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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Good enough for UT, Vandy, and Harvard

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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

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The headline is an opinion, of course, but I can’t figure any other way to read this. On a page entitled HB1652-SB1827, TnHomeEd.com 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

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