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:


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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

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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