Fran Bush on Charter Schools: ‘It’s All About Choice’

Fran Bush on Charter Schools: ‘It’s All About Choice’

 

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 Michael Patrick Leahy welcomed MNPS District Six school board member Fran Bush in studio to discuss her views on charter schools and the process by which they are instituted in the state.

Leahy: In studio with us, Metro Nashville Public School Board member Fran Bush. Fran, during the break, we were talking about charter schools. And I want to talk overall about the philosophy, your philosophy with regards to charter schools. Generally speaking, do you favor the idea of having charter schools or do you oppose it?

Bush: So my position has always been and this is always one of those very controversial topics when it comes to public versus charter. And before I ran, I always believed in parents having a choice. It’s all about choice. We understand that our public schools, it takes away our funding because we have to fund charter schools before our public schools.

Leahy: Now, Crom would say, the difference is a government-run public school and a charter, independent-run public school. You’d say they’re both public schools.

Bush: Right. So they’re still our students. So let’s make it very clear these students are still public school students. They have just made a choice, or parents have made a choice to put them in a charter school for whatever reason, they felt their student will be academically served best.

Leahy: And a charter school gets a charter from the Metro National Public School Board or the local school board.

Bush: Correct.

Leahy: That allows them to operate their own public school according to their guidelines, but guided by the Metro Public Schools. But they have their own management team and their own style and their own approach. We have one of the most well-known, I guess, is Nashville Classical, which is a K8. It’s been around for many years. I think, about 10 years maybe.

Bush: A long time.

Leahy: And from everything I can tell, very successful. Polls show that there is huge support among minority groups, Black voters, and Hispanic voters for charter schools and choice. So generally saying you support the concept of choice?

Bush: Yes, I do, because every model is not for every student. So it doesn’t mean that we don’t care and love our community public schools. That’s not what we’re saying. That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying that there are options and there should always be choices because every student is different. They learn differently.

They have different needs. They need different support. And sometimes the public school or that particular school, a parent feels that that is not what they want for their student, and they find some other option. If it’s in a charter school, they can give them the support they definitely need for their students.

Leahy: So that parent, if there is a charter school that they want to attend, they don’t have to pay anything extra. It’s free, if you will, except for direct payments. They can follow that. Here in Nashville and in Tennessee, the way it works is the charter school brings an application to Metro Nashville Public School.

Bush: Correct.

Leahy: And you can vote up or down. And if they vote down in recent years now there’s a special commission they can appeal it to.

Bush: Absolutely. So if a charter school comes before the board, they will submit their application. Once they submit the application and go through an interview process, and then they have to meet certain criteria. If it’s academic, if it’s the finances, location, whatever the case may be, they have to meet pretty much and have an eight star.

Charters are judged a little bit differently? So they have to have a little bit more of a higher standard in order to operate or to get that approval. So they have to meet so many different needs. If it’s English learning students if it’s students with special needs, that kind of thing. So all that is encompassed into this application process.

Now it comes before the board. If the board sees that academically, they still have things that they have to meet they have 30 days to make those corrections or update their application to make sure that it is up to standards coming back before the board making those adjustments for approval.

Leahy: I guess last week there were two charter applications.

Bush: This week.

Leahy: This week?

Bush: Tuesday.

Leahy: This is breaking news folks. And so it was Nashville Classical, which has been operating a K8 for some time. Did they want to have another K8, or did they want to go with a high school?

Bush: I think it’s more of a K8 in a different location. So I think she was going to start Elementary. I’m sorry. Elementary first element. And then, of course, you add a grade every year.

Leahy: Basically, then you the Metro board consider the application of Nashville Classical for another elementary site. And then was there another application?

Bush: Yes. It was a new one. It’s Ventura and it’s a new never established or new application.

Leahy: Startup?

Bush: Startup. Yes.

Leahy: What happened in the discussion and how did the board vote? How did you vote on these two applications?

Bush: So just so everyone can be clear if I deny a charter application the first go-around is because there are some things that needed to be added or adjusted in the application so that it can meet the academic needs of the students. Once that application comes back the next 30 days, nine times out of 10, they make the adjustments. And if parents, once again, if they are supporting the application or the means of the students academically is going to be a success, then my vote is always yes.

Leahy: What was the vote on these two proposals on Tuesday?

Bush: Nashville Classical two, only one voted in favor and the rest we voted again…

Leahy: So it was nine zip against Ventura. And then eight to one against Nashville Classical.

