Tennessee State Rep. Scott Cepicky Weighs in on MLB Gone Woke and the Coming Agenda in the General Assembly

Tennessee State Rep. Scott Cepicky Weighs in on MLB Gone Woke and the Coming Agenda in the General Assembly

 

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 Congressman Scott Cepicky to the newsmakers line to weigh in on Major League Baseball’s decision to withdrawl from Georgia, cancel culture, and the upcoming agenda in the Tennessee General Assembly.

Leahy: We are joined on our newsmaker line, by our good friend, state Representative Scott Cepicky from Maury County. Scott, welcome to The Tennessee Star Report.

Cepicky: Michael, how are you doing today?

Leahy: Well, I’m doing great. You are, of course, our favorite state legislator who is a former professional baseball player. You played for the AA Nashville Express and the AAA Nashville Sounds and almost made it to the bigs had not been for a trade between the Chicago White Sox and the Montreal Expos that brought Tim Raines to Chicago. I just got to ask you, what are they thinking in Major League Baseball to cancel the All-Star Game in Atlanta?

Cepicky: Well, you know, Michael it is very troubling what’s happening in professional sports right now and the hypocrisy of all of these other corporations. So you know as well as I do and your listeners, let’s talk about Delta Airlines. If you’re going to go pick up your ticket at Delta Airlines the first thing they ask you for is your ID. Or if you’re going to go to a Nashville Sounds baseball game and you are going to pick up your tickets at will call the first thing they’re going to ask you for is your ID to prove who you are.

I think Georgia has done just common sense. What people are wanting is, hey, we’re not denying anybody the ability to go vote. Just make sure you bring your ID to prove who you are so you’re able to vote. And I think Major League Baseball is really overstepping the boundaries here. And then you mentioned how they are going to Coors Field in Colorado that has voter ID laws.

Leahy: It doesn’t make any sense to me. And what’s troubling to me, you are a member of the Tennessee General Assembly, and according to the United States Constitution and the Tennessee Constitution, election procedures and election laws are the responsibility of the Tennessee General Assembly for federal elections and for state and local also for the Tennessee General Assembly and the governor. What is it with these Fortune 500 companies that are so woke and they think they are the ones who set the rules about elections? What’s happening with that?

Cepicky: Well, my dad taught me a long time ago, he said, Scott, always understand what role you play and stay in your lane. And you’re right. The General Assembly is the one that affects the laws on elections. And the corporations are the ones that hire people to work in Tennessee. Michael, the last time I checked, we don’t have a problem with corporations or people moving to Tennessee because of the laws we have and the lack of oversight of laws.

We have no state income tax and the loan tax structure here in Tennessee is very attractive for corporations to move here. And for that matter, if you look at Georgia with the environment they have Coca-Cola is there. Delta Airlines is there. CitiBank is there and major corporations are there because of the laws that they all live under, but they’re very quick to bite the hand that provides those opportunities.

Leahy: What is the general attitude among your colleagues in the Tennessee General Assembly when they see a woke ridiculous decision by Major League Baseball, by Delta, and by Coca-Cola, to try and force sovereign states to do things that they think are better for the general population?

Cepicky: Well, I don’t speak for all the members, but I know a great deal of us are concerned about how this whole culture is and this cancel culture. If you disagree with them, they want to shut you down right away. And that’s not the way our country was founded. We were founded on differing opinions and trying to find the middle ground. And now there’s no middle ground either.

If you agree with them, then they give you the thumbs up. If you disagree with them, then they want to cancel you out and they want to call you a racist or a bigot. I think we’ve got to get past that as a country. I mean, do you see the poll just like I do? This is probably the most divided our country has ever been, and we need to start to work together towards making our country as great as it used to be.

Leahy: Yeah, I agree with you completely. If I can turn the corner a little bit on that topic and go to the Tennessee General Assembly. I think the chairman of the Education Committee is doing a great job there. What is going to be happening in the last couple of weeks of the Tennessee General Assembly? What’s on your agenda?

Cepicky: Well, in education we worked very hard to make sure that we just don’t overburden our teachers and administrators with just more things to do. We are laser-focused on K-3 education, trying to make sure that all kids, no matter where they come from, no matter what background they have, all children will be able to read, write, and do math so that they can prosper in the four through 12-grade levels.

