Saturday, January 09, 2010

Real Education Reform in Tennessee

The Tennessee General Assembly begins 2010 with a special session on education reform to begin Tuesday, January 12th, when the second regular session of the 106th General Assembly was originally slated to convene.

That leads to our question of the weekend for reader response.

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Friday, January 08, 2010

Educational Spending Accountability

The "education Governor" might forward the notion of accountability in next week's legislative special session:

The purpose of the special session, to make the necessary reforms so that Tennessee can compete for federal "Race to the Top" education funding, is laudable, but considering the rather broad language used in the Governor's official call, what would prevent the Legislature from enacting a tax increase to fund many of the education initiatives that the Governor outlined in his proclamation of the special session? We do know that this Governor has a history of allowing for tax hikes and calling them "fee increases," and based on that record we can only be left with the possibility that the Governor might try to push such a hidden measure in the special session.

Some readers may say "now Oatney, aren't you in favor of investing as much into education as we can, considering that so many school systems in Tennessee are in such dire straits." I do indeed favor a shift in priorities in favor of education, but up to now I have not been overly impressed with where Governor Bredesen has placed his educational dollars. He insists on investment in his treasured pre-kindergarten program while many secondary schools in rural areas are falling down around the students inside them. In my home county of Jefferson, the high school needs replaced and the curriculum is in dire need of an update, but in the meantime the current high school needs some renovation just to make it usable for a seemingly ever-increasing student population. "Oatney," you say, "doesn't that reality necessitate a tax increase." Jefferson Countians approved a sales tax increase to fund new school construction in an August 2008 referendum, and Jefferson County's wheel tax-which was originally approved in the 1970's solely for the construction of the current Jefferson County High School-has been doubled, all in the name of increasing education funding. Property taxes continue to rise, but citizens simply aren't getting value and results for their education dollar.

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Thursday, January 07, 2010

Run Against A Hero?

How do you run against an American hero?:

What could the party say, that Windle doesn't show up for votes because he is risking his life in uniform on the other side of the world? How do you campaign against that, and is there anything about that level of devotion to the armed forces and the country that could cause us to rightfully assert that Windle's record is poor, especially when he will have around 400 of his constituents under his command?

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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Liberals Think the End Is Near

Democrats are bracing for the fall:

You know it could be bad in 2010 for Democrats and liberals when some of the most dedicated liberals in this part of the country are warning within their press organs for their people to prepare for the coming political apocalypse. Furthermore, when Democrats become scared that a gospel-singing farmer might defeat an old political veteran like State Sen. Roy Herron for an open congressional seat, the Tennessee Democratic Party appears to be in far worse shape than previously expounded on in these pages.

For all of the talk among dedicated Democrats about politics running in cycles, what we are seeing develop in Tennessee and around the country is beyond the mere cyclical comeback of Republicans. If current political trends continue, Democrats will have squandered their majority status in less than four years' time. The sad part for Democrats (and pleasing part for Republicans) is that every bit of it could have been prevented.

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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The Persecution

Poor persecuted Tennessee House Speaker Kent Williams:

Realistically, it is neither politically advantageous
or a political disadvantage on a Statewide scale for Kent Williams to tout the whole "Carter County Republican" line. The reaction of the voter on the street is "Republican, not a Republican, who gives a flying flip." The issue does matter to two subgroups of people-those who have invested money, time, or energy in the cause of a Republican majority-one which would allow the Republican Caucus to choose its own nominee for Speaker-and those Republican legislators who might be predisposed either to vote for Williams for Speaker or are diametrically opposed to him.

The only place where the Speaker can gain anything by his responses to actions about which he supposedly sees as a distraction is in the political universe that is Carter County, the only place on earth where anyone actually buys the "poor persecuted Kent" routine. No one who has seen the way things are working in the House of Representatives-whether they favor or oppose calling Kent Williams a Republican-can rightfully say that Williams gets the icy treatment from his colleagues (who let him back into the House Republican Caucus of their own accord) and that this somehow makes the House ungovernable, or that Williams' saga with the SEC impacts anyone other than him, the Executive Committee, and the Chairman. The only way that it would impact anyone else is if Kent Williams believes what others, including me, do not-that he could have a Republican opponent in Carter County in November and be beaten.

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Monday, January 04, 2010

Wilder's Mark On History

The good and the bad of the late Lieutenant Governor John Wilder's legacy to Tennessee:

A cotton planter and lawyer by profession, John Wilder admitted in his farewell address to the Tennessee Senate in 2008 not only how much he loved the upper chamber, but that the Senate was where he believed he had made the most difference in his life. Indeed, much of Tennessee's modern road system, as well as our dramatic improvements in education over the last three decades have John Wilder largely to thank for their existence. It was one of the great ironies of his life that Wilder spent much of it as one of the last great relics of the "old Tennessee" while helping to bring the Tennessee that we know today into existence.

Wilder was often at his most partisan when attempting to advocate for so-called "non-partisanship," as was the case with his Tennessee Plan for selecting State judges. In order to keep "partisan politics" out of the judiciary, John Wilder pushed through a plan which allowed for a commission to select judges and voters to then retain the judges most never saw or knew anything about by Yes/No retention votes. This is a blatant violation of the Tennessee Constitution, which clearly calls for elected judges. The reason we still do not elect judges today-in violation of our State's supreme law-is largely because of John Wilder's original "Tennessee Plan." The selection as opposed to election of judges has led to one of the South's most liberal and arguably Democratic-partisan judiciaries, and may be the most glaring black mark on Wilder's largely stellar political legacy.

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