of way, TVA now intends to cut down trees capable of growing more than 15 feet tall. Don K. Vowell, attorney for the plaintiffs, said this constitutes a major, new policy put in place by TVA and this should have triggered the legal need for TVA to do an environmental-impact statement. An injunction should be levied at least until TVA addresses environmental issues, he said.

Hamilton County school board 'let down' by fundraising (Times Free-Press/Martin)
The business community "let down" the school system and "disappointed" school board members by not adequately funding a science, technology, engineering and math school in Hamilton County, board members said Thursday evening during their monthly meeting. Board members voted 6-3 to approve $500,000 from the school system's capital projects fund to ensure work continues on the school scheduled to open in August. They also approved a motion that would continue busing students currently in a school transfer program that is being phased out. But the funding to renovate the former Olan Mills building at Chattanooga State Community College where 78 ninth-graders have been selected to attend was the primary subject of discussion. The money was supposed to come from businesses in the community -- money the school board said they were promised. "I feel let down," board member David Testerman said. "This really bothers me; if this can't be a strong partnership, how can it succeed?"

Memphis-area high school 'grads' may not receive diploma (C. Appeal/Roberts)
All can participate, despite failure risk Thousands of high school seniors are being allowed to participate in graduation ceremonies here despite questions about their final grades. Because the issue is beyond students' control, both the Memphis City and Shelby County schools are letting seniors walk across the stage without 7

knowing how they did on end-of-course exams, or as a result, whether they have passed courses required for graduation. This year the tests are being graded in Iowa instead of a regional scanning center in Memphis. In MCS, 2,926 students are getting placeholder diplomas, with the understanding that it is their responsibility to make up the credit in summer school if they fail The issue affects nearly a quarter of the senior class in Shelby County Schools, according to district spokesman Shawn Pachucki. "We have roughly 780 seniors participating in graduation ceremonies this week and next who were enrolled in ... (required) courses," he said. (SUBSCRIPTION)

Schools transition panel decides 79 ideas (Commercial Appeal/Kelley)
The commission planning the transition to a united city-county school district on Thursday plowed through and approved a list of 79 recommendations that could wind up in its final report this summer. Completion of many of the recommendations dealing with educational services, personnel and governance shifts the focus of the Transition Planning Commission now to a somewhat harder job: figuring out how to pay for the world-class public school system it envisions. Recommendations for the new unified school district, which is set to open its doors in August 2013 -- with or without the suburban municipal districts that could take shape between now and then -will be subject to approval by the unified board and the state Department of Education. Those approved so far include expanding access to pre-kindergarten, using "positive behavioral intervention" to reduce suspensions and expulsions, doubling the number of students participating in advanced placement courses, dismissing teachers and instructional leaders who can't or won't improve, adopting a performance-based evaluation system, and instituting a lottery system for optional school programs and other situations in which the number of transfer requests exceeds available spots. (SUBSCRIPTION)

Merged Schools Specifics Clear Another Hurdle (Memphis Daily News)
Recommendations for the look of the new countywide school system cleared another set of hurdles Thursday, May 17. But the estimates of the cost of the different parts of the school system to come in August 2013 are still to come. All of that is ahead of a scheduled June 14 vote on the entire draft plan. A final vote on the work would follow public comment and input sessions. The schools consolidation planning commission approved several sets of recommendations Thursday that are steps on the way to final approval of a draft plan next month. The recommendations include a superintendent’s office with nine cabinet members of division directors reporting directly to the superintendent. School assignments for student would remain the same as they are now at the start of the merger with exceptions for school closings and new schools opening as well as the possibility of municipal school districts in some or all of the suburban municipalities.

Sullivan County Schools $6.9 million dollar shortfall could lead to teacher cuts (HC)
With Sullivan County schools facing a $6.9 million budget deficit, school leaders are looking at possible teacher cuts to cut costs. Director of Schools Jubal Yenney tells 11 Connects, 80 percent of the school system's budget goes to payroll. But the county recently lost funding for teacher salaries when a federal job program ended. The school system is also facing increased medical costs and state mandated teacher pay raises... Yenney says he doesn't know how many positions will be eliminated. He also says consolidation isn't out of the question either. ”If you have 20 students, you have a teacher. Add another student, 21, I have to add another teacher. That’s a 50,000 dollar decision for that one student, by state law." Yenney says he will address the county commission in June where he says he will suggest a tax increase to bring in more money.

