Inez Feltscher Stepman Weighs in on Why School Choice Is Now More Important Than Ever

Inez Feltscher Stepman Weighs in on Why School Choice Is Now More Important Than Ever


Live from Music Row Thursday 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 Inez Feltscher Stepman who is the senior policy analyst at the Independent Women’s Forum to the newsmakers line.

During the second hour, Stepman outlined what she saw as the Biden administration’s agenda for public schools revealing the opportunity states would have in response giving parents choice and leverage. She later explained how over two dozen viable school choice programs and expansions of those programs have been proposed by legislatures in 17 states nationwide.

Leahy: We are joined on the newsmaker line now by Inez Stepman. A senior policy analyst at the Independent Women’s Forum and a senior contributor to The Federalist. She has a B.A. in philosophy from the University of California at San Diego. A J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law, and she lives in New York City now with her husband. Inez, welcome to The Tennessee Star Report.

Stepman: It’s great to be here. Thanks.

Leahy: So you have had a little bit of a geographic tour of the United States. San Diego, UVA Law School, and New York City. These are three places that are really quite different, aren’t they?

Stepman: Absolutely. And in between that I lived in Phoenix for a short time. Definitely a couple of other places as well. So I’ve done a lot of looking around America, which has been really great actually. I’ve driven back and forth as well a few times which has been awesome. It’s a great country.

Leahy: It gives you a good perspective that I think that a lot of people, you know in Washington D.C. who’ve lived there all their lives don’t quite have. I wanted to have you on the program today it is because you wrote a really great op-ed at The Hill about a week ago. Coronavirus Spotlights Why School Choice is More Important Than Ever. Tell us about your argument.

Stepman: Well, I think Americans have been forced to recognize a truth that maybe some of us who have been working in education policy or have seen working with teachers unions or opposition to teachers unions for quite some time. But I think it’s now it’s hard to deny that teachers unions and generally the district schools, priorities are simply are not children’s education. Their priorities are protecting the adults in our system.

And I think these school reopening battles across the country have really shown how that’s true. And it’s made it really clear to a lot of families who might have thought previously that they might have had issues with their district school. They might have not liked what’s being taught and social studies or something like that. But they thought that the school was generally well-intentioned and that the priority of a lot of the adults was an education for their children.

And unfortunately, we’re seeing that these negotiations in many cases are not taking place with good faith on the part of unions or good faith on the part of school districts. They are essentially ignoring family’s needs and their children’s needs because they can. Because the system is set up to allow them to continue to ignore families.

Leahy: Let me read this paragraph from your excellent op-ed at The Hill. “President Joe Biden’s pick for Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona remains somewhat of a cipher. However, Biden’s choice for Deputy Secretary Cindy Marten is primarily known for keeping San Diego schools firmly closed and injecting critical race theory into classrooms including praising a proposal to send all White teachers to quote ‘anti-racist therapy.'” What does the Biden administration have in line for school choice and education in America?

Stepman: Well, I think that the first EO the Biden administration put out within the first couple of days of the administration is a good indicator of where that administration is going to go on education. And that is the EO on Title 9, which people are focusing on sports, right? So this EO demands essentially defines discrimination on the basis of sex in our civil rights law as including gender identity and including the ability of biological males for example to run on the women’s track team. But it’s broader than just sports, right?

It applies to locker rooms and applies to bathrooms or any kind of real single-sex environments at Public Schools. I think that’s a good indication of where the administration is going because I think it’s going to be a lot of culturally “woke” EOs, policies, or Grant programs. Now, fortunately, the vast majority of education decisions are still made on the state level. It’s at the state and local levels.

The vast majority of the money that goes to fund education comes from the state and local. And so the good news is I think the states have an enormous opportunity to push back against this and to push back against repeated school closures and sometimes ridiculous demands from teachers. For example in Fairfax County in Virginia teachers unions are actually demanding that schools stay shut and not resume normal in-person learning until well into 2022.

They’re saying that they don’t want to reopen until all the students not just all the teachers but all the students are vaccinated. We don’t even have a vaccine approved for kids yet. So, you know that we’re talking about years and years of kids’ lives and their education is on hold until well into 2022. I think that problem and to push back against whatever woke EOs the Biden administration has in store for schools, states have an enormous opportunity to give parents choice and leverage by starting to route some of the enormous amounts of money that we spend on K-12 education directly to families instead of sending it to districts.

Leahy: Here’s a question for you. Why don’t state governments just tell the federal government, you know that 10 percent of education funding that we get from you? Why don’t governments just say hey Biden administration, you can take that 10 percent of that education money and all of your regulations and you can keep them in Washington. We don’t want them. We’re going to run our schools the way we want with state and local money only. Do you see that as a possibility?

Stepman: Well, (Chuckles) what’s the Reagan quote? There’s nothing so permanent as a government program. I would add that I’ve never seen a government agency refuse the money. (Laughter) Unfortunately, I don’t see that as a realistic possibility. Although that would be something to see. I’d certainly like to see it. But fundamentally, what states can do is say hey look at these district schools and how they are taking these grants that are heavily regulated by the feds.

The Biden administration is likely to put out more guidance on, for example, discipline which has had some really negative effects when it was done under the Obama administration. They’re likely to put out a bunch more guidance on various cultural topics from the top. But families can opt-out if the states passed the kind of programs that allow them to do so.

That allows more than just those who are wealthy enough to do that. So obviously families are opting out right now. There are 10 percent of the sector is for private schools (i.e. parents are sending and sacrificing their own money,) which is difficult and it’s a sacrifice for a lot of families who do send their kids to private school because they are paying twice right? They’re paying taxes for the public school and then they’re paying on top of that.

They’re paying tuition to a private school. And there are 2 million homeschoolers. So we already have quite robust alternatives to the public school system, but not every family can take advantage of that for a variety of reasons. Whether that’s financial or whether it’s simply a time issue for with homeschooling or in some cases families just are not set up to take advantage of those kinds of opportunities without the additional financial assistance.

