Tennessee State Senator Jack Johnson on the Structure and Importance of Your Local School Board

Tennessee State Senator Jack Johnson on the Structure and Importance of Your Local School Board

 

Live from Music Row Wednesday 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 Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson to the newsmakers line to discuss the structure of state education policy, local school boards, and the importance of their elections.

Leahy: On our newsmaker line we welcome back State Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson. Jack, thanks for your patience. If you would indulge me. Jack, I just have to read this breaking story.

I’m not asking you to comment on this breaking story. We’ll get back to education in just a minute. I just have to read this because it’s funny. (Laughs) Are you ready for this Jack?

Johnson: I’m ready.

Leahy: This statement by Donald J. Trump just came out, like a minute ago. I’ll just read it. You don’t have to comment on it, but I find it very amusing. Just like in the 2020 presidential elections, it was announced overnight in New York City that vast, irregularities and mistakes were made in that Eric Adams, despite an almost insurmountable lead, may not win the race.

The fact is, based on what has happened, nobody will ever know who really won. The presidential race was a scam and a hoax, with numbers and results being found that are massive, shocking, and determinative.

Watch the mess you’re about to see in New York City. It will go on forever. They should close the books and do it all over again the old-fashioned way when we had results that were accurate and meaningful. Jack, thanks for letting me get that statement out. I’m not going to ask you for a comment. (Laughter) Isn’t that amusing?

Johnson: I would like to make one statement. And that’s why in Tennessee we don’t have universal mail-in voting. But we have a very strict system. You can vote absentee, but you must request the ballot with the signature.

That signature is verified, and you must do it and have a reason for voting absentee. And I believe that the root of many of the problems in last November’s elections, and I do think it’s very ironic, I believe, is a word you used earlier in the program that New York (Laughter) and what is going on is because of their massive mail-out voting.

It’s problematic. We’re not going to do that in Tennessee I can assure you.

Leahy: All I have to say to that Jack is, Amen brother. And thank goodness for the Tennessee General Assembly and for Secretary of State Tre Hargett, because we don’t have those kinds of problems here in Tennessee.

So a good point. Thanks for that comment. It’s just so funny.  I just had to bring it up. (Chuckles) Now, Jack, we’re talking a little bit about education and it seems to me that we have at 145 separate school districts in the state, and they all have boards of education and people run for it.

And here’s what I’ve noticed. I liked to get your comment on this, and these are probably groups that you deal with, but I have a perspective that maybe they’re not doing such a hot job. So what happens is people will run for the board.

They’ll have an agenda that’s more traditional education. They get elected to the board, and then they go off to training with the group called the Tennessee School Boards Association.

And somehow they get the impression from that training, this is how I see it, that their job is not to run the schools, but to do whatever the school Superintendent does. I think that’s wrong. Am I off on that, or is there something there to it?

Johnson: No, you’re exactly right in terms of the way it should operate. The way that the system is designed. And it is it’s a little bit complex. But I think on paper, it’s a good system, which is that you have the state, you have the General Assembly, people that are elected like myself, to serve in the General Assembly.

We set broad education policy for the state in terms of standards and the way schools should operate, so that we have a degree of consistency across the state. And then we have created political subdivisions, that is what they’re legally referred to as, in the form of a school board school.

We call them local education agencies, LEAs, or local education authorities. Sometimes people say that. So we create these LEAs that are run by an elected school board. And it’s not a perfect analogy, but I think it’s the best we have, which is to think of that school board as a board of directors.

That’s what they are. And just like with a company, a board of directors hires a CEO to run the day-to-day operations. And so you have locally elected school boards that set the local policy that makes those decisions about the curriculum and about things that are important to the community that might be different.

As I said earlier before the break, from community to community. That’s why we don’t want consistency across the state. The elected boards are the ones that are accountable to the electorate.

They’re duly constitutionally elected. They should set the local policy and then that policy should be enacted by the director of schools or the school Superintendent. Whatever you choose to call them.

And so I agree with you wholeheartedly. And I do see, and we’ve certainly had a testimony, and we’ve had folks that have come in and talked about that its kind of the inverse that the director comes in and tells the board what needs to be done from a policy standpoint.

And that’s fine for them to make recommendations. But ultimately, that policy should be set by the elected school board.