We are working on textbooks, making sure that they align with our standards and curriculums are aligned to our standards. And lastly, the supplemental materials that you hear that teachers will inadvertently pull something off the Internet that’s confrontational or questionable, and it gets the LEA in trouble that now supplemental materials will have to align the Tennessee standards and our values.

So a lot of work has been done in education. We had a special session with literacy and going back to summer school and getting kids help with tutoring. We are all in. We are all in with making sure our kids know how to read, write, and do math. And then yesterday on the House floor I thought we did something rather appropriate as we recognized Dolly Parton as the first lady of literacy in Tennessee with all she’s done with the Imagination Library.

I think over 152 million books have been distributed through the Imagination Library and 1.7 million Tennesseeans have had the opportunity to experience Imagination Library, including my two children. So a lot of things happening. We’re probably four weeks away from wrapping up the session.

Leahy: You mentioned Dolly Parton. It’s interesting because Scooter and I were talking a little bit about Dolly Parton. Everybody in America thinks highly of Dolly Parton. She’s done a remarkable job not just for the state of Tennessee, but for the country with her literacy efforts.

Cepicky: Oh, absolutely. I mean, as an elected official, I don’t want to get caught up in your position here. I can talk for two hours on education, but Dolly Parton can come up to a microphone and speak for two minutes which weighs 10 times more heavily on literacy. And so we just wanted to make sure that Dolly knew that we appreciated her efforts in education. She knows how important it is for Tennessee to be able to read, write, and do math. And we just wanted to make sure that she felt appreciated by the state of Tennessee.

Leahy: What other big things do you see happening in the final three or four weeks of the Tennessee General Assembly?

Cepicky: Well, you know, the permitless carry. And I’m going to say its permitless carry has passed the House and Senate. It’s gone on to the governor’s desk. There are other bills. Criminal justice reform. There’s a bill coming through the pipeline.

Leahy: I have one question for you. I saw that the House passed what I think is a very good bill yesterday to provide a formal review process for the constitutionality of executive orders from the president. What’s your take on that?

Cepicky: You read my mind. That was the one I was trying to remember. Government operations, the House passed and we’ll have the ability to look at all the executive orders or, for that matter, any law that’s passed by the federal government to make sure it doesn’t infringe on our Tenth Amendment rights or, for that matter, it’s constitutional. There was another bill that’s making its way that will be filed here shortly on vaccine passports opposing those in the state of Tennessee.

Leahy: I saw the bill to review the constitutionality of executive orders coming out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the office of the President. The bill passed 70 to 23, mainly along party lines. But there were two Democrats who voted for the bill. State Representative Johnny Shaw from Boliver, but also John Mark Windle. What a great guy he is.

Cepicky: He has been there, I think since Abraham Lincoln was born. (Leahy laughs)

Leahy: I will tell him you said that if we get him in here.

Cepicky: He has his principles and he will not be swayed from his principles, which is very admirable to him. And sometimes his principles do not align with this party, and he’s not afraid to stand up and take that vote. And he sits two spaces in front of me on the House floor. He’s very well respected up there, the General Assembly. And obviously, he’s well respected by his constituents because they keep sending them back up there year after year after year.

Leahy: When you sit down next to him today on the House floor, just say tell him, hey, please, come in. Michael Patrick Leahy wants you to come in studio on The Tennessee Star Report. Will you do that for us?

Cepicky: I will do that Michael.

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

 

 

 

 

Tennessee State Rep. Scott Cepicky Talks Education and His New Bill Called the Teacher’s Discipline Act

Tennessee State Rep. Scott Cepicky Talks Education and His New Bill Called the Teacher’s Discipline Act

 

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 Congressman Scott Cepicky to the studio to discuss his recent bill called the Teacher’s Discipline Act and how it gives teacher’s the ability to remove disruptive students from the classroom that interfere with learning.

Leahy: We are with State Representative Scott Cepicky from Maury County. Well, now we’re going to talk a little bit about the bills that you are carrying this session. Tell us about the 10 bills you’re carrying.

Cepicky: (Chuckles) Just next week.

Leahy: Just next week. Just tell us to start off with some of the important ones that you are carrying and how that came about.

Cepicky: We have a very, very important bill that will be substituting and conforming that the Senate’s already passed which is the Teacher’s Discipline Act. What it does is it gives our teachers the ability to remove a repetitively, a disruptive student from their classrooms.

