FRIDAY, JUNE 15, 2012 ‘Financial Literacy’ Push Underway in TN Public Schools (TN Report

Tennessee ranks 47th in the nation for financial literacy, according to the Jumpstart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy — a problem Gov. Bill Haslam says needs to be turned around to build a more effective workforce. “If people can learn not to be afraid of numbers early and not to be afraid of understanding the finances, they’ll be a much more productive employee,” Haslam told reporters Thursday after addressing elementary teachers at a summit sponsored by the Tennessee Financial Literacy Commission. “Obviously the challenge for our school systems is, given everything else we want them to do with also helping increase health habits, increase math and reading scores, they’ve got a lot of balls to juggle,” he said. The day-long conference in Nashville included workshops about how to teach students to be financially fit, save for college and a home and outsmart scammers — topics Tennesseans struggle with compared to other states.

Teachers Learn How To Teach Financial Literacy (Associated Press, WTFV-TV)
Governor Bill Haslam and other state officials spoke at a daylong summit Thursday in Nashville for elementary school teachers wanting to teach financial literacy skills. "It doesn't make any difference if they're rural or from the urban community, the same things apply," McKissack Middle School teacher Debra Gann said. "They still don't know the basics. Just because I have a dollar in my pocket, doesn't mean that I can spend all of that dollar." Tennessee ranks 47th in the nation when it comes to financial literacy. Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey and Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman were featured speakers at the gathering, sponsored by the Tennessee Financial Literacy Commission. "We want to teach them the basics of math and how to ultimately use it in life," Homer Pittard 4th grade teacher David Lockett explained.

No Waiting on Perfection for Teacher Evaluations: Haslam (WPLN-Radio Nashville)
Governor Bill Haslam says the state should keep learning as it goes when it comes to evaluating teachers. This week, a review the governor asked for from an outside group suggested changes to evaluations for teachers of subjects that aren’t currently tested, like art. The report from the group SCORE suggests in such cases that student test results should not count for a full half of the teacher’s job review. Haslam says the state will look into it going forward, arguing it’s too important to wait until the system is perfect. When pressed, he acknowledged in the meantime it could affect teachers’ careers. “Well, I think it can, but that’s… the alternative is to just not do anything. And I just don’t think that’s a smart idea for the state.” Haslam says he thinks the evaluation process has already begun making teachers and principals in the state better. He says next year he thinks the process itself will also be better.

Huffman: Ed department preparing evaluation report (Associated Press)
Tennessee education officials are considering changes around some of the same areas identified in a recent study requested by the governor, the education commissioner said Thursday. Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman spoke to reporters before speaking at a summit for elementary school teachers at the Legislative Plaza. Earlier this week, the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, or SCORE, released its study, which addressed educators’ concerns about student testing data. The report said about two-thirds of the state’s teachers should be allowed to opt for a smaller portion of their evaluations to be based on such data. Fifty

percent of teachers’ evaluations are based on student testing data, but only about one-third teach subjects where value-added testing data is collected. The SCORE report recommends that teachers in subjects or grades without specific testing data be allowed to reduce that component to 25 percent of their evaluation. (SUBSCRIPTION)

Governor Haslam Stands Behind Tennessee Economic Official (WTVF-TV Nashville)
Governor Bill Haslam has offered support for a state official whose religion has come under fire by some antiMuslim groups. Samar Ali is a Nashville born Muslim who graduated from Vanderbilt law school and recently accepted a position as international director on the state's Economic and Community Development department. That appointment came under fire by the The Center for Security Policy and the 8th District Tea Party Coalition, groups who also opposed the mosque in Murfreesboro. When asked about his stance on the issue, Haslam said that freedom of religion is guaranteed in our country, and that he looked forward to working with Ms. Ali. "Samar is a highly qualified person, who has taken a role with our Economic Development Department . She comes with a great track record and a lot of experience and we think she'll be a great employee for the state of Tennessee," said Haslam. The governor and First Lady were at the Sounds Game Thursday night to give out books as part of the first lady's literacy program.

Foulks 'Honored To Serve' In Homeland Security Role (Greeneville Sun)
Greeneville Fire Chief Mark Foulks was recently appointed to the state Homeland Security Council by Gov. Bill Haslam. The appointment was formally announced Wednesday. Foulks, 43, has been Greeneville's fire chief since 2006. The Knoxville native previously served 17 years in various roles in the Knoxville Fire Department, including assistant chief. "I'm very honored to serve. I'm very honored to represent the Greeneville Fire Department in this capacity, and I'm very honored to represent the citizens of Greeneville in this type of role," Foulks said today.