Bush: Right.

Leahy: So you voted against Ventura Academics, and then you voted against Nashville Classical. But there’s an asterisk. Explain your vote and what happens next?

Bush: So Nashville Classical again, a very great school. No problems with the history. And so we can be clear that once they make a new application to go, the application process is very strenuous. It’s not something that’s easy. It’s something that is really a long process. It’s like a checkmark. You have to checkmark, like, 100 things off the list. And if they don’t have so many different things on that checklist and they did not meet the criteria or partially met that kind of grading. They did not partially meet on the academics.

Leahy: I’m just curious what would have done the shortcoming on the academics if they have, like, a dozen years or so of good academic experience? I think they outperform other schools. What in their application led you to believe that their second school would not meet academic standards if their first school has been well above?

Bush: That’s a good question. I’ve looked at these applications before. This is not the first time this has happened. Nashville Classical is not the only school that we’ve seen this happen to. It’s amazing just what you just spoke about. They did so well. They’re doing so well in their current state. But when they submit another application, it’s like it changes. Something changed in the application that does not match exactly what they’ve been doing.

Which they should be doing the exact same thing. But something in the application that spirals into a different direction of what they’ve always done. And that kind of has been a curiosity for me because I’m thinking it should be the same on consistency. And somehow with these applications, it doesn’t match.

Leahy: So there was their curriculum going to be different. Is that what it was?

Bush: It was like more of the curriculum meeting certain standards with their English learner students, or if it was dealing with students with special needs.

Leahy: So you told them to fix it.

Bush: Just fix it.

Leahy: And they’ll come back in 30 days.

Bush: Come back in 30 days.

Leahy: If they fix it, you’re gonna vote Yes.

Bush: Yes.

Leahy: But what will the vote be then? seven two against it?

Bush: Yes.

Leahy: But then they get to appeal it.

Bush: They can appeal it to the state.

Leahy: And then they’ll probably get it approved.

Bush: Yes.

Listen to the full third 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

 

 

 

 

 

Florida House Rep. Randy Fine Talks Recent Florida Legislation of Big Tech, Critical Race Theory, Pro-Police, and Anti-Rioting

Florida House Rep. Randy Fine Talks Recent Florida Legislation of Big Tech, Critical Race Theory, Pro-Police, and Anti-Rioting

 

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 Florida State Representative Randy Fine to the newsmakers line to discuss some of the Florida legislation that is going through the last days of session and how his state is leading the way.

Leahy: We are joined on the newsmaker line by state Representative Randy Fine of Florida. Good morning Representative Fine.

Fine: Good morning. Happy to be here.

Leahy: We are delighted to have you on here. I’m going to give you some news you may not know. As you know, we own and operate several state-based conservative news sites. And two weeks ago, we launched The Florida Capital Star. Floridacapitalstar.com. Right there, based in Tallahassee. We’ve got a crew of three folks here writing about what you guys are doing in the Florida state Legislature and what Governor DeSantis is doing. We are delighted to have you on here.

Fine: Well, we appreciate you getting the good word out on all the good work we’re doing down here.

Leahy: So your legislative session is about to wind up, I guess tomorrow is that right?

Fine: That’s right. We have a 60-day session by Constitution every year, and tomorrow will be the 60th day.

Leahy: So every time I turn around, you guys are passing legislation that should be viewed as a model by other States. What would you say are the top accomplishments of this session of the Florida state legislature?

Fine: I think number one, we will again pass a balanced budget, which we do every year while adding to our reserves. I like to tell people we do more than balance our budget. We actually put money in savings. That’s always our most important priority. But policy-wise, we’ve passed the most aggressive anti rioting, pro-police legislation in the country to make sure Florida never looks like Portland or Seattle. And we are also close to passing legislation to really hold Big Tech accountable for the way that they manipulate our data and the way that they censor and treat Conservatives.

Leahy: I looked at our website, floridacapitalstar.com, and I can see you had a couple of other bills. The Florida House passed a bill banning vaccine passports.

Fine: We did. We did. The governor feels very strongly that people should not have to prove that they have been vaccinated in order to go into particular businesses. And so that bill passed the Florida House overwhelmingly yesterday.