Leahy: That’s a great idea. They can’t do that now.

Cepicky: No.

Leahy: Really? Why not?

Cepicky: We don’t have the ability for them to be protected in code. so they can try, but the way the system is set up right now, there are penalties for LEAs, local school systems that if they remove it…

Leahy: LEA is Local Education Authority authority, which is what most school systems are. We have like 141 of them in Tennessee.

Cepicky: 147. I better know the answer because I’m on the education committee.

Leahy: You got me on that one.

Cepicky: We have a problem in Tennesee and you’ve seen the videos where a child just has an episode and it stops the classroom. And what the teacher does is they pull all the other kids out of the classroom into the hallway and they stand there for two hours while the kid just destroys the classroom and tries to calm themselves down. Now, one would argue there’s probably an issue there with that child.

Leahy: I would guess.

Cepicky: We need to get the interventionists in there to find out we have a behavioral or mental health issue and address those issues. But we have to get to a point where that teacher has to have the ability to maintain the discipline in their classroom so those other 29 kids can get their education. We struggle right now in Tennessee with the literacy rate in third grade. Do you know what it is in eighth?

Leahy: Not much better.

Cepicky: 28.

Leahy: Worse.

Cepicky: 28.

Leahy: When you say literacy, reading at grade levels? Is that what you are talking about?

Cepicky: Yeah, it drops in 28 the. Do you believe there’s any magic time that they all automatically just learn how to read after eighth grade when it’s 28 percent? it doesn’t happen.

Leahy: It’s got to happen by K thru three, four, and five right?

Cepicky: The gateways third grade. And so the Teachers Discipline Act we will hopefully we will substitute and conform, have no problems there that will go to the governor staff for signature.

Leahy: And do you anticipate the governor will sign it?

Cepicky: I hope so. I hope he’s listening because I really hope he signs it because it’s another mechanism that we can put in place. A process that not only protects the students that may have a mental health issue or behavioral issue, but it gives the teachers and those other kids in the classroom the opportunity to succeed.

Leahy: Common sense.

Cepicky: Common sense. We have other bills with mental health, helping our teachers get trained not to get in the intervention of mental health with our children, but to look at and maybe identify it.

Leahy: Identify it. And Maybe move them into a situation where they can be treated.

Cepicky: You got it.

Leahy: That makes a lot of sense as well.

Cepicky: We have other bills where we’re looking at the Textbook Commission giving them more authority.

Leahy: The Textbook Commission

Cepicky: Giving them more authority.

Leahy: Controversial to a degree.

Cepicky: It is. But it’s very important on who you put on there. You have to look at the standards we have in Tennessee and look at the textbooks that are being provided by the publishers. And their job is to make sure that they align to our standards 100 percent. We just passed the bill with the special session we had with the governor on literacy.

That one of the problems we have and had and we’ve rectified that with who now approves waivers in Tennessee. But instead of the Commissioner of Education giving waivers for textbooks, it’s now the State Board of Education. And we put in the literacy bill that after January first of 2023, there will be no more waivers for textbooks that do not align to our standards in Tennessee.

Leahy: So I’ll put a self-promoting plug here for The Tennessee Star.

Cepicky: Sure.

Leahy: As you know, we do, the National Constitution be here. We’re doing our fifth year in October. And kids win prizes.  10,000 dollars of educational scholarship to the winner. 5000 for second place, 2 500 third place. We use a book that I was a co-author of Guide to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights for Secondary School students. They like it. We sent it up to the University of Wisconsin Center for the Study of American Constitution to fact-check it. They fact checked it. So you’re a Badger. So we would love to see that as a supplementary text that schools could use. Just bringing that up here.

Cepicky: I hear you. So other bills we’ve had that in line, just what you said. One of the problems we have and you’ve seen this probably come across your desk at times of things that find their way into a classroom.

Leahy: Yes. Things that we would say, how did this get there?

Cepicky: They don’t align to Tennessee standards or values.

Leahy: There you go.

Cepicky: Terry Lynn Weaver and another representative.

Leahy: I know her very well, by the way, the best rendition of the national anthem you can hear from Terri Lynn Weaver.

Cepicky: She’s probably 100 the best voice in the General Assembly

Leahy: By a long shot.