As long as they’re paying double, right? So states have a huge opportunity now, I think. And I think they’re taking advantage of it. We’ve seen well over two dozen viable school choice programs and expansions of school choice programs expanded or bills to expand them offered in state legislature so far in 17 different states. So I think the states are looking at this.

And I think what is really going to determine the future of the education system and not just for this year but I think for the next 10 or 20 years is really going to be how active families are in voicing the fact to their state legislatures that these kinds of school choice programs are not an option. Especially after the experience that we’ve had for the last year that these are a necessity.

And they are a necessity. Not just those for those who want to use them to leave the public school system. Although that’s definitely part of it. They’re necessary for families who want to see stay in the public school system because of that next appointment between the PTA and the Superintendent. Or that next appointment you have with your principal to express dissatisfaction with something about your child’s education is going to go a lot differently if the superintendent, the principal, or the teachers union knows that their salaries are dependent upon your decision about whether or not you’re happy with the education your child gets. So that my friends is called leverage. And that’s what I think American families deserve.

Leahy: Inez Stepman, SEnior Policy on School Choice with the Independent Women’s Forum. Thank you for joining us today. Please come back.

Stepman: Thank you so much for having me.

Listen to the full second 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.








Metro Nashville School Board Member Fran Bush Talks About Personal Attacks She’s Received on Facebook Because She Advocated for Students to Get Back in the Classroom

Metro Nashville School Board Member Fran Bush Talks About Personal Attacks She’s Received on Facebook Because She Advocated for Students to Get Back in the Classroom


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 Michael Patrick Leahy welcomed MNPS District Six School Board Member Fran Bush to the studio to discuss the vicious attacks she received via Facebook for advocating that students return to in-person schooling in Metro Nashville Public Schools.

Leahy: We have a treat today. We are in the studio with our very good friend Metro Nashville Public School Board member Fran Bush. Good morning Fran.

Bush: Good morning. Good morning, everybody.

Leahy: You know and we’re so nice here Fran. We’re always nice in our dialogue. You have had a very interesting time since last you were in here in studio. You have the temerity to simply express your view in a social media exchange with a member of the Metro Nashville Public School teachers union. And as I recall it the Metro Nashville Public School teacher person whose name I forget right now had put a little post on Facebook and said, you know, we’re not going back until we’re all vaccinated. It was saying if something like that, right?

Bush: Yes. First and foremost I don’t fight on Facebook. That’s almost vicious right? It’s almost like death. Her name is Amanda Kail.

Leahy: Hello Amanda. You are welcome to come in and chat with us, Amanda.

Bush: Yes. Absolutely.

Leahy: Metro Nashville Education Association president.

Bush: Yes. MNEA.

Leahy: The teachers union.

Bush: So she made this post just complaining, always complaining about going back to school and all the fear that she would put into teachers. And it was working. Not for all teachers. The union I think makes up only 30 percent here in Nashville. So the majority of our teachers are not a part of the union but it was very interesting to see her post because that’s what her mission has been all along is to keep these students at home.

Leahy: At home. The idea is it’s not 105 percent safe for teachers and therefore until it’s 105 percent safe the teachers shouldn’t go in. I guess that’s her argument.

Bush: Her argument was that we were going to use teachers as lab rats or experiments. It was a constant opportunity to keep that type of tension going.

Leahy: That negative attack. I’ve looked at all the reports and the science. I’m not a scientist. I don’t play one on the radio. But of all of the evidence that I’ve seen says that children don’t really spread the coronavirus.

Bush: Yes, absolutely. And that’s where the misconception comes because we were not following the science. Doctors and epidemiologists have said kids are safer in school and that schools are not super spreaders. And that is proven science. The AP and the CDC and everyone have come to say that. But Nashville, being in a position that we’re in with a city that’s open for business as usual but yet our schools were closed.

Leahy: We have some clips here from some parents talking about all of the negative psychological effects of this on the students. Suicides up across the country. The developmental problems. So it’s not really serving the students to be out of class. You’ve made that argument here back in October when you were in the studio here. So tell us us what happened after you responded? What did you exactly respond on Facebook? And when did you respond of what was the result of all that?

Bush: Because of all the complaining I just at that point. I just said, if you don’t like your day job then find another job.

Leahy: Let me just stop for a moment. This is something that we’ve set here on this program many time. All of our listeners are thinking, yeah, if you don’t like your day job, quit. That’s not an insult. That is not insulting. It’s just a statement of okay, here are your options. What happened? What happened next Fran Bush?

Bush: After that, I did end it by saying, girl by because I was tired of going back and forth with her. And what I noticed through the whole thread is that as I was being attacked…

Leahy: So you immediately got attacked.

Bush: Oh, yeah. It just went viral.

Leahy: Were they nice argumentative attacks? Were they mean and vicious?

Bush: They were offending parents saying we’re not babysitters. You need to do your jobs. And it was just so offensive to parents. Children have equal opportunity access to education, right? I mean you say those types of words and then I on the other hand am thinking, do we really want these teachers in front of our students if they feel this way? And so it started becoming really concerning to me thinking, I wouldn’t want my child in front of that teacher because you’re really despising what you do every day that you went to school for. This is education, you know exactly what it pays. I was shocked. I was totally shocked about it.

Leahy: So how many Facebook comments of a negative nature did the teachers union folks send your way?

Bush: Well, it was a combination of I would say over 700 comments or even more. I stopped listening. (Leahy chuckles) I stopped reading them because they were so vicious. It was almost like I stepped in a wasp nest and they were coming after me.

Leahy: And the arguments were based on facts and science of course.

Bush: They were just personal attacks. They said I was bullying.

Leahy: You are just so mean Fran. You are just so mean. (Chuckles)

Bush: Of course I am the most compassionate yet firm on my beliefs. This is about the children. And at this point children are suffering. And every time I would put it out there and say what about this? We have 25,000 truant kids and kids with mental health risks. Anything that I put out there that was a risk they didn’t like.