Leahy: The other thing I’ve been hearing about is that Governor DeSantis has said we’re not going to be teaching critical race theory in Florida. And I’ve also seen that apparently there are some bills out there that would provide bonuses to teachers in the Florida public school system that follow and take advanced training on the Constitution and civics. Where does that bill stand?

Fine: I’m actually the chair of K through 12 appropriations, so I set the budget. We’re very very aggressive on that front. Number one, minimizing the teaching of the hatred of America and that America is bad and everything that we do is bad. And that’s really what critical race theory says. Basically, let’s be critical of America and view everything through a racist lens.

We’re focused on celebrating America. We’ve passed multiple bills this year that focus on increasing civics as well as reminding people about what makes America great through creating new content to show folks portraits in patriotism, and to remind folks about the evil that’s involved in socialism and communism.

Leahy: So is there an incentive program for teachers that get special training on civics and related projects? Is that in the works? Has that been passed or about to be passed or under consideration?

Fine: We haven’t passed anything to provide incentives for it. But we’re doing one thing better. We’re going to require the teaching of this stuff in schools. So you’re not going to get paid extra to do the right thing. We’re going to expect you to do it as a condition of your job.

Leahy: How will that be monitored? Because one of the problems, we interview members of the Tennessee General Assembly all the time, and they have an idea about what’s being taught in the schools and often their idea of what should be taught and what is being taught is very different from what’s actually being taught.

Fine: Well, that’s a great question. So we passed other legislation this session that increases the availability of classroom materials to parents so the parents can see what’s going on. And we have very active parents in our state. But one other thing that we’ve done is that is sort of related to keep the schools honest is we have passed the largest expansion of school choice in the United States this year.

So we’re creating opportunities for all of our Florida families if they so choose to take their child if they’re not happy for any reason out of a government-run school and to put them into a different school.

Leahy: Tell us how that school choice program expansion will work. Here in Tennessee, this is something that we’re very interested in. We have had a few fits and starts in that Arena. And we look to Florida, as many States do, as a model.

Fine: We have hundreds of thousands of students already taking advantage of private school choice here in Florida. We’ve expanded that this year to say any family of four making $100,000 a year or less can get a voucher equivalent to what the state is paying the school to teach your child. You can get a voucher and take that to a private school. That’s what you want to do.

But in addition, we have a very expensive program for families of children with special needs. Whether they can get their money not only to go to a private school but if that child would be better off at home with specialized therapies and other kinds of products and services they can use it for that. So that is for special needs programs and middle-class programs.

Leahy: For a middle-class parent there, what’s that work out to be? About $7,000 a child?

Fine: That’s exactly right. It’s right around $7,000. And it changes from year to year. We’re talking about the income-based scholarship.

Leahy: Right. The income-based scholarship. But any parent down there with $100,000 or less can qualify for those voucher payments. Is that right?

Fine: So to make it simple, you make $99,000 a year. You’re a family of four with two kids in school, you can get $14,000. to send your child to a private school.

Leahy: Wow! And so I’m guessing that there are a lot of parents that are likely to line up to take advantage of that.

Fine: There are. But the fact of the matter is by having this accountability, our public schools and our charter schools have gotten better. So some parents go, well, hey, we appreciate that we have this option. It makes my government-run school have to do a lot better to keep me from leaving. So everybody wins.

Whether you’re going to a private school or whether you’re going to a charter school, which is a public school, or whether you’re going to a government-run public school. That increased competition benefits everybody.

Leahy: So how are teachers in Florida responding to all this? I know the teachers’ unions, particularly up here in Tennessee, are pretty hostile to these kinds of policy changes. What’s the case down in Florida?

Fine: Well, teachers’ unions hate them, but teachers don’t necessarily because whether you’re teaching in a private school or a government-run school or charter school, they is still a job for you. But I don’t do this job for teachers unions. I do this job for children. I do this job for parents. And those folks overwhelmingly like these programs.

But if you are a teacher in a government-run school, Florida has raised our minimum teacher salaries to among the highest in the country at $47,500 which is a pretty good salary for a job where you get 14 weeks a year off.

Leahy: So you are likely to wrap up tomorrow. Do you think you’ll be there until midnight? How long will it take to get all the business done?

Fine: We can’t vote under our Constitution until 12:06 tomorrow on our budget. We have to actually give 72 hours after we print the budget before we vote on it. So I think sometime mid-afternoon. And by the way, I’m in my fifth year in the legislature and this will be the first time in those five years that we actually end on time.

