JC Bowman on the Resignation of Penny Schwinn and Appointment of Lizzette Gonzales Reynolds as New TN Commissioner of Education

May 2, 2023

Live from Music Row, Tuesday 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 JC Bowman of Professional Educators of Tennessee in studio to comment on Tennessee’s new commissioner of education.

Leahy: We are joined in studio by our good friend for many years. Mr. JC Bowman, who is the head of Professional Educators of Tennessee. Good morning, JC.

Bowman: Hey, good morning, Michael.

Leahy: Tell our listeners what Professional Educators of Tennessee does.

Bowman: We are a non-partisan Teachers Association. And where some people really miss this, we’re not a union. We’re not out there aggressively.

Leahy: You hear the applause in the background. Yay. You’re not a union.

Bowman: We’re not a union. And, there are a lot of the same things we do. We provide legal liability. Here’s the thing that most people don’t understand. The teachers are regularly challenged with lawsuits—everything from copyright violations.

If you’re a band teacher, for example, you use a piece of music from Star Wars or you pick it. If you violate something, you get a letter to cease and desist. Your first call is to your district and saying, hey, by the way, I’m gonna be sued by the, whomever for music and blah, blah, blah.

And this next call is going to be to us. And so legal is a huge deal for teachers out there, and I would say probably one-third of the teachers in Tennessee have either been threatened with or have gotten involved in a lawsuit.

Leahy: Isn’t that crazy that this kinda world we live in right now?

Bowman: Everything they come up with. If you look at a kid wrong, you talk to that kid wrong you’re in violation. Legal is one of them. Professional development is our huge thing. We’re working on some things, Michael, that are so cool that what we’re are going to try to be doing is actually linking to them if they want to get another degree, tying it into a university.

We’ve got this thing worked out that we’re going to be able to do some things. And you can literally come in, get your professional development and start working on your next degree or add endorsements, things that your average listener doesn’t understand what a real association should be doing.

Leahy: You’re doing what a real association should be doing on the web at proedtn.org.

Bowman: Yes, sir.

Leahy: You’ve been in education for years and years, Professional Educators of Tennessee. How long have you been doing that here?

Bowman: I’ve been here for 13 years doing this. But I started it; I was one of the people who helped start it back in 1979. We re-revamped it in 1991.

Leahy: And you’re a native Tennesseean.

Bowman: I am a Tennesseean.

Leahy: You are. We love that.

Bowman: And listen, nobody had to come to get me. I’m a Tennesseean.

Leahy: Exactly. Now, that’s interesting that you’re a Tennesseean. I want to see if you can give us some clues as to the latest announcement of an educational tourist arriving in Tennessee. Penny Schwinn was the educational tourist selected by Governor Bill Lee to be the education commissioner.

We’ve been very critical of pretty much everything that she’s done. UC Berkeley grad, woke. Was commissioner of education from 2019. Yesterday at three o’clock they announced that she was leaving. How could you tell because for six months nobody’s really seen her in the office?

She’s been in, Aspen, Colorado, and Washington, D.C. Not seen much around Tennessee. No tears are being shed for her departure anywhere, from what I can tell. But Governor Bill Lee seems to have a certain type that he likes to bring in. Apparently, no one in the state of Tennessee according to Governor Bill Lee is competent enough to be the commissioner of education.

He had to go outside again. He’s selected, she may be a nice person, her name is Lizzette Gonzalez Reynolds, who as far as I can tell, has never lived a minute of her life in the state of Tennessee. She’s from Texas and Florida.

Also, I don’t think she’s ever taught. Ever, from what I can tell, she’s a policy-type wonk who, I guess, started life out as, wait for it, a Democrat in Texas. Then became deputy commissioner of education in Texas, then worked for Jeb Bush. What’s the deal with educational tourists coming in as commissioners of education?

Bowman: It’s easier for the governor to control somebody from outside of the state because they’re only it’s the Jack Weltz principle. You bring people in from out of state, then you can access them, that’s who they control. That’s who’s there. And their loyalty is only to the governor.

They know nobody here. And so if you get mad, they don’t care. I’m telling you her first step. She better go see the media and start trying to build some of the bridges back. And she needs to start sitting down with stakeholders here in Tennessee.

Leahy: I’m shocked that she never appeared here because, it would’ve, we’ve been so nice to her. We had an open invitation for Penny Schwinn to come in. She never showed up. Of course, the governor has never shown up here. All the state legislators and now other members of the Tennessee cabinet have shown up here. But so we are going to invite the newly named Commissioner of Education Lizzette Gonzalez Reynolds to come in and talk about education.

Bowman: She’s sitting there in Texas. She’s got nothing to do right now. Why doesn’t she call in? That’s the thing is that she’s got a three-month window. I don’t understand why they don’t go ahead and bring her up here. They clearly knew she was coming.

Leahy: But she has other priorities apparently right now.

Bowman: And that would be working for a foundation?

Leahy: I don’t know. My point is that Governor Lee, I want to talk about this. There’s a guy there in the Department of Education who knows the Tennessee General Assembly, who’s a good guy. His name is Bill Dunn. Former state rep. Why didn’t you pick him?

Bowman: Dunn would’ve been the logical choice.

Leahy: You said the magical word, logical.

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 Reporwith Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “J.C. Bowman” by J.C. Bowman. Background Photo “Classroom” by Wokandapix.