Haslam signing photo includes two from company that had been fined (TN/Roche)
When a smiling Gov. Bill Haslam signed into law a new statute governing the operation of staff leasing companies, he was surrounded by a group that included two people whose company recently was cited and fined for operating without a license. One of them had been described in a state document as “not of good moral character” — which may be why no one seems to want to own up to inviting them. In a consent order signed April 9, the attorney representing Chris and Andrea Ball of Powell, Tenn., acknowledged that their firm, HR Comp LLC, had acted as an employee leasing agency without the license required by state law and that the Balls had given false responses when asked about it. An investigation by the state Department of Commerce and Insurance found that HR Comp LLC had a staff leasing arrangement with Barden Enterprises, parent company of a Knoxville sports bar, for about 10 months ending in November 2010. (SUBSCRIPTION)

'Top Secret Trail' is Tennessee's newest (Associated Press)
The state's newest Discover Tennessee Trail is the "Top Secret Trail" named in honor of Oak Ridge. State tourism officials announced the trail Friday, the 15th of 16 self-guided driving tours in Tennessee. It is made up of sites and attractions in Knox, Anderson, Campbell, Overton, Fentress, Morgan, Scott, Clay, Roane and Pickett counties. said the trail, like the others, will showcase history, culture, music and cuisine. A Top Secret brochure highlights 111 points of interest. Oak Ridge was known as "the secret city" when it developed the atomic bomb in the early 1940s.

TN jobless rate for May rises to 7.9 percent (AP, TN/Rugaber, Marsteller)

U.S. economy appears to be backsliding; Fed action 'likely' Tennessee’s unemployment rate increased last month for the first time in nearly a year, rising to 7.9 percent, mirroring a U.S. job market that has begun to show a few hiccups. The slight increase in state unemployment — compared with April’s 7.7 percent revised rate — was caused by a small increase in the amount of people re-entering the workforce to seek jobs, said Karla Davis, the state’s labor commissioner. The U.S. job market is flagging, and consumer prices are barely rising. That picture — sketched by economic data released Thursday — has made some economists predict the Federal Reserve will announce some new step next week to boost the national economy. Applications for unemployment benefits rose last week, pointing to a fourth straight month of sluggish hiring in June nationwide. And a plunge in gas prices pulled down consumer prices in May. W eak job growth raises pressure on the Fed because part of its mission is to boost employment.|newswell|text|News|s (SUBSCRIPTION)

Unemployment rate rises in Tennessee (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Flessner)
With more unemployed people re-entering the labor market last month, the jobless rate in May edged higher in Tennessee and was unchanged in Georgia, according to employment figures released Thursday. Unemployment in Tennessee during May rose by two-tenths of a percent from April's revised level to 7.9 percent, reversing a 22month-long decline in the state's jobless rate. In Georgia, the state jobless rate was unchanged at 8.9 percent, the first time in 10 months that the jobless rate has failed to decline. "We continue to see steady, but sluggish growth in employment so we're likely to see unemployment rates around these levels for some time," said Dr. Bill Fox, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Tennessee. "Jobs are growing, especially in durable manufacturing in Tennessee. But so are the number of people in the workforce." Over the past year, Tennessee added 39,100 jobs, or 1.5 percent, including 7,700 jobs in manufacturing and 6,000 jobs in construction. But the Volunteer State suffered an unexpected decline of 1,700 jobs from April to May primarily because of fewer jobs in the hospitality and financial industries.

Unemployment Rate Up Slightly (WPLN-Radio Nashville)
Tennessee’s jobless rate went up slightly last month; it was 7.9 percent in May, compared to 7.7 in April. That’s the first increase since late 2010. Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Karla Davis says the uptick is largely due to people –quote- “”re-entering the workforce to look for work.” The latest economic forecast for the state predicts some slight improvement in the jobless rate as the year goes on. But economists don’t see a return to pre-recession employment figures in the near future, and they expect a slowdown in personal income growth for the rest of this year.

Tennessee's unemployment rate increases to 7.9% (Nashville Post)
Tennessee’s unemployment rate for May increased to 7.9 percent, up from the April revised rate of 7.7 percent. The national unemployment rate for May was 8.2 percent, 0.1 percentage point higher than the April rate. "Tennessee’s employment change this month is relatively flat with a slight increase in the amount of people reentering the workforce to look for work,” Karla Davis, labor department commissioner, said in a release. “Even though the unemployment rate had a slight increase, it is the first increase we have seen since November 2010.”

Knox woman charged with four counts of TennCare fraud (News-Sentinel)
A Knox County woman has been charged with TennCare fraud involving "doctor shopping," authorities said. The state Office of Inspector General, with the assistance of the Knox County Sheriff's Office, today announced the arrest of Tonya Michelle Thomas, 35, of Knoxville. Thomas is charged with four counts of fraudulently using TennCare to pay for visits to multiple doctors to obtain prescriptions for controlled substances. TennCare fraud is a Class E felony carrying a sentence of up to two years in prison per charge. Tennesseans can get cash rewards for TennCare fraud tips that lead to convictions. Report suspected TennCare fraud by calling 1-800-433-3982 or log on to and follow the prompts that read "Report TennCare Fraud."

UT president's house remains empty two years after listing (N-S/Osborne)
From the road, one might imagine that the owners of the perfectly-maintained Georgian-style home at 940 3

Cherokee Blvd. come out every morning to fetch the newspaper and wave howdy to the neighbors. But the house that five former University of Tennessee presidents called home has sat empty for more than two years and remains unsold after going on the market in March 2010. The listing price of the 11,400-square-foot house was cut nearly in half a year after the property was put on the market — from the original $5 million asking price to the current $2.9 million price tag. The home is on the list for discussion during the University of Tennessee's Board of Trustees Finance and Administration Committee meeting at 3:30 p.m. June 20 in the Hollingsworth Auditorium on the Agricultural campus. The full board's meeting will take place the following afternoon at 1:30 p.m. While the issue is on the agenda for the meeting, university officials say there have been no decisions or changes in the status of the property.