Cepicky: I am not a close second. But she’s running a bill on supplemental material and how it will be used in the classroom and must align to our standards.

Leahy: There you go.

Cepicky: If it doesn’t align to our standards and a local education authority knowingly allows it then the Commissioner of Education has BEP funds taken from them. We’re very serious about this.

Leahy: That’s another good common sense. How do some of these bills come to you?

Cepicky: Well, everybody thinks that lobbyists up there have this big influence, and they do have some. The departments have a big influence, and they have a little bit. Most of the bills that I carry in education, that’s where my main focus is education or other bills in criminal justice. Most of those bills, believe it or not, come from conversations with citizens in my district.

Leahy: So how can a citizen be most effective in presenting their thoughts to a state representative? What’s the most effective way to do that?

Cepicky: And here’s the best answer I can give you. It is my job to make myself available to my district.

Leahy: So you’re available?

Cepicky: I am. We do a thing in Columbia called First Fridays. I will be on the square on First Fridays and just having conversations with people.

Leahy: Where at the square?

Cepicky: Just on the square.

Leahy: You’re standing on the square. Come talk to me.

Cepicky: I’ll park my truck, and I’ll put my campaign signs out so they know its me.

Leahy: So the people that come up and talk to you?

Cepicky: Typically, it could be four or five in a couple of hours, and it’s been as much as probably 30 people. It just depends on what topic is hot right now, and they want to know what their representative is going to do to help or protect Tennessee.

Leahy: Do you ever have anybody who’s just giving you a hard time.

Cepicky: I have my friends from the left. (Leahy laughs) And that’s ok.

Leahy: Are they friendly or are they mean?

Cepicky: Some are friendly and some are… not friendly.

Leahy: Not so friendly. That’s a problem. That’s always been the case. It seems like it’s more the case these days.

Listen to the full second hour here:


– – –

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

State Rep. Scott Cepicky and All Star Panelist Clint Brewer Advocate for Culture Changes Needed in LEA Accountability

State Rep. Scott Cepicky and All Star Panelist Clint Brewer Advocate for Culture Changes Needed in LEA Accountability

 

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 all-star panelist Clint Brewer and State Rep. Scott Cepicky to the studio to discuss the needed changes in the cultures that lead the educational systems.

Leahy: We are having too much fun here with recovering journalists and our all-star panelist, Clint Brewer, and state Representative Scott Cepicky from Maury County. So, Scott, you were talking a little bit about accountability in the LEA’s, the local education authorities. And you’ve got one down in Shelby County that is performing very poorly. When you talk to those guys, do they acknowledge the people running the show? Do they acknowledge that they’re not performing well? And are they open to fixing it?

Cepicky: Well, the first thing you have to do is you’ve got to reach out and you’ve got to go visit the situation and try to understand the situation.

Leahy: Well, that makes sense. But you’re up here in Nashville. Have you gone down and talked to them?

Cepicky: Yes sir. Myself, Mark White and Debra Moody, all chairman of education.

Leahy: Mark White’s been on the show. A good friend of the show. He represents that area.

Cepicky: Yes, sir. And Debra Moody is just North.

Leahy: That’s right.

Cepicky: And so we thought it would behoove us after what we just did in the special session with the struggles that Memphis City has. Because when you talk about Shelby County remember you have Bartlett and that very high-performing schools. But Memphis is struggling. And we took a visit down there on a Friday, went down, and talked to the Superintendent of schools, Joris Ray.

I wanted to have a frank conversation with him. We want to do what you need to do. We want to help you, but we’ve got to get results because of the disproportionate way that not only Shelby, Memphis, but Nashville City schools disproportionately affect the rest of Tennessee by churning out “their graduates.” And the reception down there, I could say, was cold.

Leahy: Cold,

Cepicky: Cold.

Leahy: Cold. frigid, icy, unfriendly, unfriendly. But you hold it now. Joris Ray, he’s the superintendent of the public school system down there.

Cepicky: Yes.

Leahy: You are legislators that have the power of the purse.

Cepicky: We are concerned citizens that took the time to come down and talk to them that have the ability to help.

Leahy: You have the ability to help. Okay, I’ll take that framing.

Cepicky: Ability to help.

Leahy: So you would think that if you are in the worst-performing…

Cepicky: One of.