Leahy: Ah. Do you give Governor DeSantis credit for that or the leadership?

Fine: I give everybody credit. I give credit to Governor DeSantis. I give credit to President Wilton Simpson, who’s the President of our Senate, and Speaker Chris Sprowls, my Speaker. I think they’ve all worked really well together to get the job done.

Leahy: So Saturday morning, you’re going to wake up and the session will be over. Is your job as a state representative over, or do you just turn the page to some other sorts of activities?

Fine: Well, it won’t be over, unfortunately, because we have to come back in two weeks to do a special session on casinos in Florida, which really isn’t a basic function of our regular session. But beyond that, I’ll go home, and I’ll start to talk to folks about the work that we did up here. And I’ll also get to know my family again. I’ve hardly seen them for the last two months.

Leahy: So do you stay up in Tallahassee during most of this time or do you go back and forth?

Fine: It’s a Monday to Friday job, and I live a six-hour drive away. So I’m lucky to get home for 24 to 48 hours every weekend. Especially when session gets busier.

Leahy: That’s a big personal sacrifice. What’s the toll on your family life?

Fine: It’s a lot. You get to a point of week six or seven of session where you think of home as more Tallahassee, and then you’re visiting your family. And then it’s sort of like re-entry as people have described it. And I’m not trying to compare this to being in the military, but people describe it as you sort of have been deployed for 60 days and then you go through the reentry process when you get home.

But I’ve now been through it four times, and I’ll get through it again. It takes a big big toll on your family because you’re just gone and it’s very busy when we’re up here.

Leahy: Well, thanks for all the hard work that you’re doing for the folks in Florida State Rep. Randy Fine.

Listen to the full first 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.
Background Photo “Florida Capitol” by DXR. CC BY-SA 4.0.

 

 

 

 

 

Rep. Jerry Sexton Responds to Biden Administration Immigration Law Fails and the State Legislature Role K12 Curriculum

Rep. Jerry Sexton Responds to Biden Administration Immigration Law Fails and the State Legislature Role K12 Curriculum

 

Live from Music Row Monday 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. (R) State Representative Jerry Sexton in studio to weigh in on Biden border policy and immigration failures and the Tennessee General Assembly’s role in K12 public education curriculum.

(Arizona Congressman (R) Andy Biggs clip plays)

Leahy: That’s Congressman Andy Biggs from Arizona talking about the Biden mal-administration’s failure to enforce our immigration laws. What’s happening at the border is illegal aliens are crossing in record numbers. They’re not being tested for COVID. They’re not being detained. They are being put on buses and planes and sent all around the country, including to places like Tennessee it appears.

In studio with us State Representative Jerry Sexton. Jerry, when you hear Congressman Biggs describe the reality on the border of that, you look here at Tennessee apparently, some of these illegal aliens, many of them not tested for COVID. Many of them carrying COVID are headed to Tennessee. What’s your response to that, Jerry?

Sexton: Well, it’s obvious we have certain values and certain laws and those laws are being skirted with immigration. We are a country of immigrants, and it’s called the melting pot. The problem is we’re not melting anymore. We’re trying to change the values of this country.

Leahy: Balkanizing the country.

Sexton: Yes, that’s exactly right. And when you’ve got immigrants, we could make them a way for people to come legally. But what they’re doing is they’re getting these people to beholden to them as if they’re giving them something. And unfortunately, it’s happening in Tennessee. And we’re not making our politicians pay for their votes and their policies.

It’s time that we, as Tennesseeans, decide whether we’re going to continue to put up with these types of policies, or do we know exactly what the voting record is of our state Senator, of our governor, of any politician? Do we know what their voting record is? We better stop listening to the rhetoric and see what actually they’re doing now.

Leahy: I have not seen any confirmed reports that these illegal aliens have surged across the border and have been placed in Tennessee. I have seen many confirmed reports that illegal aliens at the border are not being detained and are being sent around the country. It would stand a reason that there are 50 States and they’re probably being sent to Tennessee is one of those States.

There was an unconfirmed report down in Chattanooga. I don’t know if you saw that which said that said, apparently an organization called the Baptiste Group, there was a report, unconfirmed, was housing illegal aliens who had just crossed the border. And then there was, I think, a local Chattanooga message from their school board saying, just a reminder that by law, we are required to educate everybody that comes here.