287(g) immigration program goes before TN Supreme Court (AP, TN/Loller, Bonner)
Justices hear arguments over deputies' powers The state Supreme Court is deciding whether a federal program that lets some Davidson County sheriff’s deputies act as immigration agents violates the Metropolitan Charter. In court on Thursday, attorney Bill Harbison argued that the charter reserves all law enforcement duties for the police while the sheriff’s office is confined to running the jail and serving warrants. That separation of powers was put in place in 1962 when Nashville and Davidson County combined to form a metropolitan government. Assistant Metro Attorney Keli Oliver argued that interviewing detainees to determine their immigration status was permissible under the powers granted to the sheriff’s office because it pertains to managing the jail.A federal judge asked the Supreme Court to decide the question, at the heart of a federal suit challenging the program. Opponents of the federal program, known as 287(g), believe it unfairly targets for deportation people who commit minor infractions such as traffic violations. Supporters say the program helps the federal government identify lawbreakers.|topnews|text|News (SUBSCRIPTION)

TN Supreme Court hears arguments in suit targeting participation (CP/Greenberg)
After navigating the court system for roughly a year and a half, the Tennessee Supreme Court on Thursday afternoon heard arguments in a lawsuit targeting the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office’s participation in the federal 287(g) immigration enforcement program. The main issue revolves around DCSO’s memorandum of agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which allows sheriff employees to double as federal agents. The agreement allows the DCSO to hand over illegal immigrants to ICE for possible deportation. The plaintiffs argue that the sheriff’s office is overstepping their role solely as jail operators by contracting with ICE, a law enforcement agency. Tennessee’s five Supreme Court justices interjected questions during each side’s 30-minute arguments inside a packed courtroom. Attorney Bill Harbison, representing the plaintiffs, based his argument on the Metro Charter, which calls the Metro Nashville Police Department the sole “conservator of peace.” The charter, established in 1963, states that the DCSO is specifically the operator of the jail.

State High Court Hears Argument Against Sheriff’s Immigration Powers (W PLN)
The Tennessee Supreme Court is considering whether Davidson County’s sheriff can legally enforce immigration law. Before the high-court Thursday, attorneys argued about whether the Metro Charter allows the sheriff to do any police work. Attorney Elliott Ozment has had it out for the so-called 287(g) program ever since cases began surfacing in which undocumented immigrants were deported for such petty crimes as fishing without a license. His case before the state high court has nothing to do with the legality of the federal program. Instead, Ozment is waging a technical attack based on Metro’s founding document. As a way to prevent turf battles when the county and city governments consolidated 50 years ago, police powers were taken away from the sheriff, which now operates the jails. “So to the extent the sheriff is exercising immigration enforcement authority, that’s illegal under the charter.” 4

Ex-Judge Baumgartner's federal trial reset to Oct. 23 (News-Sentinel/Satterfield)
A federal magistrate judge today approved a three-month delay in the trial of disgraced former Knox County Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner. Baumgartner had been set to be tried in July on seven counts of misprision of a felony. Baumgartner had asked via his defense attorneys that the case be deemed "complex," a move that would have allowed lengthy delays as it would essentially remove the case from the restrictions of the federal speedy trial act. Both sides reached a deal today that allowed a delay but would keep the case subject to the speedy trial act. U.S. Magistrate Judge Clifford Shirley set a new trial date of Oct. 23. Baumgartner pleaded guilty in state court last year to official misconduct for buying prescription painkillers from a felon on probation in his court. The Feds indicted him in May for allegedly covering up the crimes of his mistress, who told the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation she supplied him sex and pills.

Judge Blackwood threatens DA with contempt (News-Sentinel/Satterfield)
Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood is tired of being the fall guy. That much was clear Thursday after a hearing that began with an hourlong speech and ended with a fiery exchange between Blackwood and Knox County District Attorney General Randy Nichols. "Somebody had to do it," Blackwood said of his appointment by the state Supreme Court to helm the fallout over revelations former Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner was himself a criminal. "That's why I'm here. Somebody has to do this terrible, untasteful job. … If you took a poll of who was the most hated person in Knox County, me and Baumgartner would be neck and neck." The goal of Thursday's hearing was simple. Nichols wants Blackwood to step away from handling the cases of the defendants in the January 2007 torture slayings of Channon Christian, 21, and Christopher Newsom, 23. Blackwood set Thursday's hearing to decide that motion. But, from the start, it was clear this would be no ordinary hearing and this seemingly simple request was steeped in complexities. "There's been way too much emotions, prejudices and passions that have made the decision-making process in this case difficult," Blackwood said, citing "a little bit of jawing, a little bit of posturing and a little bit of distrust" that has been taking place behind the scenes since Baumgartner fell from grace amid a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation probe nearly two years ago of his abuse of prescription painkillers.