Leahy: Yeah, I agree with that. And it seems to me, however, that the way this institution is set up, it is very difficult for a school board member to come in that wants to reverse course from these various elements of critical race series that are now creeping into the school systems and other things that they don’t like.

Very difficult for one member of a 12 member board or two or three to change course and then actually to get the local school district director to follow their direction. Instead, it seems like the school superintendents are unaccountable and tell the school board what to do, which is exactly the opposite.

I think that makes people very discouraged. Last question for you, what do you think we do in the future on this?

Johnson: I’m a glass-half-full kind of guy, and I’m encouraged that there is more engagement from parents and communities relative to the school board. We have school board elections next year, and I think that there’s going to be a great high level of engagement. And that’s the answer to the problem that you just outlined.

Leahy: Let’s hope it happens that way.

Listen to the full first hour here:

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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 “Jack Johnson” by Jack Johnson. 

 

 

 

 

 

IWF’s Sr. Policy Analyst Patrice Onwuka Talks Biden Rubber Stamped Policies, Trump at CPAC, and the Hypocrisy of the Left

IWF’s Sr. Policy Analyst Patrice Onwuka Talks Biden Rubber Stamped Policies, Trump at CPAC, and the Hypocrisy of the Left

 

Live from Music Row Wednesday 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 the Independent Women’s Forum Senior Policy Analyst, Patrice Onwuka to the newsmakers line.

During the second hour, Onwuka reviewed the Biden administration’s COVID relief package that would essentially bail out blue cities and states and sweeping legislation not mentioned on the campaign trail. She also forewarned in the coming weeks of rubber-stamped legislation that would be detrimental to American workers and families and highlighted the hypocrisy of the left.

Leahy: We are joined once again by Patrice Onwuka of the Independent Women’s Forum a very important writer here. And she’s been tracking what’s been going on with the Biden administration. I think you’re perhaps less enthused about it than many in Washington D.C. are. Welcome, Patricia. Thanks so much for joining us today.

Onwuka: Absolutely. Thank you for having me, Michael Patrick.

Leahy: By Patrice that that is very common. People actually refer to me as Patrick sometimes because it’s in their mind that Senator Patrick Leahy my distant cousin whom I’ve never met. Distant cousin. Is perhaps the most famous Leahy of the world at the moment. And I have to say we’ve never met and although I did invite him to be on a Leahy Family Feud program back in 2009 when I was at the PJTV with a little Internet TV show.

He declined. We’re on opposites of the spectrum. But he does look a bit like my grandfather. (Chuckles) I’ll tell you that. You have been talking and writing a little bit about the Biden administration. What’s your current take on what they’re up to?

Onwuka: It’s distressful. Frankly all of the things that then-candidate Biden at the time hid. Everything from his energy policies to his labor policies that he didn’t cover on the campaign trail. But we’re now seeing between the sweeping executive orders that were passed within the first month to now this $1.9 trillion COVID relief package which has everything and the kitchen sink that Democrats have always wanted to pass through.

And that’s just the start. I think over the next few weeks we are going to see some major sweeping legislative proposals that he has been rubber-stamped. Everything from election changes to labor policies. It’s going to be scary for the American worker and the American family.

Leahy: Yes. I must agree with you about that. Many Republicans have said look this one point nine trillion-dollar coronavirus relief package as it’s called, only about nine percent of the one point nine trillion dollars actually goes for Coronavirus relief. About 350 billion goes to bailouts for fiscally irresponsible blue cities and blue states. There is a lot of other pork in that bill as well.

Onwuka: Oh absolutely. There’s money for union pension. Money for Planned Parenthood. For the universities for the arts. Even Nancy Pelosi, she’s going to be bringing home tens of billions of dollars to California for things like transit projects. So it’s not surprising that that that I think progressives or those on the left would try and use this massive sweeping spending bill to tuck their favorite pet projects in there and hope that because it has the name COVID relief that people will just pass it right off the bat.

We did see that the House passed the bill. Although there were there was enough pushback from Democrats. And the question is what’s going to happen when it comes up for a vote in the Senate either this week or next week? And not surprisingly it’s going to be a party-line vote. However, they’ve got to ensure that all 50 of their Democrats stay in line. If not, this bill could be sunk.