Leahy: Any fact they didn’t like. They just wanted to attack you because you had a different point of view and you just happen to be a member of the Metro Nashville Public School Board. But they don’t care about that.

(Commercial break)

(Virginia Mom clip plays)

Leahy: A story by Fox 17 by Dennis Ferrier. I’ll read this for you Fran. The fight to get Metro Nashville Public School students back to in-person learning has been led by an Antioch mother of five. School Board member Fran Bush has gone head-to-head with the teachers union, other board members, and Metro Nashville Public School Director. Dr. Adrian Battle doesn’t believe that virtual school is destroying children’s lives. Well, that mom in Virginia Fran says that virtual school is destroying kids’ lives. What have you heard from parents in your District here in Nashville?

Bush: So not just in my district. My district is a very large district, but across this county I have heard multiple multiple concerns from parents that are over virtual learning. They know that it is not a good space and place for their kids. And just like the mother said it’s isolation. Mental illness has gone up so much.

The hotlines don’t stop ringing now. And we have social, emotional, and learning loss. We have isolation like she mentioned. Social skills have gone down so much. I mean kids are not even being able to socialize with their friends or be in a space and place that you and I are. You know we get out and we do what we do every day. And just imagine these children that are in their rooms all day and on the computer. And of course, the amount of screen time has destroyed these children. Virtual learning only should have been in place or should be in place temporarily. Not long term.

Leahy: Yeah, very very temporary. Our top story at The Tennessee Star today by Corrine Murdock. Around 25K Truant and 6K Transferred Students, Metro Nashville Public Schools Announces, It Will Resume In-Person Learning. And it’s a phased program, isn’t it? All kids won’t be back until March the 4th. What do you think of the progress or lack thereof from Metro Public Schools on this?

Bush: There’s been a lot of concerns in the lack of planning. We should have been planning last summer. We have had experts that have served on the task force committee to get our students back in the classroom. And unfortunately, they were all ignored by top epidemic epidemiologists.

Leahy: They were ignored by whom? By Dr. Adrian Battle and by the other school board members? Who ignored them?

Bush: Dr. Battle. She was on the task force along with Alex Jahangir, Mayor Cooper, and others. We did have an epidemiologist expert Kathryn Edwards who is a Vanderbilt Medical Center top epidemiologist. She’s not only recognized in this city, but across this country and she highly recommended that protocols be put in place to have these students back in the classroom.

Leahy: Sooner. Like immediately. Yes, and she was completely ignored.

Leahy: By Dr. Battle. What is Dr. Battle’s problem with ignoring the science? Why is she ignoring the science?

Bush: She surrounded herself with people that were less likely to have the expertise but felt I guess confident that the relationship that she built that she felt that she could believe or support was going to be valid. And unfortunately, it just wasn’t. We knew that if we didn’t get the kids back in August and September we knew that we were going to have a spike in COVID because of the winter months just like the flu.

And so we should have had the students back and let them have an opportunity to see their teachers, meet their teachers, and be able to trust this process if we were good to go virtual because when we started virtual no one knew what to do. So it was really hard the first nine weeks of school. Kids were failing and parents gave up. Metro was failing their students. So we had such an uptick of students leaving our district, which I’ve never seen that happen before. And of course, our truancy rate went way up. We were at about 20,000 maybe in November and now we’re up to 25,000.

Leahy: 25,000 truant kids? What are they doing?

Bush: So when you have a child that’s truant they either are not logging in for five days or they are just giving up. So we have called them virtual dropouts. So, unfortunately, we have a lot of seniors, of course during this time that we needed those seniors to get as much time in the classroom as possible. And now we cannot even find over half our seniors. So they either got a job or they just really just don’t do anything.

Leahy: Now in this phased-in return to in-person schooling that will continue until March fourth, how many teachers will show up? How many won’t? Do you have any idea about that?

Bush: So there’s been a survey for our teachers of those who can go back into the classroom. Most teachers want to go back in person.

Leahy: Most of them? The majority?

Bush: Yes. We do have teachers who want to stay virtual because of underlying health conditions or they’re caring for a parent that’s ill. So they have taken those measures.

Leahy: Some percentage will say that those maybe over 65 or those that have underlying health conditions.

Bush: Absolutely. And so those teachers we definitely want to make sure we support. But teachers are ready to get back into the classroom. And yes, we are definitely in the ring of trying to get the vaccinations from the federal government. And that is just a process and it is a priority of the governor. We had an opportunity to have a conversation about that and I was very thankful that he did make that phone call to me.

Leahy: So what’s your guess in terms of what percentage of teachers will be showing up in Metro Nashville Public Schools as we go back to in-person over the next month or so?

Bush: We have about 55 percent of surveyed parents who want their kids back in person. And then we have like a 43-45 percent that want to stay virtual. So of our teachers, it seems like we have already kind of split where it’s going to be able to accommodate both virtual and in-person.

Leahy: Do you have confidence that this will work over the next month?

Bush: I do. I have a lot of confidence. We have extraordinary teachers. They want to do the best for our students and in the virtual space, it is it’s challenging. It’s very challenging because you are through a screen trying to teach. But still just not that hands-on experience for a lot of our students. A lot of our students have a massive amount of learning loss meaning that they cannot read or write in those K-3 and K-4.

So we have a lot of catching up to do. and it is going to take at least a couple of years to get these kids on grade level. And so it’s been very very concerning. That’s the reason why I advocated so hard because I saw what was going to be such a detriment to our students. And it’s just it’s harmful. It’s been very harmful.

Leahy: Exactly.

Listen to the full second 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 “Fran Bush” by Fran Bush Facebook. Background Photo “MNPS” by Metro Nashville Public Schools.












Tennessee State Senator Frank Niceley Talks About His Bill for Changing the Way We Elect Our U.S. Senators

Tennessee State Senator Frank Niceley Talks About His Bill for Changing the Way We Elect Our U.S. Senators


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 (TN-17) Senator Frank Niceleyto the newsmakers line.