NRA backs Sumner County challenger (Tennessean/Sisk)
The National Rifle Association endorsed a tea party challenger in Sumner County, saying she “has demonstrated her leadership abilities which the state of Tennessee so badly needs today.” The NRA Political Victory Fund said Wednesday it had formally decided to back Courtney Rogers, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, former Bridgestone Americas communications executive and one-time leader of Sumner United for Responsible Government, a tea party group. Rogers is taking on House Republican Caucus Chair Debra Maggart, RHendersonville, in the August primary. Maggart represents the 45th House District, which includes most of Hendersonville and portions of Goodlettsville. The NRA said it had given Rogers an “AQ” rating, its highest grade for a candidate who has not held elected office. The rating was based on Rogers’ responses to an NRA questionnaire. The NRA announced its endorsement on the same day Gov. Bill Haslam headlined a fundraiser for Maggart. Gun rights groups have targeted Maggart this fall after she joined other Republican leaders in blocking legislation that would have let gun owners bring their weapons to work and store them in parked vehicles. odyssey=mod%7Cnewswell%7Ctext%7CNews%7Cs&nclick_check=1 (SUBSCRIPTION)

GOP likes its chances in Davidson County Senate race (Tennessean/Sisk)
The 20th Senate District winds around Davidson County like a crescent, from the old factory neighborhoods of Old Hickory and Hermitage to the wealthy enclaves of Belle Meade and Forest Hills. In this arc, Republicans see an opportunity to do something they have not been able to do in at least 70 years: capture a state Senate seat in Tennessee’s capital city. The GOP has carved out a district that both parties say is split fairly evenly between Democrats and Republicans. If Republicans were able to pull off a victory, even the plantation of Andrew Jackson, the father of the modern Democratic Party, would be in their hands — proof of the party’s strength in Tennessee. Winning the 20th District would be more than a trophy for the party. It also could help Republicans toward a two-thirds majority in the Senate, which would allow them to conduct business even if Democrats were to boycott legislative proceedings, as they have in other states. 5 (SUBSCRIPTION)

Middle TN voters upset over late registration cards (Tennessean/Wilson)
Counties put blame on redistricting Local election commissions are trying their best to issue new voter registration cards by the end of the month, but some voters aren’t pleased at how long it has taken to receive them. Congressional, state and local districts were redrawn this year after the 2010 census, and the election offices in Davidson, Rutherford, Williamson and Wilson counties will mail new cards to voters that reflect any changes in their districts or precincts. Maps of the redrawn state districts, as well as some of the county districts, are available online, but some local voters without Internet access are still wondering which elections they’ll be voting in. One of those voters is Davidson County resident Lenora Bell. She has been voting ever since she became eligible, which she said has been a very long time. She already has been receiving calls from people campaigning for an open state Senate seat, but she still doesn’t know whether that race will be on her ballot. “I wanted that confirmed with the voter registration card so that I know what district I’m in,” Bell said. Bell doesn’t have Internet access and has used her voter registration cards to know where to vote and what she is voting for. (SUBSCRIPTION)

Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond short of cash (Times Free-Press/Haman)
Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond made his case to county commissioners Thursday that his department needs an extra $275,000 to finish the year in the black. He cited cost overruns in overtime, jail food costs, inmate transportation costs and fuel, as the reasons for his request. "W e have been able to absorb about $400,000 in overruns," he told commissioners during a Thursday agenda-setting meeting. "We were not able to absorb the last $275,000." But many commissioners questioned the need, noting that this is the second year in a row Hammond has asked for permission to pull money from his reserves at the end of the fiscal year, which ends June 30. Last year, he received commissioners' approval to dip into his reserves by $325,000. The sheriff's reserve fund balance was about $1.3 million at the end of last fiscal year, County Finance Administrator Louis Wright said Thursday. In the meeting, Commissioner Joe Graham said he won't vote in next Wednesday's commission meeting to give the sheriff more money.

Hamilton County budget includes ambulance fee hike (Times Free-Press/Haman)
Hamilton County commissioners are now reviewing a $642.3 million budget proposal that includes a 3 percent pay raise for employees and no property tax increase. But County Mayor Jim Coppinger's budget does include a 45 percent hike in fees for anyone who uses the county's ambulance service. Coppinger presented the 2013 fiscal budget to commissioners Thursday. They have two weeks to analyze it before a scheduled vote on June 28. The 2013 fiscal year begins July 1. The budget is up more than $16 million -- about 2.5 percent -- over the current one. "Five million of this increase comes as a result of [property tax] reappraisals that will be coming about this year," Coppinger said. "The remaining $11 million will come as a result of the Hamilton County Department of Education's budget, which receives no -- and I emphasize 'no' -- additional funding from the county government's portion." The $11 million includes additional state funding, money from property tax growth and money from PILOT and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).