Lawsuit looms at Hardin Co. High (Jackson Sun)
Gay and lesbian support is under fire at school The Southern Poverty Law Center is representing a Hardin County High School student who said her friends were threatened with punishment for wearing apparel adorned with slogans supportive of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. A lawyer for the center has sent a letter to school officials, warning them to take action to remedy the situation or face a lawsuit. Hardin County School Board Chairman David Long was contacted about the letter and declined to comment Thursday. Hardin 8

County School Superintendent John Thomas and Hardin County High School principal William McAdams did not return phone calls. Junior Isabella Nuzzo, who is being represented by the center, on Thursday said she is not gay but that she does believe in equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, sometimes referred to by the acronym LGBT. Nuzzo, 17, said a school official told her friends, who are students at the school, not to wear the apparel because it went against school policy.| topnews|text|FRONTPAGE

Kingsport couple face meth charges after traffic stop (Times-News)
An attempted traffic stop for speeding in Kingsport has led to the discovery of a suspected meth lab, with the driver fleeing the car and running into a wooded area before being arrested. The incident began shortly after 2 p.m. on South John B. Dennis Highway. Kingsport Police Department Officer Aaron Grimes said he observed a southbound Ford Tempo traveling 66 mph in a 45 mph zone. Grimes said he attempted to conduct a stop at Moreland Drive, but the suspects’ car continued to the parking lot of Burger King, 1332 S. John B. Dennis. Grimes said that as the car rolled to a stop, the male driver jumped out and ran. Meanwhile the female passenger exited the vehicle and ran to Grimes, telling the officer to “stop.” The woman was detained in the parking lot while a search was launched for the driver. Police said he fled through the undeveloped lots behind Burger King and dashed into a wooded area. He was apprehended about 30 minutes later on nearby Happy Hill Road, where officers were waiting for him to emerge from the woods.

Florida: Florida Steps Up Effort Against Illegal Voters (New York Times)
In an attempt to clear the voter rolls of noncitizens, a move that had set off criticism and a threatened lawsuit, Florida election officials decided on Thursday to use information from a federal database to check a list of 182,000 voters who they suspect are not citizens, officials said. Since last year, the Florida Division of Elections had sought access to the immigration database, which is maintained by the Department of Homeland Security, but the department said there were legal and technical difficulties in sharing the information. On Thursday, the elections division asked the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, which oversees driver’s licenses and originally compiled the list of 182,000 names, to use its access to the federal database to update its records and cross-check the names. The state was found to be using a flawed process to pinpoint noncitizens on the voter rolls by relying on an outdated driver’s license database. Some of the people on an initial list of 2,700 possible noncitizens sent to county election supervisors were either naturalized citizens or were born in the United States. (SUB)

Kentucky: As KY plans to execute inmate, need for new hip creates dilemma (AP)
A condemned killer’s fight to receive surgery for agonizing hip pain pushed Kentucky officials into an uncomfortable debate over security, politics and even the possibility of inviting scorn from Fox News pundits. Emails and memos obtained by The Associated Press show corrections officials struggling for a year to reconcile their duty to provide medical care with the political ramifications of spending tens of thousands of dollars for surgery on a man they plan to execute. A key problem would turn out to be security issues that led several hospitals to balk at treating inmate Robert Foley, who still hasn’t had the surgery. “Hip replacement for an inmate who has exhausted all appeals and will soon be executed?” Kentucky State Penitentiary warden Phil Parker wrote in an email on Nov. 22, 2010. “I can see this making Fox News on a slow news day, maybe even on a busy news day. In fact, I bet (Fox News host Bill O’Reilly) would love to put this in his ‘Pinheads’ commentary. Just a thought to consider before it goes too much further.” Prison officials also made contingency plans to call off the surgery if Gov. Steve Beshear set an execution date, and they considered whether to consult with him about the procedure.|topnews|text|News