During the first hour, Niceley explained his current bill addressing the elections of U.S. Senators and its historical perspective. He later touched on the need for parents and educators to teach our children about the differences between a Republic and a Democracy.

Leahy: We are joined now by State Senator Frank Niceley. Senator Niceley, thanks so much for joining us this morning.

Niceley: Well it’s good to be here Michael.

Leahy: Well, you have been involved in Tennessee politics for some time. You’ve I guess you were first elected to the State House of Representatives back in 1988. You were elected to the state senate in 2012. And you are really one of the conservative icons of the Tennessee General Assembly.

Niceley: Well, thank you I guess. I don’t know what that means. But you get you need to remember I was gone 12 years  in the middle.

Leahy: That’s right.

Niceley: A lot of it that does a politician more good. I think everyone should go home and some of us should stay home and few maybe can come back. I was in exile for a while and that I think I may learn more in exile than I did when I was in politics.

Leahy: So your you are UT graduate. And you’ve been farming for much of your career. Tell us about that 12 years that you were not in politics. What did you learn in that 12 years that you were not in politics?

Niceley: Well, you start to really know who your real friends are when you get beat. And I was just thinking the other day about what Donald Trump is going through now and what I went through in 1992 and it doesn’t hurt so bad when the opposite party beats you for one year which when your own party turns on you a little bit, that’s what hurts.

I’ve always been fairly conservative. And in 1990 I was probably a little more conservative than the Republican Party in Tennessee would ready for and certainly not as much as the Democrats are ready for. But anyway, I’m back and persevered. Tennessee a well-run state – probably the best-run state in the nation. Everybody wants to change something and occasionally I think we need to change something. And then I get to think, why change anything? We’re the best-run state in the nation. We owe less money. We have the lowest taxes. We’ve got enough money to take care of retirees. Why change much?

Leahy: That’s a good point. There is one proposal that you’ve made several times. I don’t know if you’ll have it introduced in this current session of the Tennessee General Assembly. But you want to go back to the way the election of United States senators was before the Constitutional Amendment that came in 1913 that provided for direct election of United States senators. You have had in the past proposals to make the election of a United States senator here a function of how the members of the Tennessee General Assembly vote. Tell us the rationale for that. And is that something that’s on your agenda to propose this session as well?

Niceley: Well it is. And the problem is that you have to give everybody a history lesson every time you start talking about it. But more and more people are beginning to realize that the Founding Fathers were smarter than we are. And the Founding Fathers, I don’t know how they did it. I’ve been on a lot of committees. I’ve never been on a committee that could hold a candle to them.

But they wanted the U.S. Congress – the House of Representatives – to represent the people with direct election. And they wanted a U.S. Senate to be the state’s house. They wanted the Senate to represent the states. Most people don’t realize for the first 115 years or so, the U.S. senators were elected by the state legislatures. And in 1913 we had a surge of progressivism.

We got the income tax and the Federal Reserve and we changed the way we elected our senators and we drifted away from being a Republic toward being a democracy. Well, democracy was a bad word in 1776. No one talked about democracy. It’s not mentioned in the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence or any state constitution mentions the word democracy.

But 1913 is an unlucky year and in unlucky 13 we changed the way that will we selected our U.S. senators. Now, the Seventeenth Amendment says you have to have an election. And we would still have an election. People say well you’re trying to take away my right to vote. No, we would still have an election in the fall. What my proposal would do would be to change the way that we select our nominees.

Instead of having a primary, we would have basically a caucus. Like some states have a caucus and some states have primaries. And some states have jungle primaries like California and Louisiana where you have a primary and the two top vote-getters run against each other in the fall, even if they’re both Democrats or both Republicans.

But basically what we would do is we would let the state legislature, the Republicans would dominate the U.S. Senate nominee for the Republican side the Democrats for the Democrat side. It would keep these U.S. Senators from having to run through a primary. If you get to thinking about it, a man of the caliber or a woman of the caliber that we’d want to send to the Senate probably doesn’t have time to run around the state for a year and a half in a primary.

So this would kind of eliminate the primary and we would have an indirect election for the nominee. And it would be a tough vote. I mean, I would have people wanting to vote for Michael Patrick Leahy and have people want to vote for this one of that one. It’d be a tough vote for the legislature. But it would the U.S. senators who would probably pay a lot more attention to the state legislatures than they do now.

Leahy: That’s the key point, isn’t it? Because under the current system the United States senators don’t really pay any attention or very little attention to the desires of the state legislature. That’s how I read it.

Niceley: Yes, very little. But we’ve got two great senators right now but there’s nothing personal about this. And I hope there our senators wouldn’t take it personally if they do a good job. I’m sure we would nominate them back. But you know in the big scheme of things, say 10 red states decided to do this, it would have one congressman that would say it would change Washington overnight if the U.S. senators started paying attention to what the state’s really wanted and needed instead of who they listen to now. Who probably are the big contributors.

Leahy: I like your proposal Senator Niceleybecause what it does is it goes back to the founder’s original intent to have the state’s sovereign in many areas. I find that since 1913 the national federal government has usurped many many powers that the founders meant to be powers of the states. What do you think of that?

Niceley: You’re exactly right. And that was a big fear. If you go back and read the original papers the big fear was that the federal government would usurp. We need to teach our children what usurp is. And we may have to teach our high school teachers what usurp means. And you don’t pour it on your pancakes. (Leahy chuckles) But they worried about the federal government usurping the powers of the state.

And their fears were right. I mean that’s what they’ve done. When the final history and I say well what happened to the United States of America? Everybody will have a different opinion. Well, it was this and that. I think it was that 1913. It was a bad year. And one of the bad things that year was the way we changed electing our U.S. senators.

Leahy: Yeah, I think you’re exactly right Senator Niceleyin that regard.

