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Archive for May, 2008

CRS diploma bill dead this year–looking to next year


Apparently, the bill offered by state Rep. Mike Bell to make state agencies recognize church-related-school diplomas is dead for this year. However, there is hope for a bill that Bell intends to offer next year. Details, so far as they are known, at Here’s my take and summary.

Kay Brooks points out that the House Calendar and Rules Committee (which basically controls which bills make it to the floor for a vote) is controlled by House Democrats, “many of whom have already expressed their bias against education choices not directly controlled by the government school system.”

Rob Shearer established that the committee is not just controlled by House Democrats, but is heavily stacked their way. Out of 25 members, 21 are Democrats. The majority in the overall House is only 53-46, but that allows them to appoint the House Speaker, who appoints the committee members, and you see where this goes.

Even though HB1652 was co-sponsored by a Democrat, Rep. Bell saw it was going nowhere this year, and effectively took it off the table in order to craft a bill likelier to get bipartisan support, which he will probably offer during the next session that starts in January.

The decision apparently resulted from a meeting following a similar result for the companion Senate bill, SB 1827. According to email from Claiborne Thornton, Tennessee Home Education Association president:

As a result there were meetings with the Department of Education, Senator Dewayne Bunch, sponsor of SB 1827, Senator Jamie Woodson, Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, and Bruce Opie of the DOE. [Note that it involved only Senators, so Rep. Bell was not present.] ….

In this meeting it was discussed that since legislation had not passed to remedy the problem of the Category IV diplomas not being recognized by the POST, the TN Police Training organization, and by the Department of Human Services, which sets policy for hiring of day care workers, there would be a temporary remedy agreed upon. That remedy would be that on a case-by-case basis, individuals could request a review by these agencies when their diplomas were denied recognition, with the hope that the Category IV diplomas would be recognized by these agencies. This, again, would be the temporary solution until there could be a legislative remedy agreed upon, hopefully next year.

The same email reports:

He intends to bring a new bill to the House Education Committee next year. He is already working on the strategy for this legislation. The bill would state that Category IV diplomas would be recognized by the state and their agencies, whether obtained by a full time, on campus, church-related school student, or a home schooler affiliated with a church-related school, when the student makes a score of 16 on the ACT.
Taking the ACT and making a 16 is about the equivalent of a “C” grade and is the accepted ACT score for admission in many colleges, including student athletes in the UT system. Rep. Bell thinks that this score could be used as a way to validate the student’s high school education and thereby validate their Category IV diploma.  In discussion with the DOE, with fellow House members and others, he has had very positive response to this strategy.

It’ll have to do. The irony is that Tennessee colleges and universities already accept diplomas under these conditions–the ACT basically tests for readiness for college entry. Graduates of any high school must take it, and usually must attain a specific score. Therefore, this bill will really only affect people who don’t intend to go to college.

High schools run by the state do not have such a stated goal–plenty of high schoolers in that system do not plan to attend college, and so follow a different curriculum.

So, in order to compete with other high school graduates for jobs that do not require a college education a homeschool or church-related-school graduate will have to demonstrate readiness to attend college.


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Written by Donnell

May 15th, 2008 at 9:51 am

Minn. driver kills dog, then sues owners for damage – Yahoo! News

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This one fall under the heading of “a lot of gall.” Minn. driver kills dog, then sues owners for damage – Yahoo! News. It also strikes me as legal stupidity. You’ll see in the story that his suit led to a countersuit. Did he not realize that this would happen? Who do you think is likeliest to win? I mean, geez.

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Written by Donnell

May 9th, 2008 at 6:59 am

Posted in General

More details on committee vote

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The Knoxville News-Sentinel today published some details about the committee hearing in the Tennessee legislature on the bill to end discrimination against diplomas granted by church-related schools.

Since that article will only be available for a limited time (I think you have to pay for access after a few weeks for older stories), I wanted to report what they reported regarding how committee members voted.

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? I really, really get sick of partisan politics.

The article also notes this:

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. [On the other hand,] “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, manipulative at worst. The actual text of the bill (technically an amendment) reads:

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.

Do you see anything in there that would require the DoE to “approve” diplomas issued by school that are not state-run? On the contrary, the bill simply requires state agencies to recognize as valid diplomas from schools that other sections of state law recognize as legal. How ludicrous would it be otherwise?