Leahy: One of the three worst-performing of the 147 LEA’s in the state of Tennessee, you would think you would be open to help. But Joris Ray was not that open.

Cepicky: No, he was cold towards us. If you know Representative Moody and Chairman White, they’re very kind and gracious.

Leahy: Well, you’re kind and gracious.

Cepicky: To a point I am.

Leahy: Clint, you are going to know where this comes from because Clint is a native Tennesseean. I am a transplant in Yankee, from upstate New York. You’re a Midwesterner from Missouri.

Cepicky: But remember, we chose Tennessee.

Leahy: We chose Tennessee. Let’s just say native Tennesseeans.

Brewer: Born in Memphis.

Leahy: Okay, there you go. But native Tennesseeans have a certain graciousness about them that well, at least upstate New Yorkers don’t always have.

Cepicky: The conversation was very simple. Our vision of what Memphis could be. What Memphis really could be with an outstanding educational system flowing for its citizens. For children that are born in Memphis, to have the opportunity of knowledge. To be able to take that knowledge and use it in their life to make anything out of themselves they want to be.

Leahy: The American dream.

Cepicky: Instead I had the superintendent telling me that I don’t understand the people down there.

Leahy: Is that what he said?

Cepicky: Yes. And it was shocking to hear. And my goal, if anybody asked me, Rep. Cepicky, what’s your goal for education in Tennessee? It’s very simple. I can tell you right now is that every child read, write, and do math by third grade, and everything we do is about being number one in the country in education.

Leahy: Okay. Clint, that sounds like a very common-sense goal. Right? Read and write?

Brewer: It’s a very clear-eyed simple goal to understand. The representative makes a great point but this is the same thing that’s been said to our two largest school districts for the better part of the last 30 years. And this problem has been pervasive. It has not been solved. The answer is simply, you need to see a change in the culture for who leads these systems. And that’s the only thing that will do it. You need the community rising up to say this is not enough. To say this isn’t good enough. And that’s what it will take.

Leahy: That’s a very good point. See, change in the culture. What do you think?

Cepicky: Well, we have to. We have no choice. We had one of the first times that I think ever happened. Tony Parker, the commissioner of corrections, came into the education committee last week and talked to us about the direct correlation between education and lack thereof and incarceration. And they have a program where when the inmates come into the penitentiary system, they screen them for their educational levels. Women read on about a third-grade level in penitentiaries. Men read on a first-grade level.

Leahy: First-grade level.

Cepicky: We all can agree that to get to go to a penitentiary, you have done something that you probably deserve to be in there. But is there some responsibility on us and as its legislators that they got through the system at a first-grade level? and to defend the LEAs and I’ll tell you this, to defend them we have a policy in place that in high school if they do what’s right for a student (i.e. retain a student for a year to get them on grade level).

Leahy: Right. Which makes sense. In other words, if they’re not performing at a level and you want to just get them up to the level where they should be, give them a next year back. That makes common sense right?

Cepicky: So they can succeed and get what we want which is Tennessee and is educated, someone who can make informed decisions for themselves…

Leahy: Self-supporting.

Cepicky: And contribute to society. But we penalize them for doing that at the state level by dinging their report card.

Leahy: And it doesn’t make any sense.

Cepicky: And so I’m carrying a bill next week in committee that we’re going to look in to figure out, how can we fix this? How can we let the school systems do what they need to do, which is best for the students without penalizing to do it?

Brewer: I think in Tennessee, it’s no different than anywhere else. When you get into very inner-city environments and you get into very rural environments, you run into many of the same challenges. the families often, there’s not the support structure for the kids. My wife works in the county school system and I know a lot of times just to the point about Memphis, or you could say there’s about a lot of rural counties that, sometimes those kids the only meal they’re getting is the meal they get at school.

And so there are children and families who are up against a lot to take advantage of what otherwise is an adequate school system. Where I think the work is that needs to be done is outside the power structure. I think that conversations with leadership in large school districts at this point are probably not going to be fruitful. And what leaders in Nashville have to do at the state House is to talk directly to folks in the communities about what their expectations are. Which I can assure you are a lot higher than what they’re being delivered.

Leahy: Representative Cepicky, so Clint said something interesting, that conversations with these failing LEA leaderships are not going to be fruitful. I guess your personal experience, at least with one of these failing LEAs, would confirm that?