And there’s a Supreme Court ruling on this that illegal alien children must be educated in K12 public schools. And so I don’t know. There have been no confirmed reports, but it would very much surprise me if there aren’t right now today in Tennessee, illegal aliens who have crossed the border illegally since the inauguration of Joe Biden, who are sitting here right now, many of them poised to go to public schools.

Sexton: Let me ask you something. What if every immigrant that came to America said that they had to listen to your program? And I’m in the furniture manufacturing business and these same people had to buy my product? Now, that would be a pretty good boom for us, would it not?

Leahy: Oh, yeah.

Sexton: So our education system, they get so much money per student. So what we’re doing is we’re filling up the classrooms with money because every head represents so much money for those schools. And it’s time that we tear apart these organizations that are funneling all this money and everything else. We should be teaching our people. We should be giving them an education.

Leahy: You mean on things like the Constitution of America? (Laughs)

Sexton: Oh, my gosh. Isn’t it amazing how we don’t know the Constitution and we don’t teach those things?

Leahy: Well, funny, you bring that up. Have you seen in our book Guide to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights for Secondary School Students? I think maybe this is the first time I’ve shared that with you.

Sexton: I think it is.

Leahy: And I’ll just talk to you a little bit about this. In October, it will be our fifth year of doing the National Constitution Bee here in Tennessee. And it is for students grades eight through 12. They get a copy of this book. And then we do a Constitution Bee like a Spelling Bee or Geography Bee. And we end up with three winners and the first place winner gets a $10,000. educational scholarship, second place, $5,000, and third place $2,500. It’s a lot of fun.

Sexton: Wow.

Leahy: I will tell you this, though, and we make this book available as a supplementary text to K12 public schools in Tennessee. Really, only one school system in the state has even expressed any interest in it. We’ve got one school system using it as a supplementary text in one course. But most of the other K12 public schools have no interest in learning about this particular supplementary text on the Constitution. Nor do they have much interest in sending their kids to have this opportunity for educational scholarships. That’s our experience with the K12 public schools in Tennessee.

Sexton: What they are teaching them is completely different from the values of America. I was in a public school and I attend some schools occasionally and in one of the classrooms I took some pictures and I’ve tried to take videos of it, but there was on the board they were teaching about Christmas in Mexico, not Christmas in America.

Leahy: Christmas in Mexico.

Sexton: Christmas in Mexico.

Leahy: Because that’s what young kids in Tennessee need to learn about. Christmas in Mexico.

Sexton: I tell organizations all the time when they talk about these diversity and inclusion programs. First of all, say it should be done away with because I say it’s not real. If I want to bring my Bible and I want to come into your organization, am I welcome? Can I have Bible study? Can I have Sunday school? No, just on the face itself it’s not real. The first book that was approved by Congress, and I’m sorry, they don’t have the year 17 something but it was the Aitken Bible. It was the first Bible printed in America and approved by Congress.

Leahy: I think that was actually like 1784 during the Confederation Congress.

Sexton: I think so. Yes. And we are when I say we, the American Bible Society, is going to put Bibles in every school to be taught. From this historical standpoint, it has all of the documents. I’ve seen the Bible’s already being printed. And we’re excited that we can put those in schools because we do have a policy, a law, state law that says that you can have these.

But as you said, Michael, people are afraid. They’re afraid to stand up for what is our right in America. And until we start standing for those rights that we have and those values like the Second Amendment, like freedom of speech, like the right to keep and bare arms, until we start standing up for those, we’re going to continue to lose them. I, for one, will not bow to the left and their tactics.

Leahy: Yeah, that’s, I think, very important. But I want to follow up with this. Isn’t it the state legislature that plays a critical role in establishing the curriculum?

Sexton: Of course it is.

Leahy: That is taught in K12 public schools?

Sexton: Of course it is. Now let me give a high five to some of my colleagues in the Education Department. I know several of them that are fighting extremely hard to try to get these policies in our schools. Believe me, you’ve got a lot of Tennessee legislators that believe in the values that made this country great. They’re wanting to get those things taught in our school rooms. They’re fighting for it all the time.

We have to push back against these big unions. And I don’t want my Republican friends that don’t understand that every time we give in to these public schools and this leftist idea that they’re taking that money and trying to defeat Republicans and conservative values. Why do we continue to do that? I tell my friends all the time in the legislature that I am a rural representative and the school systems in my area are the largest employers.