Niceley: Most people don’t realize the value of a republic. … “Republic” has been kind of pushed back in the corner somewhere and everybody talks about “democracy.”

But “democracy” is nothing more than two coyotes and a sheep voting on what’s gonna be for lunch. (Leahy laughs)

Leahy: That’s good.

Niceley: A Republic protects the rights. If you don’t like the way Tennessee’s operating my go to Oregon. if you don’t like Oregon, you know go to Michigan. It gives us somewhere to go. But when the federal government takes over and they come down with this one-size-fits-all, there’s nowhere to go.

Leahy: Well, it sounds like I am going to invite you to be our special guest at our fifth-year event. You probably haven’t heard about it. We hold a Constitution Bee every year here for high school students. And now last year for the first time we opened it up to high school students around the country. We gave away educational scholarships last year.

The winner got $10,000 educational scholarship. Second place gets $5,000 and third place gets $2,500. We’re going to hold this year’s National Constitution Bee in Brentwood on October 23. I’d like to invite you to come and be a guest speaker to our kids and talk a little bit about your view of the difference between a republic and a democracy.

Niceley: I’d be glad to. That would be great. And I mention this when I make speeches around the Lincoln Day dinner. It’s up to us to educate our children. We can’t depend totally on the school system. The parents have got to educate them. And there are several words that these young people need to know and that they need to understand and to be able to know exactly what they mean.

Usurps is one. Democracy. Republic. We throw them around but a lot of time they go over the head of our children and they don’t understand what we’re really talking about. But one advantage of this proposal that I have is that it would take care of term limits. People say well we need term limits. Well, those term limits are another way of depriving you of your right to vote. If you have a good politician and if you should ever be lucky enough to get a good politician you’d certainly want to keep them.

Well if you’ve got mandatory term limits they’d be gone with the rest of them. But back in the days when the state legislatures nominated or elected the U.S. senators, they didn’t stay very long because of different reasons. The legislature would get tired of them or they got tired of being up there and all they could do was the work of the states.

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











PJTN President and Founder Laurie Cardoza-Moore Talks Getting off the SPLC’s Hate List and Pro-American Education

PJTN President and Founder Laurie Cardoza-Moore Talks Getting off the SPLC’s Hate List and Pro-American Education


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 Laurie Cardoza-Moore from Proclaiming Justice to the Nations to the newsmakers line to discuss and celebrate that PJTN has been relieved of their hate status from the Southern Poverty Law Center after five years turmoil.

Leahy: We are joined on our newsmaker line now by our good friend Laurie Cardoza-Moore. She’s the founder and president of Proclaiming Justice to the Nations. This is a group that educates, advocates, and moves to activate Christians, Jews, and all people of conscience in building a global community of action and prayer. In support of Jews and Israel Laurie, welcome back. You have some news for us. Good morning.

Moore: Good morning Michael. Great to be back.

Leahy: Well, apparently the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center in my view, a very vile nasty negative group that goes around smearing groups, has taken back some things that they’ve said about Proclaiming Justice to the Nations.

Moore: Yes, Michael, finally. And this has been an issue that we really have been trying to address for several years. But it’s been over the last year that we finally got some traction and we finally got an audience with them through our legal team to discuss the accusations formed against PJTN that are not based in fact at all. In fact, it’s really appalling that they would even say what they did say about the organization because we have been involved for almost 20 years in fighting the oldest hatred, and that’s anti-Semitism.

I had served as you know on the United Nations World Council of Independent Christian Churches. I have participated in two conferences with Muslim women who came to the UN to ask Western women to assist them in obtaining their freedoms in their countries. So across the board as well as Christians and their rights.

So no, this was falsely attributed to us. It has cost us. We have been blacklisted by Amazon Prime. They’ve removed us from their list. We’ve lost opportunities to serve in other capacities for appointments like the school board in Williamson County. There are numerous things that have happened to us as a result of this designation.

And we finally after evaluating our activity admitted that we’re not a hate group and they are removing us from the list. And the list gets updated. Just so you know, Michael the list gets updated at the end of January every year. They review all the organizations. They reviewed ours. And the hate designation is coming off finally.

Leahy: So when did they first call you incorrectly a hate group? How do they become the arbiter of what is and what is not hate?

Moore: Well, they think they are. They think they know they’re the experts. And of course, this has been going on for almost five years now.

Leahy: So five years ago they put you on this list?

Moore: That is correct.

Leahy: And what was their reasoning? Is it because you exercise freedom of speech and you supported Israel? Is that basically it?

Moore: Well, it’s interesting because a couple of years ago the Jewish community had the SPLC former founder came and spoke to the community and I was there. And one of our supporters in the audience from the Jewish community asked why PJTN was designated on a hit list as being a hate group. And the gentleman pulled up a piece of paper off of his table and he said we have a long list of things. He refused to say what those things were and when somebody challenged him to debate me right there and then that evening he said no, that’s for another program. I was ready and willing because they have misrepresented our organization and our mission.

Leahy: It’s a common tale with those groups and other groups on the left to misrepresent what conservatives stand for. We hear it all the time. And when we come back Laurie, we want to talk not only about what this means for your group going forward but also the other battles you’re engaged in with the textbook commission here in the state of Tennessee.

(Commercial break)

Leahy: Laurie, what does it mean for your group that at the end of this month coming you are off the Southern Poverty Law Center hate group list?

Moore: Even though we’ve lost some support and appointments Michael most people and all of our supporters around the globe because yes, we have chapters in other countries as well, but most people around the world understand that what we were accused of was not true. It was factually inaccurate and so it hasn’t affected us.

In fact, I have been working with state legislators across the country with regards to textbooks and reviewing textbooks and what’s happening in education, especially with civics and Holocaust studies. That’s been our primary focus, but it really hasn’t affected us. In fact, it’s really helped us because people like you and I who are concerned about the misrepresentation and the lives and the smears against legitimate organizations, like PJTN we get it.