Cepicky: That is true. We have spoken with them. And as you make yourself available to the public, you’d be surprised how many people reach out to you from those struggling school systems that are wanting help.

Leahy: What do they say from a struggling school? What did they say to you?

Cepicky: Do whatever we have to do to affect the change needed for their kids.

Brewer: And let me make the point here, too, we’re talking about failing school systems. There are plenty of school systems in the state that are just above failing. They’re not statistically at the red flag level of Davidson and Shelby Counties, but they’re still not doing a super great job for the children in their district.

Leahy: Exactly right. On that, state representative Cepicky what’s your schedule today? Are you going to go off and do some business, or you’re gonna be able to stick with us for the rest of the show, or are you going to want to go off? Because I see you checking your clock, you’re gonna head out?

Cepicky: I’m gonna head out. I’ve got a very, very, big bill on the House floor today.

Leahy: Okay, well, State Representative Scott Cepicky, thanks so much for joining us today. What a wonderful conversation. I’m so happy to get to know you.

Cepicky: I appreciate being here.

Leahy: And come back again if you will and tell all your friends in the General Assembly that this is a place to come to get your message out.

Cepicky: Thank you, Michael.

Listen to the full third hour:


– – –

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

 

 

 

 

 

Mark Pulliam Says State Legislature and Governor Lee Should Take More Than ‘Illusory Action’ to Rein in Woke Taxpayer Funded Universities in Tennessee

Mark Pulliam Says State Legislature and Governor Lee Should Take More Than ‘Illusory Action’ to Rein in Woke Taxpayer Funded Universities in Tennessee

 

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 retired attorney and blog creator of Misrule of Law Mark Pulliam to the studio to discuss the inconsistencies between Tennessee universities and their conservative legislators.

Leahy: And that’s governor of South Dakota Kristi Noem. A rising star in the Republican firmament. And she’s talking about Joe Biden’s reckless decision to cancel this Keystone pipeline. We are talking with Mark Pulliam in studio who is a blogger and a refugee from California. And then later a refugee from the People’s Republic of Austin Texas who’s come to East Tennessee and is sending out warning signs about the complacency of conservatives which needs to be addressed here.

But we’re talking a little bit about how the country will survive the next two years of the Biden administration between now and the midterm elections. One of my theories Mark is that we need in those 35 states where freedom is still possible, by the way, California is not on the list of those 35 States. You’re shaking your head. you agree with that.

But in those 35 states, we need to return to federalism. We need those states, the state legislators, and the governor’s states to be strong proponents of state sovereignty and push back against the usurpations of the national federal government. Kristi Noem in South Dakota I think it’s done a very good job of that. She didn’t do any lockdowns.

And is a great rising star. At CPAC I think she was in the top four-five of potential presidential candidates. My question to you you’ve lived in California recently. You’ve lived in, Texas and now you live in Tennessee. How would you rate the governors of those states in terms of their exercise of authority pushing back against the usurpations of the national federal government?

Pulliam: Well federalism is important. And in Washington, we have gridlock. We’ve got Chuck Schumer. We got Nancy Pelosi. We got a lot of complicated problems and it’s hard to get things done there. But in states like Tennessee where you have an overwhelmingly Republican electorate, where you have a Republican super-majority in the legislature, and where you have statewide elected officials who are all Republicans, we should be able to chart a different direction to run things differently.

And just because the federal government is in bad shape doesn’t mean that we cannot enact good policies at the state level. But we have to have the will and the resolve to do so. And what is disappointing and this was disappointing in Texas and I’m beginning to feel becoming disappointed about in Tennessee is that even though you have this Republican establishment that is in charge at the state level they don’t govern like Republicans should be governing.

Leahy: So when we talk about that, I think one of the areas that we’re talking about of air during the break has to do with how higher education here in Tennessee is being subjected to the kind of left-wing, critical race theory indoctrination that you are seeing in California, New York, and these other states. Can you elaborate on that a little bit?

Pulliam: Well, the legislature has plenary power over the state universities because they fund them. And the governor has a great deal of authority over state universities because he points to most of the members of the boards of trustees that oversee them. Nevertheless notwithstanding the fact that we’re paying for it, and we’re overseeing it across Tennessee at the flagship campus and at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, but at the other campuses, we see critical race theory.