And we cannot be afraid of them. We have to embrace them. I support our teachers. They have to teach what they’re mandated. But our parents also want to have a diversity of education. I support that. And I get elected every time because I support our parents, our teachers and the public school system is failing us as it is.

Listen to the full first 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

IWF’s Carrie Sheffield Weighs in on Wokeism, Critical Race Theory, and the ‘Manifestation of a Liberal Wishlist’

IWF’s Carrie Sheffield Weighs in on Wokeism, Critical Race Theory, and the ‘Manifestation of a Liberal Wishlist’

 

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 IWF’s Senior Fellow Carrie Sheffield to the newsmakers line to discuss the woke agenda and implementation of critical race theory into public schools and how the Biden infrastructure plan will hurt the lower 20 percent of earners in the U.S.

Leahy: We are joined now by our good friend, whom we’ve never met but we’re glad to meet her now, Carrie Sheffield. Carrie, welcome to The Tennessee Star Report.

Sheffield: Hey, Michael, great to be here. How are you?

Leahy: I’m great, Carrie. We have so many friends in common. You are a BYU grad. You went to Harvard, got a master’s in public policy there. And did you know a Professor there by the name of Dutch Leonard when you were at Harvard? He’s probably retired by now because he was an undergrad teacher of mine.

Sheffield: Okay.

Leahy: But you also started as a reporter with Politico and The Hill. You’re an entrepreneur. You started Bold TV for millennials. That’s a great venture. Most recently, you’ve been the White House correspondent for our good friend John Solomon’s Just the News and have left now to join as a senior fellow with the Independent Women’s Forum. Carrie, you’ve had a very, very productive and busy life.

Sheffield: Hey, thank you. That’s so kind of you. I have taken a breather right now. Being a fellow, I’m just delving into the policy and I love it. And Yes, John Solomon, and thanks for the plug for that. He’s fantastic. Go to justthenews.com, amazing content.

Leahy: Well, you know, my sense on this is that although you have been a reporter for a long time, I think there’s something in you. You’re a thinker about issues and I think you want the time to reflect. Do I have that right?

Sheffield: You know what? You hit the nail on the head, Michael. Yes, that’s kind of why I jumped back into the think tank. And that’s what we do at Independent Women’s Form, where we really break down the policy. And I love that. At Just the News it is just the news and I wanted to make sure to keep that firewall. And so I have a lot of opinions and at the Independent Women’s Forum, I’m allowed to share those opinions.

Leahy: A very good point. I know you have several topics you want to hit, but let’s talk about this problem of wokeism in our public and private schools today. It seems you cannot turn around without seeing it. And we have a story here in Williamson County a suburb of Nashville, where they’re introducing critical race theory into the K-12 schools here. They’re saying it’s not critical race theory, but parents are saying my kids are coming home saying, I hate myself because I’m white. That’s going on everywhere.

Sheffield: It really is. And we did some reporting about an elite school in New York City as well called the Brearley School, which is a private school. Very often you think of the private school system as a kind of relief from public schools, but not so in this one. They’re doing the same thing. They’re doing the critical race theory, and it’s coming in everywhere, the public schools, and private schools.

And it ultimately is a rejection of Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream, which was that we don’t judge people by the color of their skin. We judge them by the content of their character. And what critical race theory is teaching is this narrative of suppressors and being victimized. And if you’re white, you have no choice but you are part of the suppressor class.

And there is just the slicing and dicing of America based on race. And it’s tribalism at its very worst. And it’s really toxic and tragic that this is taken over our school system. And if you even try to say something, I’m white, and oftentimes when I’m talking to liberals and I try to mention Dr. King, I’m not allowed to even say that because I’m white and that by its very definition, is racism.

Leahy: How can we fix this problem, Carrie? Because you talk to state legislators and we talked to a lot of them here in Tennessee but really, they’re not setting the tone for the schools. This critical race theory curriculum has seeped everywhere. Teachers do it independently. The school boards put it in. The school directors put it in. What’s the solution?

Sheffield: I think the parents should absolutely fight back. It’s a different topic, but there was a success. For example, in California, when it comes to school choice, the parents were the ones who took the leadership there to allow for school choice. So I would recommend to parents to be vocal about it and to push back and say, I am not going to allow my child to be indoctrinated, to hate people of other races, or to feel ashamed of their family background. This is just fundamentally anti-American. I think parents should not be afraid to speak out about this. I interviewed Dennis Prager earlier this year, and he said his solution is to take your kids out and to home school them. So that’s always an option, too.