We know we’re going to be the target, the bullseye that they’re going to try to remove and discredit. And I have to tell you I so appreciate our Speaker Cameron Sexton for having the leadership to appoint me to represent the citizens and the parents across this state on that textbook commission. And this is an extremely important role for me to play right now, especially in light of what is happening to our country.

Our children are not being properly educated. We’re using propaganda to educate our children now, especially as it relates to civics. We’re omitting important parts of the Jewish community and their role that they played in helping to establish our Judeo-Christian nation. So I am so grateful to the Speaker to take the initiative to appoint me for this position. And now it’s time for us.

I’m going to be sitting on that commission not as the president of PJTN but as a citizen of this state. And I am calling to action as well the citizens that almost a decade ago when we found that anti-Semitic textbook as we dug deeper in Williamson County mind you. As we dug deeper, we found that the textbook was anti-American, anti-Judeo Christian values, anti-history, and pro-China. This content was being peddled to our children.

And I said almost a decade ago. If we do not remove these textbooks, this curriculum from our children’s schools and Common Core our children are going to turn against this country because they’re being indoctrinated and fed lies about our history. And look at what has happened Michael. Look at this last year. We have had young people who have torn down monuments. That have murdered police officers and innocent citizens. They have attacked people.

Beaten people up. Elderly people in the street. This is all gone on in our country and our local government stood by in Portland, in Seattle, and Kenosha and allowed this chaos to erupt. And they didn’t stop it. If we don’t change the direction of education, we have to get rid of Common Core, Governor Lee said he was going to get rid of Common Core when he came into office and it was supposed to be gone by the end of 2019. The end of summer he said. It’s still here.

Leahy: Let me ask you a question about this Laurie. When does it meet next?

Moore: Well, we are waiting to get the final dates. We’re all going through the process of being briefed on how to go through this. So we still got one more meeting coming up this coming Thursday and then we will wait to see. It shouldn’t be too much longer after that. And of course, I will have to go through the commission hearing process with the House and the Senate education committees. So that will be coming up as well. So I expect within the next couple of weeks. But again Michael we’re going to need citizens because the of this state and the parents of this state have an opportunity as well to sit in and review these instructional materials in the textbooks.

Leahy: What is the purpose of that meeting when you’re meeting with the education committees of the Tennessee General Assembly?

Moore: Well, basically our role is to prepare and recommend a list of textbooks for approval. And of course, it will be used in all the public schools across the state. And of course, we will be involved in the bidding and contracting process of the textbooks and the publishing companies. We will also oversee the review of programs and the bid process for them. So it’s very detailed. We are going to be focused on ELA standards this year.

Leahy: ELA meaning English language arts.

Moore: English language arts, yes.

Leahy: So you’re not hitting Civics and history this year right?

Moore: Well, not yet. I have recommended to several state legislators to follow the lead of other states like Florida to review our civic standards in an emergency session. To call and review the civic standard to make sure that we are not misrepresenting this country to our children in our classrooms.

Leahy: My sense of that Laurie and I’d like to get your reaction right now. You know we do this Constitution Bee and we go to the public schools all the time. And my sense is in our interaction is here even in Tennessee the majority of public schools are actually now promoting an anti-American view of the world. That’s my sense of it. Would you agree with that?

Moore: Absolutely. You are spot on Michael. And that’s why we have the chaos that’s erupting. And that has to change. Our legislature has to take action to review the civics. Look at what just happened with President Biden with just revoking the executive order by President Trump for the 1776 Report.

Leahy: This is basically the American standard history and they’re replacing it with a version of The 1619 Project. America’s bad and has been racist from the beginning. That’s what they’re replacing it with.

Moore: Michael the problem with that is that information is The 1619 Project is factually and historically inaccurate.

Leahy: Oh come on now Laurie. Little things like factual inaccuracy, why should that matter? (Chuckles)

Moore: Well, we have a responsibility and a duty as citizens of the United States of America to pass the baton Michael to the next generation of this constitutional Republic.

Leahy: Are we doing that now? Are we doing that?

Moore: No, we’re not doing it. No. That’s why we’re a mess. And that has to change. and it’s not going to change Michael until We the People contact our elected officials and say look we’re watching you. We’re paying attention to your decisions. We cannot use respected historians called out The 1619 Project content and The New York Times admitted it. Okay, it’s not right. It’s not true. It’s not historically accurate. But that wasn’t our intention.

Leahy: I just saw that the new Deputy Secretary of Education nominated by Joe Biden comes from San Diego. He’s been a big big supporter of The 1619 Project in the claims of systemic racism throughout America’s founding in history. Now, they’re going to be sending requirements to the state government here. How do you think our state ought to react to that?

Moore: The state should reject anything that comes from anyone that is historically and factually inaccurate. We should not be approving content that fills our children’s minds with lies and disinformation. This will destroy our country. Look at our country! And until we reverse the course and start making sure that the curriculum that we use, the textbooks, the instructional materials, and the supplemental materials that are being used to teach our children are actually accurate, unbiased, and reflect the values of our community we will not be able to restore this Republic.

Listen to the full second 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 “Laurie Cardoza-Moore” by Proclaiming Justice to the Nations. 










Executive Editor at The Federalist and Author Joy Pullmann Discusses How to Fix a Anti-American Education System

Executive Editor at The Federalist and Author Joy Pullmann Discusses How to Fix a Anti-American Education System


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 Federalist Executive Editor and Author Joy Pullmann to the newsmakers line to discuss her role and bringing education policy from the federal level to the states.

Leahy: We are delighted to be joined on our newsmaker line by Joy Pullmann the executive editor of The Federalist and expert on education and policy and just a fabulous writer. Joy, welcome to The Tennessee Star Report.

Pullmann: Good morning. Thank you.

Leahy: You are a Hillsdale College graduate. we have on our staff at The Tennessee Star our news site, the A fabulous reporter named Corinne Murdock. Another Hillsdale College graduate. We think Hillsdale is great.

Pullmann: Me too.