OPINION Editorial: Laws alone won't solve drug abuse problems in nation (Herald-Courier)
Several hundred Bristol, Tenn., students watched the last step in the making of a Tennessee law: Gov. Bill Haslam’s ceremonial signing Monday of a ban on the manufacture and sale of synthetic drugs, also known as bath salts. The setting – at Tennessee High School – was significant. The bills were created and promoted by Northeast Tennessee lawmakers, police and prosecutors who have seen at least six deaths in our region attributed to abuse of these substances. There is a greater significance in that the ceremony was held in a place of education. Laws alone will never solve the problems of drug abuse in our country, whether something as old as marijuana or as new as the concoction called bath salts. Police and prosecutors know that cycle all too well: arrest, jail time and release only to return to the habit. Then there’s the new guy taking the jailed seller or addict’s place. Criminalizing abusive drug use fails inherently as a single-bullet strategy because it ignores underlying problems leading to such illicit activity – a wide-ranging set of social, psychological and even economic ills. 10

Editorial: Connected Tennessee a valuable service (Jackson Sun)
Developing adequate computer skills is essential in today’s technology-driven world, especially for young people. But not every child has the resources needed to access computer technology. That’s why Connected Tennessee’s “Preparing Tennessee’s Next Generation for Success” project is so important. Established in August 2010, the program is having a significant impact on two of the state’s most vulnerable youth populations. Connected Tennessee is a public-private partnership to help advance the deployment of technology in Tennessee. It combines the efforts and resources of government, technology-oriented businesses and higher education. The “Preparing Tennessee’s Next Generation for Success” project was made possible by a $2.3 million American Reinvestment and Recovery Act grant through the U.S. Department of Commerce. The two groups served by the program are children who are “aging out” of the state’s foster care system and children served by the state’s 76 Boys & Girls Clubs. Over the life of the grant, some 60,000 vulnerable youth in Tennessee will benefit. Once foster children reach age 18, they must become independent. Many have a limited adult support mechanism to ease the transition to full independence.

Editorial: School board whiffed on missing laptop (Daily News Journal)
Losing school property is a serious offense, and Rutherford County Schools should have sent a message to one of its principals when she failed to report a missing laptop computer. Homer Pittard Campus School Principal Chontel Bridgeman testified this week in an open records request hearing that she inadvertently left her computer at Vanderbilt University’s W yatt Center in June 2010. Yet even though it might have contained confidential student information, she didn’t tell the central office until about seven months later. Rather than immediately notify system officials and file a police report, she only checked with the W yatt Center, later told the Campus School PTC president and mentioned it to a Campus School technology specialist, according to her testimony. It’s understandable that someone could leave something as important as a $1,600 laptop at an out-oftown conference. People make mistakes. It’s hard to understand, though, why a professional educator would fail to report it missing, no matter how embarrassing.

Editorial: Debt battle ramps up in Congress as election nears (News-Sentinel)
Last summer's congressional fight over raising the federal debt ceiling was so nasty and economically risky — it resulted in an unprecedented downgrade in the United States' previously sterling credit rating by Standard & Poor's — that House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, wants to do it all over again this year, and do so before the presidential election to score political points. Boehner, who seems to have little, if any, control over his 87 Republican freshmen, apparently feels his credibility on these matters was undamaged when he was forced to renege on the deal that ended the debt-ceiling impasse. Speaking at an influential economic forum this week, the speaker threatened a "rule or ruin" fight over the debt ceiling, laying down these markers, knowing they were unacceptable to Democrats — and privately to some Republicans: the full increase in the debt ceiling had to be offset by even larger spending cuts; not only would there be no tax increases, but he wants the George W. Bushera tax cuts extended before the election, thus giving up half of our deficit-fighting arsenal; and he would block any short-term measures designed to postpone the day of reckoning.

Editorials: What will true costs really be? (Commercial Appeal)
Paying for schools: County lawmaker Mike Ritz has given suburban voters food for thought on the true costs of suburban schools. Suburban municipal leaders and their consultants are pooh-poohing a report challenging the cost of starting independent municipal school districts. Shelby County Commissioner Mike Ritz, whose district includes a portion of the suburbs, said the municipal districts will cost more than suburban leaders think. Arlington Mayor Mike Wissman said Ritz's report was "clouding" the contentious issue and had raised unnecessary fears and doubts among voters. We disagree with Wissman. If suburban voters want to start their own school systems, so be it. But there should be an honest, thorough discussion of what the true costs will be. Ritz's report opens the door for that to happen. Memphis and Shelby County schools are scheduled to merge at the beginning of the 2013-2014 year. Suburban officials hope to have their own municipal districts ready to go at 11

the same time. Consultants have said the suburban municipalities could afford to fund their own independent school districts with the equivalent of a 15-cent property tax hike. (SUBSCRIPTION) ###


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