Leahy: Well, it’s interesting because we have a bunch of parents who met last night in Williamson County in the suburb of Nashville here, and the school director refused to show up. One of 12 school board members showed up and said pretty much the same thing, tell everybody you don’t like this. The problem is the parents that do tell folks this don’t get much relief. The institution, to me of K-12 public education, seems to be corrupted beyond repair. That’s my view.

Sheffield: You know, it is local. That is the beauty of America. And we are seeing at a macro level people migrating out of these liberal States like California, and like out of New York. I was reading data from the U.S. Census Bureau and I think it was 16 states that lost population in 2020 just through that census in 10 years. And so that’s the other option. You can always vote with your feet if it really is that bad. And I know a lot of parents do move for schools. You can go to a state where this toxic critical race theory is not allowed.

Leahy: The only state that I see that happening Carrie right now is Florida. That’s not been pushed back here against in Tennessee. And people are moving to Tennessee because we have low taxes and it’s a great place to live.

Sheffield: Right. Well, I think also a lot of it can happen at the local level. I don’t know in particular if this is coming down from the state of Tennessee as opposed to the local level. But I do know that local districts often will respond to parents. And so I think there are options, whether that’s petitioning, maybe putting things on local referendums, or putting things for a vote. There are options.

Leahy: You also want to talk about Joe Biden’s infrastructure program which looks like anything but infrastructure. Where does that stand right now?

Sheffield: I like to say it’s like that phrase, where’s the beef? Where’s the infrastructure? (Chuckles) And Newsweek was reporting it’s only about six percent of his plan overall. This is even according to a White House fact sheet that it was proposing only 115 billion or ‘modernizing the bridges and roads that are in most critical need of repair.’

But the vast majority of this is really just a liberal grab bag of many other things. In terms of the answer to your question of where things stand, the word on the street is that Republicans have their alternative plan they said they want to do. The price tag here for Joe Biden is out of control. He says he wants to do it in two different ways and in two different packages, and it could be upwards of four trillion dollars when you slice and divide them up.

But about two trillion for the first one. What it honestly is is a move to try to unwind what the Republicans did with their tax reform that was passed in 2017. What this bill would do is hike the corporate tax rate to 28 percent from 21 percent. And what that would do is make us the highest-taxed nation within the OECD.

The developed countries put our tax rate to 32.34 percent and that’s going to cause people to lose jobs. And you know, what’s sad is it the bottom 20 percent of earners the poorest among us are going to see a 1.5 percent drop in their after-tax income in the long run according to the Tax Foundation if this bill is passed. So it really doesn’t have hardly anything to do with infrastructure, it really is just a manifestation of a liberal wish list.

Leahy: Last question for Kerry Sheffield, a senior fellow with Independent Women’s Forum. When are you coming to Nashville so we can have you here in studio with us?

Sheffield: Oh, I would love that.

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.
Photo “Carrie Sheffield” by Patrick Ryan. CC BY-SA 4.0.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rep. Mark White Discusses Critical Race Theory Federal Grants in Tennessee for Public Schools and Why Division in Soceity Does Not Make Things Equal

Rep. Mark White Discusses Critical Race Theory Federal Grants in Tennessee for Public Schools and Why Division in Soceity Does Not Make Things Equal

 

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 Tennessee State Rep. Mark White to the newsmakers line to discuss the implementation of critical race theory in K-12 schools encouraged by grants given to the Tennessee Department of Education by the Biden administration.

Leahy: We are joined now on our newspaper line by our good friend state Representative Mark White from Memphis. Good morning, Representative White.

White: Good morning, Michael. How are you today?

Leahy: Are you up here in Nashville closing out the session?

White: Yes, we’re up here in Nashville. We probably got about two more three and a half, two and a half more weeks ago it looks like.

Leahy: Well, it’s been a busy session before we get to a summary of the session I want to follow up on a conversation I had earlier today with State Senator Jack Johnson. It’s relevant, of course, because you are the chairman of the House Education Administration Committee and a former teacher. There’s a story that we have at The Tennessee Star and I don’t know if you’ve seen this yet, but let me just read it to you. The proposed Education Department rule would prioritize funding critical race theory grant applications. The Biden administration is wasting no time promoting highly controversial critical race theory, anti-racism concepts into K-12 curriculums nationwide.