Memphis Council member's proposal would add 1-cent tax on gasoline (CA/Maki)
A City Council member is proposing a referendum asking voters to levy a 1-cent tax on every gallon of gasoline purchased inside Memphis. Councilman Edmund Ford Jr. said that if approved by voters in November, the gasoline tax could bring in roughly $6 million for "public transportation" expenses, mostly Memphis Area Transit Authority and road paving. "This would free up money for our other operating expenses," said Ford. The city has helped sustain MATA with funds from its operating and capital improvement program budgets, and MATA officials have repeatedly asked city officials for a "dedicated funding source." In the current fiscal year, the city budgeted $16.9 million for MATA out of the general fund. After experiencing several years of large budget shortfalls, Ford and other council members have been looking for new revenue-generating measures. Ford recently proposed an increase in the hotel-motel tax that was voted down by the council. 6

Childhood obesity forum seeks improved kids' health (Tennessean/Ruf)
Panel hopes to reach youth as early as possible Former Sen. Bill Frist will be in Nashville today leading one in a series of national forums addressing childhood obesity. Health-care officials from across the Metro Nashville area will gather at the Nashville Public Library to discuss the impact childhood obesity has on families and businesses and possible solutions. Frist is working with first lady Michelle Obama in the Partnership for a Healthier America. Other local panelists in the discussion are Dr. Shari Barkin, director of pediatric obesity research at Vanderbilt University; Dr. Bill Paul, director of Metro Public Health; and Bill Leedle, CEO of Franklinbased health-care company Healthways. In the Metropolitan Nashville Public School system, 38 percent of kids were overweight or obese during the 2011-2012 year, a study revealed. “We have not turned the curve on obesity and childhood obesity,” Dr. Paul said Thursday. Reaching kids who may be overweight or headed that way is vital. Losing fat is much more difficult as an adult, Vanderbilt’s Dr. Barkin said. (SUBSCRIPTION)

Rutherford Co. Commission votes to appeal public notice ruling on mosque (DNJ)
The Rutherford County Commission voted 15-6 Thursday night to appeal a court ruling that voided approval of a mosque. “I just can’t imagine an appellate court would agree we should discriminate,” Commissioner Trey Gooch said before the vote. County Attorney Jim Cope estimates that the legal fee cost to appeal will be in the $15,000 to $25,000 range. While waiting for the appeal to work its way through the courts, Chancellor Robert Corlew’s Wednesday ruling banning the county from issuing a certificate of occupancy to the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro will stand unless it’s overturned or he dissolves it, Cope added. Commissioners took action in response to the recent court order from Corlew that made approval of the mosque void because the county government failed to provide adequate public notice before approving the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro’s construction plans to build a mosque on Veals Road off Bradyville Pike. The county’s Regional Planning Commission, which voted to accept the ICM’s long-term site plans for a 52,960-square-foot center, also voted 61 Monday to appeal Corlew’s ruling. S05/306150021/Rutherford-County-Commission-votes-appeal-publicnotice-ruling-mosque?odyssey=tab%7Ctopnews%7Ctext%7CFRONTPAGE&nclick_check=1 (SUB)

Cohen's disclosure report shows assets of $5.08 million (C. Appeal/Sullivan)
U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen could have as much as $5.08 million in assets, drew a state pension of $23,128, and traveled to Rwanda, Germany, Israel and Spain at someone else's expense last year, according to a disclosure report released today by the House Clerk's office. All members of Congress are required to file an annual description of their assets, liabilities, outside positions on boards, compensated travel and other financial information each May 15. The reports do not include their annual $174,000 salaries as members. Among MidSouth members, U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher, R-Tenn., whose district will include even more of Shelby County next year, reported $33,943 in income from row crop farming and paid-for trips to Israel and Los Angeles. In addition, he and his wife, Lynn, own farm land worth between $500,000 and $1 million but have outstanding debts from the purchase of equipment of between $795,000 and $1.7 million. are only required to provide values in vague ranges for their assets and liabilities, which explains the inexact figures. For the value of stocks or bonds earning investment income from dividends, for example, the ranges are $15,000 to $50,000 or $50,001 to $100,000. (SUB)

Michelle Obama due in Nashville June 28 (Tennessean/Smietana)
First lady Michelle Obama is coming to Nashville on June 28 to speak at the general conference for the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the nation’s oldest African-American denomination. She’ll be giving the keynote address for the conference at the Gaylord Opryland hotel. Her husband, President Barack Obama, gave a speech at the AME conference in 2008 when he was a U.S. senator. “We are extremely honored first lady Michelle Obama will be sharing her thoughts at this quadrennial meeting,” said Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie of the AME’s 13th Episcopal district, which is hosting the conference. “Mrs. Obama’s commitment to family as the Mother-In-Chief is encouraging to women around the world, and her leadership in fighting childhood obesity has been embraced by many of our congregations in the United States.” The AME has more than 3 million members. 7 nclick_check=1 (SUBSCRIPTION)

Universities Feel the Heat Amid Cuts (Wall Street Journal)
A panel of business and academic leaders warned funding cuts to higher education are hurting the global competitiveness of U.S. research universities, the latest sign of financial strain that is intensifying battles over school leadership and has led to several high-profile departures of university presidents. U.S. research universities "are in grave danger of not only losing their place of global leadership but of serious erosion in quality," the committee of 22 academic, business and nonprofit leaders warned in a 250-page report issued Thursday. The report, commissioned by Congress, called for a combined effort among the schools, governments and corporations to reverse the decline. Richard Vedder, director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity and retired economics professor at Ohio University, reviewed parts of the report Thursday and was skeptical. He said he has found no correlation between extensive university research and a nation's economic prosperity. (SUBSCRIPTION)

