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?