Leahy: The one thing that will astonish our listeners, you are not only the executive editor of The Federalist but you are also the mother of six.

Pullmann: Correct.

Leahy: So it’s 5:30 in the morning. You’re spending half an hour with us. Where are the kids?

Pullmann: They’re all sleeping. (Laughter) Thank heavens. Actually one of them was just a wake up about a half an hour ago. The baby wakes up to eat at night so I’m already up. This is when I can get anything done. (Chuckles)

Leahy: Do you ever get any sleep Joy?

Pullmann: Actually my husband takes over baby time in the middle of the night so I can get some sleep.

Leahy: Oh my goodness. We’ll get into the education issue here in a little bit. Every time you write it is so clear and so concise and I think you’re probably one of the best writers on the concern in the conservative arena in the country. And I just enjoy it.

Pullmann: That’s amazing. It’s such hard work well. Every word is pain. (Chuckles)

Leahy: I know. I’ve been writing myself. I’ve been writing at Breitbart for about eight and a half years. And then we also add it to The Tennessee Star and all our outlets here. And your right to have a clear concise written language, it’s a lot of work and but you do it so beautifully and we’re delighted that you do that. Tell us also about the role as executive editor of The Federalist. I know Sean Davis who’s also part of that lives here in Nashville. We’ve not had a chance to meet in person. But what a fabulous organization. Tell me what your role as executive editor of The Federalist entails.

Pullmann: Well, I’m basically in charge of editorial so that just means that the folks who are junior editors are under my supervision and I’m responsible for making sure that we all do a good job and try to cover all the bases of news each week.

Leahy: A lot of work. You are very prolific in terms of the columns that you write. Let’s talk a little bit about education. Things have moved so fast and your schedule is so busy. I think we first talked to you a couple of months ago about coming on. But you’ve written so much in the arena of education. One of your most recent articles is No, Erasing White Authors From School Won’t Help Kids Read Better. Would you like to elaborate?

Pullmann: I started really as an education reporter and I also have experience teaching and developing curriculum. So that’s really actually the area of my focus. But I kind of feel like we’re in an all-hands-on-deck situation politically. So I’ll write about whatever I’m most angry about. (Chuckles)

Leahy: And there’s a lot to be upset about these days as the national federal government has been overtaken by people that don’t really understand America. They don’t like America and want to subjugate about 75 million Americans who voted for Donald Trump.

Pullmann: Yes, and that is I mean, to be honest, it wasn’t completely unexpected. But to watch happen what kind of some of your fears you know said could is still…look, I don’t want to project insecurity and despair but I do think we have to be realistic. This is going to be a challenging time and we are going to have really bad leadership. And so people are going to suffer. People already are suffering.

Leahy: Yeah, I agree with you completely. And also I agree with you entirely about not being of despair. And I’ve talked a lot with people here about the opportunity, I’m calling this Founders Federalism. And the general theme is conservative constitutional populist, that movement has gone through two phases and is about to go to a third in my view.

From the Tea Party movement where there were multiple leaders around the country organized around three principles of constitutionally limited government, fiscal responsibility, and free markets. And that sort of morphed into the make America great again movement with one leader Donald Trump and added American sovereignty and free and fair trade. But kind of didn’t pay a lot of attention to fiscal responsibility.

Well, the president is no longer the president. It’s been a rocky exit for him for whatever reason. And my theory is now it’s time for those of us who live in the 35 states where freedom is still possible for leadership among state legislators and grassroots leaders and donors and governors and gubernatorial candidates to push back against the usurpations of the national federal government. particularly in the area of education. I’m just curious to see if that’s a view of the world.

Pullmann: I absolutely agree with that. I wrote an article recently that was talking about basically like we have are those of us on the right broadly we are making a retreat right? We lost a major election and with it we lost a lot of strategic power and control and the ability to have our interests heard. The Democrats right now talk a big game about unity. But all of their actions really show that they want to crush their opposition.

They’re not interested really in listening as found by the fact that their allies and Big Tech and media completely are shutting down all no discussion. All ideas, all leadership, and voice among the Americans who voted for Trump. In the name-calling thing marrying us really with the idea that we’re like these couple hundred rioters at the Capitol. Which basically all of us would never do that. We think it was horrible. It’s appalling. We love our country and the Capitol represents our country.

But I do think there are good things actually about if we can make it our strategic retreat because our country’s infrastructure of governance really is weak. And that’s been kind of typified by the fact that the Republican Party does a very poor job of really fulfilling its voters’ desires and of really meeting their needs. Their response to the coronavirus didn’t differ almost one bit from Democratic leaders’ response. They have crushed the American dreams and really the livelihood of tens of millions of Americans who are now forced into poverty because they’re banned from work.

And our kids are, over their leadership have been banned from having and in Republican states again, the education. It is really almost indistinguishable from that in a liberal state and that really is a shame because there are you know, the left uses schools basically its propaganda machines. And Republicans have overseen that happening at every level. It’s most visible to everyone in college.

But it’s absolutely happening all the way down to preschool and kindergarten. So these are some societal weaknesses and really failures of leadership. Failures of service to the American people. It is time and it’s past time to be regressed and these are things that we know how to do. But Republicans have been really swayed by their corporate donors. But the corporate donors are going away because they’re all social justice warriors now. So hopefully maybe that clarity of financial, (Chuckles) of financial pain will hopefully give us Republican leaders who actually fight for their voters as Donald Trump did. Which is why people voted for him.

Leahy: We are absolutely on the same page. And you said something very important that in Republican states Republican Governors Republican state legislators have not done enough to push back against the K-12 propaganda of the education establishment. To me Joy that represents a huge opportunity in 2021 and 2022 for state legislatures and governors in these states where freedom is still possible. Tell me your thoughts on that.

Pullmann: Well, it’s going to be really difficult when you have states basically beholden to federal money. The federal government gives about 9 or 10 cents on every dollar that’s spent on public schools. and the average American public school spends about $13,000. a kid. That’s twice as much as the typical private school to educate children and does a much poorer job.