Illinois firm warms to TN as site for plant (Tennessean/Marsteller)
Manufacturer plans Robertson County facility; 100 jobs on tap A manufacturer of portable food service units, bars and cooking ovens plans to open a plant near Portland, which could result in more than 100 new jobs in Robertson County. Food Warming Equipment Co. Inc. announced Thursday that it recently closed on the purchase of a 161,000-square-foot building on Highway 31 West. “This expansion will help improve the quality and quantity of several Food Warming Equipment product lines, support our existing customer base and promote aspirations for future growth,” said Curt Benson, the company’s vice president of sales and marketing, in a statement. The company, based in Crystal Lake, Ill., said it considered several states before choosing Tennessee. odyssey=mod%7Cnewswell%7Ctext%7CNews%7Cp&nclick_check=1 (SUBSCRIPTION)

Register worried about 'disastrous' school cuts by council members (CP/Garrison)
Sensing Metro Council members might try to slice school funding, Director of Schools Jesse Register preemptively relayed Thursday that the scenarios he’s heard discussed would have severe consequences. “We understand some Metro Council members may propose additional school budget cuts of as much as $23 million,” Register said Thursday. “That would be disastrous.” Under Mayor Karl Dean’s proposed budget and property tax increase, Metro Nashville Public Schools’ budget would be $720.4 million, a $46.5 increase over the current fiscal year. Reducing that figure by $23 million –– essentially in half –– would still give the school district a $23.5 million bump, and thus a net increase. But it would be significantly less than the budget the nine-member school board endorsed in April. And Register suggested major decisions would have to be considered, including “outsourcing” some operations. “Because most district expenses are related to employees, most of the proposed budget cuts affect people,” he said. “Our original budget invested in instruction. Our goal is to protect that investment and programs and services for our children.

New Ooltewah Elementary School gains approval (Times Free-Press/Haman)
A new Ooltewah Elementary School received final approval Thursday, but not before Hamilton County commissioners questioned school officials about any possible surprises in the deal. Hickory Construction from Alcoa, Tenn., can begin the school, located on Ooltewah-Georgetown Road, after commissioners unanimously approved the company's $21.45 million bid. The Board of Education approved the selection earlier this week. If Hickory finishes the school before Hamilton County Schools' 2013 start date in August, it is eligible for a $545,000 bonus. Before the vote, Commissioner Joe Graham asked Assistant School Superintendent Gary Waters and Superintendent Rick Smith if they'd fully presented the agreement. "Is there anything we're missing here that we're going to find out in the newspaper or the news?" Graham asked. "No sir," Smith said from the rear of the room. Some commissioners are still angry that they only learned about a proposed three-way land swap that involved another elementary school site, the city of Chattanooga and the Chattanooga Housing 8

Authority from a member of Chattanooga City Council and the Times Free Press.

School transition panel pushes to name Shelby County schools chief (CA/Kelley)
The Transition Planning Commission on Thursday passed an addition to its transition plan, recommending the selection of a superintendent for the 2013-14 school year no later than this fall. The panel thus added its voice to the ongoing debate over who should lead the new unified Memphis and Shelby County school district. The superintendent selection statement, proposed by TPC member and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell, was approved during a daylong review of the transition plan's first draft, a document of more than 200 pages that will go to the unified school board for its review on June 26. The draft was approved shortly after 6 p.m., eliciting a standing ovation for board chairman Barbara Prescott, who tearfully thanked consultants, staff members and fellow commissioners for the work they've put in on the plan over the last several months. "It's just an incredible feeling," she said after the adjournment of the TPC's 91/2 -hour session. "We've worked really hard. I'm proud of this plan. I'm proud of everybody. It will be momentary relief because we've got so much more to do, to educate the community and present this to the board. But I'm very proud of what we've accomplished." (SUB)

Schools Planning Commission Approves Merger First Draft (Memphis Daily News)
With a unanimous voice vote Thursday, June 14, the schools consolidation planning commission approved a draft plan for the schools merger. The milestone moment for the group came at the end of a day-long meeting that started at 9 a.m. and went to 6 p.m. The plan for a decentralized school system includes nearly 200 separate recommendations that now go to the countywide school board and state education officials. The planning commission will meet with the school board and state officials to see if there are any adjustments they need to make in the plan before the school board and state make their decisions. Thursday’s review did not result in any overall changes to the basic structure of a countywide school system scheduled to start August of 2013. The merged school system would be decentralized with a set of six subregions and several paths to more school autonomy that includes charter schools, state run Achievement School District schools and other new models for school structures to be run, encourage and developed in an Office of Innovation.