Leahy: So the two Democratic senators whose names come up most often as possible opponents to the bill are Manchin of West Virginia and Kristen Sinema of Arizona. Do you have any indications reading the tea leaves of where they stand?

Onwuka: Because the $15 minimum wage increases if not likely to be part of the final package. They’re more likely to vote Yes. Now that’s not guaranteed but that $15 federal minimum wage hike was going to be the death knell for this whole bill. Now thankfully we saw the parliamentarian the person who decides, what can and cannot be in a sweeping spending bill like this.

She said hey, no this can’t be in there. Unfortunately, Senator Bernie Sanders was very sad. I  insert the meme of him sitting with his legs folded and a sad face because this was really his pet that $15 minimum wage. So because it’s not likely to pass with that in there I think you’ll see Sinema and Manchin come on board. Now, that’s not to say that that something someone else may not hop out. I mean, it’s like a basket of kittens you put one in another one can come out if they don’t get some guarantees or something in that bill that they really want for their folks.

Leahy: I’d be curious as to your reaction to President Trump’s speech at CPAC over the weekend. Did you like it? Do you think he was on top of his game? And who reported on that? I didn’t see much of it in the mainstream media.

Onwuka: No, I think Fox News maybe and Newsmax and some of those more right leading Outlets or are actually independent leading outlets. They covered it. I watched a speech I thought I would have loved to have seen more of this President Trump on the campaign trail because he really number one touted a lot of the great accomplishments that his administration passed on everything from Immigration policies shoring up our borders to the robust economies we had going into the coronavirus pandemic.

And thank goodness the economy was as strong as it was because I think that has softened the blow for workers and I know we’ve got millions of people who are still unemployed. But I think it could have been worse. So he did a great job of laying out what he did when he was in office and then contrasting with what Joe Biden is doing.

His far swing to the left and the fact that a lot of these policies that he kept on the campaign trail and that the media did not ask him about we’re now seeing. And so I think it’s in its opening the eyes of many people. I wish you’d stayed away from the electoral stuff and kind of the campaign was stolen language.

But he absolutely did redefine that the Republican Party is a party based on ideas and policies of low taxes, leadership, America first policies that prioritize American workers and American businesses, and of secure safe borders and safe neighborhoods and communities. Those are really strong conservative topics and issues and I think he’s saying this is who we are.

Leahy: Patrice and woke us senior policy Analyst at the Independent Women’s Forum. One word comes to mind when I look at what Joe Biden is doing with the Biden administration is doing what all the Democrats in Congress are doing. That word is hypocrisy. (Laughter) and you know, there’s a case in point. Did you see the story about what the leader of the California teachers union has been doing?

Onwuka: Oh, yes. Oh yes. (Chuckles)

Leahy: Tell our audience about this because it just I mean I saw this and my eyes glazed over.

Onwuka: Oh this guy, he’s priceless. He’s a young man with a little girl and I think she was in Pre-K or a Kindergartner. He was walking her to Pre-K in the morning. Both of them wearing their masks crossing the street. And that should be fine right? Except he is the president of the teachers’ unions in one of the biggest I think cities or maybe the across the state of California and he is taking his daughter to a private institution where she’s able to learn and play.

Leahy: In person!

Onwuka: In person. But all of the kids in California in a lot of districts in public schools do not have that blessing or that benefit. And I think it highlights the hypocrisy of a lot of these leftist leaders and particularly teachers’ union folks who rail against school choice. Who rail against the idea that poor kids should be able to take the federal funds that go to public school and take those two private options, to parochial schools, to charter schools, or even homeschooling and giving them that choice these folks they have a choice they can afford to pay for private school.

They can afford to pay for private tutors, but they do not want to give that to you know, the poor black and brown kids. And hey, by the way, listeners, I’m a Black kid. I grew up in a poor neighborhood with an immigrant family and I made it. And thank goodness. I wish my story could be replicated because of school choice but the teachers’ unions will not allow it.

Leahy: Patrice Onwuka, senior policy analyst at the Independent Women’s Forum. Thanks so much for joining us again. And please come back and come visit us in Nashville.

Onwuka: Alright. Thank you, Mike.

Listen to the full third hour here:


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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 “Patrice Onwuka” by Independent Women’s Forum.