We see the whole diversity agenda. LGBTQ. All of the elements of wokeness being woven into the curriculum. And our children are being indoctrinated right here in Nashville. At Tennessee State, Al Sharpton this semester is being paid $48,000 to be a lecturer and an adjunct professor in social justice. . . Why are the taxpayers and Tennessee paying him $48,000? He’s a despicable character and by bringing him in we are legitimizing him. But it’s not just Tennessee State. Its athletes taking a knee and being praised by University administrators.

Leahy: This is East Tennessee?

Pulliam: Well, not just East Tennessee the women basketball players at the University of Tennessee Knoxville. And at the men’s basketball players. In fact, all of the athletes at the University of Tennessee marched during the George Floyd protest, and this was during a COVID shutdown at the time. And the university administrators applauded it.

Leahy: That was back in the summer. But the one in the news now is the East Tennessee State University men’s basketball team took a knee recently to protest the national anthem.

Pulliam: And the coaches are defending them. And when the GOP legislators senators wrote a letter criticizing it the university administrators are pushing back and saying oh you’re violating these athletes’ First Amendment rights even though most of them are on taxpayer-paid scholarships. They’re wearing taxpayer-provided uniforms. They are representing the state of Tennessee.

Leahy: So is it a first amendment right? You are an attorney.

Pulliam: No. I think that what student-athletes do on their own time. That’s a First Amendment Right. What you do on the court while you are literally representing the state is rules can be set.

Leahy: So let me just stop. I think that’s a very good point. So the First Amendment basically gives freedom of speech but doesn’t require that people have an opportunity to hear you necessarily and you can go on a soapbox and say whatever you want. But if you’re working for an employer or if you’re representing an employer or an institution there are rules and regulations that bind your conduct at that time. Is that right?

Pulliam: Yes. And for all intents and purposes, they are employees performing a job when they are athletes playing basketball. And so what they do in their capacity as basketball players is subject to management and regulation by the state. and making people stand respectfully during the national anthem I think is part of that. The NFL is making people do that. If you want to take a knee stay in the locker room etc. There’s no reason why the University of Tennessee can’t do it or others.

Leahy: So let’s talk about that a little bit. And this is kind of one of the things that I find interesting. So in theory, it’s the state legislature that sets the law in the state?

Pulliam: Right.

Leahy: Signed by the governor.

Pulliam: And appropriates all the money.

Leahy: So here’s what I find. So the state . . . when we talk to the state legislators, it’s about two-thirds Republican in the House. It’s more than that in the Senate like I think 27 Republicans and six Democrats in the state senate. But if you talk to them they all are very conservative and very supportive of the Constitution. As an example, there’s a law that says the Constitution will be part of the curriculum.

But if you go in and you try and find that curriculum and find teachers telling teaching it, you don’t really find it in the way that the state legislature intended. We know this because as you know, we’ve done this Constitution Bee for four years now going on five written a book about it. Complimentary text Guide to the Constitution the Bill of Rights for Secondary School Students.

We are not getting a lot of teachers in public schools that really care to use that content, even though it hits all of the elements that the state legislature says should be hit in teaching the Constitution. So we see a lot of times the state legislature will say this is what should be done. But the implementation of it doesn’t seem to happen that much.

Pulliam: Well speaking of how a conservative legislature should manage taxpayer-funded universities. So five years ago there was a controversy at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville regarding gender-neutral pronouns and sex week activities.

Leahy: The sex week, we did a lot of stories on it. But they were really kind of bizarre.

Pulliam: Well it’s no more bizarre than a lot of other stuff that’s part of this curriculum. Well, so it got controversial the legislature defunded the diversity office. It got a lot of attention $400,000 taken out of the budget. What people didn’t realize it was only for one year. So after one year that the vice-chancellor of diversity is back.

All of the money is back. And in fact, it’s gotten a lot worse. Now, they have diversity officers in every academic department. Every department has to have a diversity plan. Critical race theory is being promoted throughout the school. And so they sort of pushed away a lot of this controversy by taking some action, but it was illusory action.

Leahy: We’ll have more with Mark Pulliam blogger at the Misrule of Law and Refugee from California here on The Tennessee Star Report.

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 “Mark Pulliam” by Mark Pulliam.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

State Rep. Scott Cepicky and All Star Panelist Clint Brewer Advocate for Culture Changes Needed in LEA Accountability

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.