Aitken Wins a Round on the TPC (Memphis Flyer)
Make no mistake: John Aitken wants the job of superintendent of the Unified School District. More than that, he thinks he already has the job of superintendent of the district which is a year away from becoming. And, as a result of a decisive vote taken by the Transition Planning Commission on Thursday, the current superintendent of the soon-to-expire Shelby County Schools system is closer than ever before to having those beliefs confirmed. Meeting at the county's Code Enforcement headquarters building at Shelby Farms, the TPC members debated on how and whether, in their official final report, they should insist on an expedited hiring of a superintendent. 16 members of the 21-member advisory body — a more than sufficient number — would eventually vote for a resolution by Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell that a superintendent should be hired “as soon as possible and no later than fall 2012.” Although the resolution thereby became a part of the TPC’s provisional final report (to be formally released Friday), it is couched as a recommendation to the Unified School Board, which has the definitive say on matters regarding the new all-county district, scheduled to go into business in August 2013, when the merger of Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools takes place.

Sullivan County Schools budget is still $3.9 million out of balance (Herald-Courier)
Even after making $2 million in cuts, the proposed 2012-13 budget at Sullivan County Schools is still $3.9 million out of balance. One possible avenue for the school district is to use surplus money to bring the budget closer to balance. “It’s fiscally irresponsible to budget that much of your [reserves],” Sullivan County Schools Business Manager Leslie Bonner said at a working session on the budget Thursday. The school district has $2.6 million available in reserves. Sullivan County Director of Schools Jubal Yennie also opposes using the reserves to balance the budget. “Basically, it’s a shell game,” he said. “W e are saying that we are meeting a budget, but we are not. I certainly don’t budget my household that way.” Sullivan County has used surplus money to balance its 9

budget for years, which has created a situation where the county register of deeds recently said that the county is “basically borderline bankrupt.” The school district is scheduled to give a budget presentation to the Sullivan County Budget Committee on Monday.

Schools director talks cuts (Johnson City Press)
Officials with the Washington County school system are once again taking a hard look at their proposed $64 million budget for the 2012-13 school year. Facing a deficit of $4.2 million, Director of Schools Ron Dykes said the Washington County Board of Education will have to seriously consider cutting non-mandated positions and programs as they try to balance the budget. While cutting back will likely gain approval of next year’s budget from the County Commission, it will have come at quite a cost for county schools.“Most of those areas are areas that we have cut before, but every time we cut those that means that’s not additional equipment and material that will not be updated or replaced ... so you’re going to affect the curriculum when you do that,” Dykes said Thursday, a day after presenting the budget to the Budget Committee. The first step in cutting back will be eliminating any non-mandated positions board members added to the budget, such as the addition of 25 instructional assistants totaling $500,000.

Schools' capital budget passed (Jackson Sun)
The Jackson-Madison County School Board passed its capital budget with little fanfare Thursday evening, as board members had discussed the budget’s disputed points prior to the meeting. The board convened at 6 p.m., when members took a moment of silence, recited the pledge of allegiance and then commenced with their business. State Rep. Jimmy Eldridge spoke about issues in the state legislature regarding education, and Deputy Superintendent Doris Battle announced that Lynne Shuttleworth, the recently retired Lincoln Elementary principal, has won the Education Consumers Foundation Tennessee Value-Added Assessment Award. She was one of 18 Tennessee teachers to win the award, Battle said. Deborah Phillips, regional director of the Phoenix Homes of Tennessee foster care agency, requested that the school board dedicate some in-service teacher training to members of her organization so they might speak on issues regarding children in foster care. W hen it came time for the board to pass the capital budget, the only topic that received any notable discussion was the uncompleted running track at Liberty Technology Magnet High School, which has six lanes instead of eight. nclick_check=1 (SUBSCRIPTION)

Normandy, Tims Ford fall feet below normal (Times Free-Press/Benton)
Normandy Lake on the Duck River is so low, anglers fishing from the shoreline would be under about seven feet of water if levels were normal, officials say. "It's real low. It's usually up to those rocks over there," angler Michael Jernigan said with a wave toward the rock-fortified bank about 150 feet behind him and his 7-year-old son, Wayne. The Beechgrove, Tenn., residents were wetting their lines in Normandy Lake on Tuesday, a few hundred yards below the bridge on Lyndell Bell Road. Another 200 feet into the water, Dwayne Chissom and fellow anglers Bob and Johnathon Ferrell, all from Cannon County, said they had no trouble navigating the lake's low water, but they noted it's much lower than they're used to seeing it. "It's a lot lower than usual -- six feet at least," Chissom said. Officials with TVA and the Duck River Development Agency say Chissom's about right -- seven feet low, actually, though the reservoir has been lower at times. Officials said low water levels so far have had no impact on drinking water, but recreation is suffering. Bob Ferrell said water levels mean anglers must fish different areas than their favorite hot spots.