And the federal government’s kind of 10 percent of that outlay each year on children really controls the other 90 percent. Republican lawmakers are going to have to get serious about whether they think that 10 percent is worth sacrificing. For example, just two days ago Wednesday, the same day as inauguration day, I just wrote about this yesterday.

President Biden decided that every institution that gets federal funds must basically transgender all of their private facilities and their athletics. Do Republican governors support what their constituents certainly don’t and is that in the best interests of children? It certainly is not. This is very very clear and obvious and should be an easy issue. But as we all know Republican governors are really kind of cowed by the false and the smears against people on the conservative side that somehow we are a bunch of bigots and racists and horrible people who hate.

(Commercial break)

Leahy: Joy, I want to ask you a general question and then a specific question. First, for those states where freedom is still a possibility if we want to fix a K-12 education, which is turned into the propaganda arm of the Democrat Party these days would it be your suggestion that states ought to tell the federal government you can take your ten percent of federal money and keep it. We’ll run our schools with just state and local money?

Pullmann: I mean the short answer is absolutely yes. As your listeners probably know, the federal government has no constitutional authority over education. That is the state and local matter. And in fact, still, public opinion polls show something. Three-quarters of if not more Americans really think education should primarily be a state and local matter still. So this isn’t just like some colonial relic.

This is still something Americans really believe almost all of them. The vast majority. So the federal government gets control and so Joe Biden only gets the ability to tell public schools you’ve got to put boys in girls locker rooms and girls on boys sports teams. I guess nobody wants to do that. The boys are stronger, but you get the idea. You have male coaches supervising females in the locker room as I’ve also written about that happens.

Joe Biden can do that because states take federal money. So he threatens their federal money. So states just go ahead and comply. And this has been how basically all the most terrible ideas and how public schools got to be in such a mess with such really low-quality academics. Really unable to communicate character to children and so all sorts of other things that really contribute to public schools being such a lowest common denominator environment for kids.

Which is really not what you want if you want a country of excellence. So it’s really driven by the fact that the federal government controls all the schools through its little kind of token pieces of silver that it throws out to states. But states haven’t had the spine to resist it and say look, you’re more expensive. And look at the federal government and companies.

That nine to ten percent with rules upon rules upon rules. And as everyone probably is aware in your audience, these rules really are not in the best interest of children. So for example, one of the prime things the federal government does is claims to be helping special needs kids. And everyone and decent persons agree that we should take the best care possible of all kids would all kids period.

But you know especially kids with special needs. but really the federal government’s rules about helping those kids often just means that they get stuck in this bureaucratic quagmire where schools just check box, check box, check box. And once they get the paperwork in order, they ignore the child. And so that’s really not obviously the best way to actually provide the best care to a child.

So the federal government’s rules really get in the way of doing the best for kids. And they cost more than they provide. So really for all these reasons yes. It is time for states to just recognize that and take care of their own. And they’ll do it better. just like vaccine distribution. Under COVID, many states the ones governed typically by red governors have been much better at doing that than the federal government has been and many other blue States. So let them do that in every other aspect possible like education.

Leahy: So let me ask you a very specific question. We are based here in Nashville, which is the capital of Tennessee and we often have in studio and on the phone members of the Tennessee General Assembly. The state legislature. In fact yesterday we had the Speaker of the House of Representatives of Tennessee on the air here with us. They are good friends of ours.

We talk to these conservative legislators and everything that that you and I think about education they think they aren’t quite ready to take back and to tell the federal government to take that 10 percent and we’ll run the state of Tennessee. My question to you is, would you be willing to talk with and communicate with the Tennessee legislators about this idea that they should send federal money back?

Pullmann: I would actually I’ll be really happy to return to Tennessee. I’ve testified before the state legislature there a couple of years ago on education issues. Actually, I think possibly on two different bills. Parent trigger and Common Core ideas. I have some experience there. Yes. Of course, doing this requires careful planning. But you have to realize you know, what really these legislators are going to be up against is not that this is a bad idea.

It’s in fact an excellent idea. Their opposition is going to be they’re going to have to fight the bureaucracy that benefits from being able to hide among regulations and not give kids the best education possible. And then those people are very powerful. They have a lot of money and they have lots of credentials.

I think the problem with credentials is that it gives people authority that they maybe don’t deserve. There are many people who call themselves experts and go and testify in front of legislators or say I’m in charge of this that and the other. And you say, okay how many kids have you personally taught to read or because of your leadership how many children who are at risk for failing out of school or now in school? Prove that to me. Almost none of them can do that because most education ‘experts’ just manage failure.

Leahy: Absolutely. Well, I’ll tell you what. I will talk to our friends in the state legislature and we know many of them and they’re very friendly. Ironically today they’re wrapping up a special session of the Tennessee General Assembly on education. Sending the money back to the federal government that 10 percent is not on the agenda in the special session. But they come back on February ninth in a regular session. And I think it would be fantastic if we could arrange for you to come down here and testify about this idea before the appropriate committees of the Tennessee House of Representatives and the Tennessee State Senate.

Pullmann: Great. As long as I can bring my baby. (Chuckles) I have done that before. I’ll just hand him to somebody.

Leahy: I think we could we can accommodate that. How old is your baby?

Pullmann: Right now he’s eight months.

Leahy: We will handle the logistics.

Pullmann: Just sit him in a corner and he’ll chew on something. (Chuckles)

Leahy: We will handle the logistics of that. I just have to applaud you for your intellectual leadership in this area. It is time for bold action. It is not time to get along and go along if we want to save this country. We have to start with I think the about 35 states where freedom is still possible. And the way to do that is let’s take back our schools.

Pullmann: I think it’s about family and it’s not just schools, but also family welfare policy. I have a number of friends who work in the family court system. It’s an absolute mess. And if you do not have strong families and strong children, you’re not going to have a strong country.

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 “Joy Pullmann” by The Heartland Institute.