This blogger has gathered the latest wave of bad news from Tennessee, showing the emptiness of the Republican Governor Bill Haslam’s efforts to outsource everything public to whoever wants to make money.
Even though President Obama praised red-state Tennessee as a prime example of the success of Race to the Top, conveniently ignoring the other Race to the Top winners where NAEP scores stagnated, things are not going well for corporate-style reform in the Volunteer State.
Haslam and his TFA Commissioner Kevin Huffman (ex-husband of Michelle Rhee) have the support of a far-right legislature, but their plans are still in disarray.
Nearly half the superintendents bravely signed a letter protesting Huffman’s heavy-handed mandates (seems to be the custom with corporate reform superintendents, brooking no dissent from the peons). Now parents have formed a new organization to fight Haslam and Huffman’s plans to outsource as many public schools to private corporations as possible. And, of course, Chris Barbic, imported from Houston to perform a miracle, promised to gather up all the state’s lowest-performing schools and move them to the top of the state’s rankings within five years (the clock is ticking–better to make your utopian promises fuzzy, not so concrete).
Now comes Tennesseans Reclaiming Education Excellence, organized by parents across the state, and they injected an unknown quantity into educational debates in Tennessee: Facts. Facts!
….on Monday, the top-down, one-size-fits-all education policies Haslam has been pushing through the legislature met a formidable roadblock — a TREE.
As has been custom the past few years, corporate education organizations have trotted out their privatization policies at the beginning of each legislative session. Their glossy, well-funded presentations always grab headlines and typically re-affirm Republican efforts that privatize public schools, divert money from our students’ classrooms and devalue educators.
This year, however, a new group, Tennesseans Reclaiming Educational Excellence, kicked off the week with some analysis that threw cold hard facts into the discussion of reforms trumpeted by Haslam’s administration.
Several points of interest:
- Tennessee spends more per Teach for America intern teachers than any other state. Coincidence that Haslam’s education commissioner is a former TFA executive?
- 25 percent of Tennessee students grow up in poverty, and poverty remains one of the most reliable indicators of student achievement. Malnourished kids who’ve not regularly seen a doctor are not the best students.
- Tennessee has not added a single seat to pre-Kindergarten, a proven intervention to close opportunity gaps, since Haslam became governor.
Elaine Weiss of the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education, was TREE’s featured presenter. From TNEdReport.com:
“Weiss discussed recent Tennessee education policy in the context of the drivers of educational inequality. She pointed to research suggesting that poverty is a significant contributor to student outcomes and noted other research that suggests as much as 2/3 of student outcomes are predicted by factors outside of school.”
The beauty of TREE’s press conference was two fold — one; they took some media coverage away from corporate education groups, and, two; they empowered our reporters with facts that have largely been missing from the education debate in Tennessee. Hopefully this presser will pay dividends for the weeks to come.