OPINION Pam Strickland: Evaluations needed but so are changes (Knoxville News-Sentinel)
Seven convoluted recommendations for change came out of the study of the new teacher evaluation system conducted by State Collaborative on Reforming Education, the think tank known as SCORE that Gov. Bill Haslam asked to provide feedback on the evaluations because teachers were balking. It probably would have been simpler had SCORE boiled down the recommendations to two things. First, work with teachers and principals on an attitude adjustment that evaluations are a normal part of employment. Second, do a complete rework of the aspect of the evaluation that is based on student performance. For most of us, it's routine to be evaluated at least once a year in our work. And it's not unusual for promotions and raises to be tied to that evaluation. Teachers have not had that experience in the past, and are being dragged into that world kicking and screaming, crying and stomping. Under the old system, teachers who had achieved tenure were evaluated twice in a 10-year period. That's astonishing. Who had ever thought that was a good and reasonable idea?

Greg Johnson: No turning back on teacher evaluation reform (News-Sentinel)
The most important sentence in a report on Tennessee's new teacher evaluation process is easy to miss. W ith media reports focused on shortcomings and the kumbaya call for collaboration, teachers, principals, administrators, legislators and parents shouldn't have to search so hard for the bottom line of the findings by the State Collaborative on Reforming Education. SCORE was crystal clear: "Tennessee cannot and should not return to the old system or step back from implementation of the new system." Why? Stark reality explains. "While Tennessee has shown early signs of success in preparing students for the rigors of postsecondary education and the workforce, significant work remains to ensure policy changes create positive results for our students," SCORE wrote. "National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) data released in 2011 indicated that although there was no statistical change in the state's fourth and eighth grade reading and math scores from 2009, other states made improvements during this period that pushed Tennessee further down in the rankings." Based on fourth-grade test scores, Tennessee students ranked 46th in math proficiency and 41st in reading. "Similarly, only 15 percent of students are considered college-ready across all four ACT college benchmarks (English, reading, math, and science)," SCORE wrote.

Free-Press Editorial: Fund what works: school vouchers (Times Free-Press)
Here's a novel idea: On the question of funding a school voucher program and increasing funding for Tennessee's pre-kindergarten program, Gov. Bill Haslam and state lawmakers should let demonstrated results be their guide. Vouchers, handled correctly, can be of great benefit to children who are trying to escape disastrous public schools. W ashington, D.C., established a voucher program in 2004 so that low-income students in badly performing public schools could attend private schools, at far lower cost than the district was spending per student in public schools. The effort was a success. Graduation rates rose for students using vouchers compared with their counterparts in public schools. Schools were safer, and parents reported being more satisfied with their children's education. Black parents were especially fond of the program, possibly because their children otherwise were apt to be stuck in the very worst schools in the district. Taking a cue from a successful program such as Washington's, Tennessee could develop an excellent voucher program. Things are less clear about pre-kindergarten. opinionfreepress


Editorial: Key elected positions require more education (Daily News Journal)
In a day when a high school diploma is needed to become a manager of most fast-food restaurants, it is time for Tennessee to demand education and training for some of its most important elected offices. The fact that the General Assembly is loathe to require educational qualifications for positions such as property assessor, county commissioner, register of deeds, trustee and county clerk speaks volumes about the mind-set of our Legislature and the entire state. None of those elected positions, which are set up in Tennessee’s Constitution, require a high school diploma or GED, considered minimum training in the public or private sector. Rutherford County Property Assessor Bill Boner rode into office four years ago on a rising Republican tide — as a high school dropout. He held a contractor’s license and later earned a GED and completed some 450 hours of training, in addition to earning administrator certification. (SUBSCRIPTION)

Editorial: Tennessee's problem solvers (Commercial Appeal)
Jeb Bush has it right. The hard-line ideologues within the Republican Party would make it impossible for Ronald Reagan to be an effective president today. Bush, brother to one president and son of another, spoke with rare candor about polarizing politics in America. No longer governor of Florida, he stepped out of the comfortable cocoon of the party line and stated what is obvious to most Americans: "Washington today is hyper-partisan with people speaking off political talking points rather than working together to find common ground to address the issues our country faces.'' A day later, Bush made sure that his comments were directed at both political parties and the Congress. The popular ex-governor and member of what is close to a royal family in the Republican Party said it like it is. How refreshing. Left unsaid was the fact that Republicans who dare to question even bits and pieces of the "don't tax, don't compromise" party line are becoming a rare breed. (SUBSCRIPTION)

Editorial: Teen employment drop has long-term ramifications (News-Sentinel)
The oft-expressed obstacle to youngsters entering the labor market was that you couldn't get a job without experience and without a job you couldn't gain any experience. The answer to this was traditionally the summer job, something low-paid, often demanding not always challenging, but that at the end of the summer resulted in the all-important first reference from an employer: "The kid shows up on time, works hard and doesn't complain." No matter how humble, it was a first step on the career ladder. But summer jobs for teenagers, "once a rite of passage to adulthood," as the Associated Press put it, are disappearing. According to government figures and AP interviews, in 1978 the percentage of employed teens peaked at close to 60 percent and remained generally above 50 percent until 2001. Since then, propelled by two recessions plus competition from unemployed adults, immigrants and debt-saddled college grads, the employment rate for teens, 16 to 19, fell to 29.6 percent last summer, the lowest since World W ar II. The outlook for this summer doesn't seem any brighter. And it's not for lack of demand: more than 44 percent of teenagers who want summer jobs can't find them or can't find jobs that give them enough hours.



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