Live from Music Row, Friday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed all-star panelist and the CEO of Professional Educators of Tennessee JC Bowman in studio to discuss the $500,000 Tennessee principal trip to Louisville, Kentucky, Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn, and school safety.
Leahy: We welcome to our microphones right now, our very good friend for many years, the CEO of Professional Educators of Tennessee. This is the alternative to the left-wing teachers’ unions, Mr. JC. Bowman. Good morning, JC.
Bowman: Good morning, Michael! How are you doing today?
Leahy: A little bit cold out there.
Bowman: Well, in Fairbanks, they consider this day at the beach.
Leahy: A day at the beach. We have an important announcement to make. You and I have been friends for many, many years. You’ve been on the program before. On Monday, it will mark six years of The Tennessee Star operating here in the state of Tennessee. It’s a long time.
Bowman: Oh, it’s great, too.
Leahy: And you are one of our first advertisers at the Professional Educators of Tennessee. And we thank you for helping launch us. We’ve been friends for a long time. You’ve been on the program for a long time. Ladies and gentlemen, officially today, Mr. JC. Bowman is an all-star panelist on The Tennessee Star Report.
Bowman: (Cheers) I’m excited! I get access to the coffee pot now.
Leahy: You get access to the coffee pot, and you get our undying gratitude. Our newest all-star panelist is an expert on education. There’s a story that we and our education writer, TC Weber wrote, a great writer and an expert on education in Tennessee, particularly in Metro Nashville.
He had a very interesting story about a boondoggle that Metro Nashville school folks were on. About half a million bucks to send folks up for training in Louisville. Tell us a little bit about that.
Bowman: Yes, a couple of things. First off, let’s talk about TC, for a second. TC is a tremendous writer. You’re right; he has got guts. And he’s been visited by Homeland Security and everybody else for some of the articles he writes. He’s got great courage to write. Interesting guy.
This is the only place you’ll find those stories in The Tennessee Star. They’re taking all the principals, and I think the assistant principals, anybody that is a principal, you’re going to Kentucky to study and talk about public strategy for public education out of the public eye in Kentucky.
Nashville is a destination city. We got buildings everywhere. We’ve got seven universities that would give you space. Why Kentucky? I don’t know. What are we stealing from Kentucky?
Leahy: Boondoggle. (Laughs) I mean, come on.
Bowman: Think about what half a million dollars could go for in our schools just for kids and academics. And listen, this is what got them in trouble under Sean Joseph’s regime. And again, Weber called that out. And that’s what I think is amazing about it. Nobody else covered that story, and it’s well known they put it out that they’re doing it, and they have no shame.
If it was some like, magic bullet, you could go up there. One of the things I think we got to really look at, Michael, is the whole travel regime for everywhere we go. It’s like we go to vacations. We’re out to a conference. And if COVID taught us anything, you could do it online.
Why do we have to go on all these trips with state officials on down? Every once in a while, I understand it. I get it. I traveled in Florida for some of the things, but I hated to travel. It wasn’t something I looked forward to. But they planned these trips out. We need to really take a hard look.
Leahy: Speaking of education travel, we have a milk carton here, and it has a picture on it. A missing person. Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn. Has anybody seen her?
Bowman: Yes. She’s come back. I got in trouble for that, by the way. They called me out on that one. And they said, make sure we say something good about her. They let me know that she had some health issues, and that’s why she was out.
But of course, I think that she continued to travel places. So I think that’s the thing. I did see she made the rounds at the Capitol up there, and I did run into her at the Capitol, so I’ll give her that much.
Leahy: But her leadership is dreadful, and she’s not enforcing the anti-CRT bill that’s out there. The challenges that were made in Williamson County, she’s doing nothing with it.
Bowman: We don’t enforce any laws. The funny thing, Michael, is that we have to write new laws. We were working on teacher assault last year. It’s one of my pet projects. And as I started digging into the law, it was already on the books in three different places. We just don’t enforce the laws that are already on the books.
Leahy: Did Penny Schwinn say something nice about me, or did her staff ask you to say something nice about me?
Bowman: I was talking to one of her staff members. Yes. Absolutely. Not to say something nice, but mention the department. And I have been very polite and very kind. I do like, Grow Your Own Program. That’s a good program. I’ve said this before. It is not the be all, end all of everything. It’s a nice thing in the gun.
Leahy: We’ve invited Penny Schwinn to come on the program and to defend her record. She’s not shown up.
Bowman: No, and she won’t.
Leahy: Why not? How can we say nice things about her if she doesn’t show up? (Laughs)
Bowman: Well, that’s the thing.
Leahy: There’s nothing nice to say about her, in my view.
Bowman: Well, Governor Lee doesn’t show up.
Leahy: Who? Who? (Laughs) We’ve invited him. He’s been governor. He was elected in 2018.
Bowman: But he’s preparing for State of the State.
Leahy: That’s coming up.
Bowman: I do know a little bit, I think, because I do work on that a little bit. One of the things I’m really pushing and advocating for is school security. And I’m like; we have to protect kids. We have to protect teachers. And so I’m trying to make sure that they do that, but I know that they’re going to address it somewhere. I think school security is an issue.
Leahy: Yes, it definitely is an issue.
Bowman: They didn’t fund SROs. That’s part of the problem.
Leahy: Tell our audience what an SRO is.
Bowman: You got two groups of people got SROs, School Resource Officers, which fall under the purview and the authority and are following law enforcement. They are officers on school grounds. And you have this thing called SSOs, which, I’m just being honest…
Leahy: What is an SSO?
Bowman: That is a School Safety Officer that is the equivalent of a mall cop. And so they are run by the school, and they answer to the director of schools. And so there’s a real difference between the two. I want my school to be represented by an SRO so if there’s an incident; law enforcement can handle it right there.
Leahy: Have you noticed the recent reports about the performance of schools at the third-grade level? And now there’s this big bill about the retention bill that passed last year and is scheduled to go into effect this year. A lot of teachers are complaining about the bill. As I understand it, you have this TN Ready test that third graders take.
And unless you show you’re proficient in reading and writing primarily, you will be either held back for a year or have to go to summer school. I’ve seen reports that as many as two-thirds of students here in Tennessee are not proficient at their third-grade level. How is this going to play out?
Listen to today’s show highlights, including this interview:
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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “J. C. Bowman” by J. C. Bowman. Photo “Penny Schwinn” by Tennessee Board of Regents. Background Photo “Classroom” by Wokandapix.