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Archive for November, 1999

More details on committee vote

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An article in the Knoxville News-Sentinel today gives some details about the committee meeting and the vote regarding ending discrimination against church-related schools. Since the article will be up for only a limited time (without paying for access, I think), I’ll include the voting here.

Those voting for the bill were Reps. Harry Brooks, R-Knoxville; Jim Coley, R-Bartlett; Delores Gresham, R-Somerville; Beth Harwell, R-Nashville; Phillip Johnson, R-Pegram; Ron Lollar, R-Bartlett; Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga; Richard Montgomery, R-Sevierville; and John Mark Windle, D-Livingston.

Those voting no were Reps. Ulysses Jones, D-Memphis; Mark Maddox, D-Dresden; Tommie Brown, D-Chattanooga; Barbara Cooper, D-Memphis; Joe Towns, D-Chattanooga; Larry Turner, D-Chattanooga; and Les Winningham, D-Huntsville.

Do you notice a pattern, by the way? I really, really get sick of partisan politics.

According to the story:

Bruce Opie, legislative liaison for the Department of Education, told the committee that department officials “were a little overzealous” in deciding that homeschool certificates do not count as high school diplomas….

However, he argued, though subtly, against the bill’s passage, saying,

“Do we get in the business of approving a diploma when we have absolutely nothing to do with oversight?” he said. “Under the law, we are told to stay completely out of (homeschooling).”

This is disingenuous at best. The text of the bill, technically an amendment, reads this way:

SECTION 1. Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 49, Chapter 1, Part 1, is amended by adding a new section thereto, as follows:

Section 49-1-1__. Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, a student who has a diploma recognized under or awarded by § 49-50-801 or § 49-6-3050 shall be considered by all departments, agencies or entities of state government as possessing a valid high school diploma. This section shall not apply to state lottery proceeds as provided in title 49, chapter 4, part 9.

SECTION 2. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law, the public welfare requiring it.

Read that closely. Do you see anywhere that it say that the Department of Education must approve a diploma from a church-related school? As a state agency, they will be affected, but they only have to recognize as valid diplomas that are granted by educational institutions that are explicitly recognized as legal in other parts of the law, educational institutions that just happen to not be run by the state.

If DoE were being asked to approve the diplomas, and they were to successfully argue that such a task requires them to regulate schools that are not state-run, then it would completely negate the whole concept of private schools.

Imagine a parallel situation: the state of Tennessee recognizes driver’s licenses from the state of Virginia as being legal, but because the Tennessee Highway Patrol does not control the testing procedure of such licenses the THP deems those licenses as not being valid, and so considers holders of such licenses to be unlicensed.

How far do you think that would go?

The bill does not ask the DoE to pass judgment on any non-state-school diploma. In fact, existing law effectively prohibits them from either approving or disapproving the curriculum, faculty, or other educational aspects of church-related schools (as well as the curriculum of homeschoolers). This new bill only requires that state agencies recognize non-state-school diplomas as valid.

This whole fiasco may very well stem from a desire of certain people to be able to approve or disapprove of non-state schools. That would put them in the position of controlling those schools without having to spend any actual state money to run them.

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Written by Donnell

November 29th, 1999 at 7:00 pm