In fact, § 49-50-801 and § 49-6-3050 explicitly prohibit the state from approving or disapproving the teachers or curriculum. This new bill simply puts into law the common sense effect of that. If you can’t approve or disapprove the teachers or curriculum, what possible cause could there be for approving or disapproving the diploma? By trying to cast it as if this bill requires the DoE to approve of such diplomas, they are positioning themselves to de facto approve or disapprove of teachers and curriculum.

If they manage to pull this off, they put themselves in the position of regulating church-related schools without having to spend any state money on them. Enviable maneuvering, yes?

Imagine the parallel: the state of Tennessee recognize driver’s licenses from the state of Virginia as being legal, but since the Tennessee Highway Patrol has no control over the testing for such licenses they refuse to recognize those legal licenses as being valid. Therefore, they may ticket Virginia drivers for not having a valid driver’s license–but, Virginia, we will recognize them as valid if you let us specify your tests and procedures.

How far do you think they would get with that?

Written by Donnell

May 7th, 2008 at 9:33 pm

Update on committee vote

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Yesterday I told you about a Tennessee legislative committee that could affect thousands of people across the state regarding whether their high school diplomas would be considered “valid.” (More here and here.)

Short version update: the needed amendment passed; the Dept. of Education’s ill-advised version did not come up.

Long version update: read Rob Shearer’s summary of what went on.

Written by Donnell

May 6th, 2008 at 9:19 am

TN Department of Education declares church-related schools’ diplomas to be “worthless” « Contending with the Culture

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Rob Shearer also addresses the current controversy in TN Department of Education declares church-related schools’ diplomas to be “worthless” « Contending with the Culture. His post carries some weight–he is the director of the Schaeffer Study Center, and Vice President of the Tennessee Association of Church Related Schools. As such, he is in a position to call a spade a spade rather than a unipersonal earth-moving implement.

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Written by Donnell

May 5th, 2008 at 7:53 pm

Good enough for UT, Vandy, and Harvard


Kay Brooks has a good post entitled “Good enough for UT, Vandy, Harvard…” that starkly contrasts that fact with the reported pronouncement by Tennessee DOE Executive Director of Field Services Cindy Benefield that the diplomas of thousands of Tennessee graduates of church-related schools are “worthless” and “not worth the paper they’re written on.”

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Written by Donnell

May 5th, 2008 at 7:49 pm

TN Dept of Ed appears to be trying to eliminate competition


The headline is an opinion, of course, but I can’t figure any other way to read this. On a page entitled HB1652-SB1827, warns of upcoming action (3 p.m. today!) that could require teachers in church-related schools (and those homeschoolers covered by them as Category IV schools) to conform to Dept. of Education requirements.

This seems ludicrous. As someone who teaches college classes, I am quite aware that graduates of church-related schools and homeschools usually come to college much better prepared than graduates of state-run schools. There are plenty of exceptions, of course, but this is the trend. It’s impossible to make the case that bringing these schools under the oversight of the state more than they already are would somehow improve the education offered by these schools.

According to T.C.A. §49-50-801, schools in this category are exempt from regulation regarding faculty, textbooks, and curriculum. There is a good reason for that. Nevertheless, some rule (not a law, understand, but a bureaucratic rule) dating from 1992 is being interpreted by the Dept. of Education in such a way that it invalidates all the diplomas of graduates of church-related schools since then.

They seem to have set up this scenario so that they could “offer” an amendment to a bill to make diplomas from such schools valid. All they have to do is conform to Dept. of Ed. rules for credentials of state teachers, in effect. How self-serving.

As an example of the idiotic effect of this regulation: Rep. Mike Bell tells about a police officer in Rockwood who has now been removed from duty and his arrests in jeopardy because his 7 year old high school diploma from a Category IV school has now been characterized as ‘worthless’ despite the officer graduating from Walter State Community college and the Police Academy as well as having satisfactorily served as a police officer since January of 2008. One source I read indicated he carried a 4.0 through the Police Academy. Here is a man who has already completed a college education, who is in danger of having that real education invalidated because of a bogus bureaucratic disallowance of a piece of paper.

Rep. Bell has offered a competing (and much better) amendment that basically corrects the situation back to what was intended originally: the state should keeps its hands off church-related schools.

Action on this is slated for 3 p.m. Central time today. By the time most people read this, it will be too late. On the off chance that you see it in time, please follow the link above and contact committee members asking them to support Mike Bell’s amendment. This is about far more than homeschooling; it’s about more unnecessary government encroachment.

Written by Donnell

May 5th, 2008 at 2:10 pm