I Can Hear Music
A little Beach Boys 1969.
Some Republicans had expressed concerns that instead of being the "Race to the Top" bill, the legislation was really the "Race to the Trough," with some legislators expressing concerns that the only reason that these needed reforms were being introduced now was because of the promise of tons of federal money-$485 million to be precise-should Tennessee win the competition for mass federal funding. Many of the proposed reforms were things that conservatives had pushed for years, and some even felt the proposals were watered down significantly because of the influence of the Tennessee Education Association (the teachers' union).
Bredesen was also clear that we need good teachers, and that he would rather see a good teacher with a blackboard and chalk than a mediocre one with the best technology available to them-something conservatives have been saying for years. Bredesen has also said that he intends to bring the teachers' union, the Tennessee Education Association, on board and from the tone of his remarks he intends to do that "by hook or by crook." A deal was struck between the TEA and Democratic lawmakers and the Governor in order to insure the TEA's cooperation.
What really matters for Tennessee's children and the future of our education system is not the federal money this could bring to our schools and our State, but that whether Tennessee wins the Race to the Top competition or not, the beginnings of an education system which encourages excellence could have their genesis in the General Assembly this week.
A lot of people will wonder why our legislators would spend time on something so trivial as the departure of a backstabbing, two-timing so-called coach in the midst of a special session about education reform. Firstly, citizens should know that annual resolutions to honor Tennessee's major sports coaches are a longstanding tradition in the General Assembly, and such is the custom in many States. Since the University of Tennessee is not only a State-funded public institution but is our State's flagship university, our legislators have every right to publicly comment on the doings of its Athletic Department-especially in a situation such as what has occurred with the Lane Kiffin debacle.
Kiffin came to Tennessee with high hopes, and he infused everyone-including, I'm sure, those in the Legislature-with the notion that he was all about returning Tennessee to football glory. The sportswriter and former radio commentator in me should point out that in bringing his father Monty to Tennessee, along with recruiting guru Ed Orgoron, Kiffin seemed to be signalling to Tennesseans that he was very serious in his commitment both to the university, and more importantly, to the State. Let's be honest, however-Kiffin never quite got on well here from the first day.
However, in the short discussion on this legislation before it was voted on today, it was determined that many, if not most rural constables were already committed to the training which this bill (that has yet to be put before the Senate floor, if the legislative calendar reads correctly) mandates. Further, this legislation allocates no money to help train these rural volunteers in the duties of the position to which they have been elected-and that means that the training will continue to be at the constable's expense, despite being mandated at an increased level by the State.
Requiring greater training and certification for constables is a good idea for all concerned, but the State of Tennessee should move away from the general practice of the federal government, which is to require things and practices of States, counties, localities, and citizens which cost money while being unwilling to pay for the requirements to be met. This legislation appears to have the support of the Tennessee Constables' Association, since that body knows that their members are already engaging in the proposed training. However, all concerned-legislators, county governments, sheriffs, and constables-should remember that we presently find ourselves in a time of great economic disparity in which our rural counties find themselves increasingly cash-strapped. Unless there is a very quick rebound in the fortunes of the economy, rural counties may not have the resources to give their sheriffs everything that they may need to do their job to the most effective degree possible, and that may mean a greater reliance on rural constables than many are used to.
Tim Burchett's concern is a very legitimate one, especially in light of the reality that many school systems already spend the resources that they do have in very questionable ways, or otherwise cannot account for those monies. Despite the various criticisms which appear in this space directed at the Bredesen Administration, one of the things Bredesen is generally known for is maintaining a climate of fiscal responsibility throughout State government. It seems to be not in keeping with these practices for the Governor to call a special session for the purpose of passing legislation that would help secure more funding for education without knowing the guidelines for how those funds are to be spent.