They’ve got a proposed rule that would prioritize funding grants to support this kind of curriculum. The proposed rule sites anti-racism Professor Ibram Kendi and The New York Times’s 1619 Project as positive examples of civic education. As the chairman of the Education Administration Committee, when you hear the Biden administration is proposing such grants, what is your reaction?

White: Well, as an opponent of critical race theory I’m a big student of history. One of my majors in college was history. And critical race theory I think this flies in the face of a lot of history. I think it’s divisive in so many things. I’m not supportive. And so we’re looking at ways in Tennessee where we can make this known amongst all 147 districts. And looking at legislation a lot of times is tough when things come down to the federal government, but it’s a concern to Tennesseeans. And we will oppose this at every measure we can.

Leahy: So it’s interesting because we talked about this before the odd spot that state legislatures are being forced into by the 10 percent of K-12 public school funding that comes from the Department of Education nationally at the federal level. They seem to be wanting to force all of these things on state governments. And it seems to me they are usurping the authority of the state legislature in that regard.

White: Well, they are. And, of course, that’s the time we live in right now that we’ve got to deal with a lot of these issues. What we’ve come to in so much in our current society today is that we want to divide, thinking that makes equal and it doesn’t. When you try to redefine history and the hard work that all people of all backgrounds and nationalities have made to make this country great I think that’s divisive. And I heard a story the other day where a second-grader who was exposed to this, and one of our districts came home as the mother am I racist? Doing that to a second grader I just think it’s bad for society, it’s bad for us, school-age children, and especially our younger children.

Leahy: So here’s what’s troubling to me. Representative White, I think that the vast majority of the Tennessee General Assembly does not want this taught in K-12 public schools. Yet, as you just pointed out, I hear anecdotally what you heard that many K-12 and second graders are being exposed to critical race theory right now in public schools. Why is it that public schools are apparently now in Tennessee able to do this? And what kind of legislation is the Tennessee General Assembly contemplating to stop it?

White: Well, that’s why we’re looking at it that way. We already passed legislation that we have Tennessee standards. We need to stay to those Tennessee standards. We have a Textbook Commission that we put in place that works to guard against that. And then we also have a piece of legislation that we’ve gotten a lot of pushback on supplemental materials that we never defined.

You can bring supplemental materials to teach to the standards, but that could be anything. And so we understand why teachers want the flexibility of supplemental materials. But then we have issues like this that we have to deal with. So we’re looking at legislation on how do we control what supplemental materials the teacher brings in. And I know that aggravates a lot of teachers and districts when I say that, but that’s why we are where we are because of a tremendous push from the federal government and other areas where we allow things like this to come into our system.

Leahy: As I read this, this is a rule for grants, and they’re asking for public comment. There will be a lot of public comment opposing it. They will pay no attention to it at the Department of Education and they will start exercising or delivering these grants to K-12 public schools. What is to prohibit any public school in Tennessee from applying for one of these critical race theory grants from the Department of Education and taking the money and implementing it in his curriculum?

White: Well, I think that we as a state have control of a lot of money that our districts get also. And so we can also, by the same token, they won’t take federal money for such things. And we can withhold state money. We can play that game both ways. It’s just sad that we’re at a time in our society where we’ve become so divisive and teaching this basically into our K through third K through six, even K through 12 is in my opinion divisive, and it does not help anything.

Leahy: Well, let me just generally suggest that this would be an area, even in the next few weeks of the session, that perhaps the Tennessee General Assembly should consider the very specific prohibition of school districts in Tennessee from taking these critical rate theory grants and using them in the classroom from the Department of Education. I think that would be something worth considering.

White: Absolutely. And to that point, we closed our education committees in the House out last week. But yesterday, the chairs, vice-chairs, and sub-chairs of the committees and education, there are seven of us, we met to talk about what we need to accomplish this summer and fall while we’re out of session before January of 2022 when we go back in. What are the issues? And this is one of the issues we discussed to put together as we have to legislation dealing with these issues.

Leahy: Well, that’s interesting. So what you’re saying is there may be a possibly not this session, but next session for some more comprehensive legislation to address that. Is that correct?

White: Absolutely. When we’re in session, January through first May this year, we have the issues, and we’ve passed everything we can pass constitutionally while we’re in session. Education committees are closed as of now, but we’re still a lot open for business. We’re in a two-year session, and we will put things in place as needed.

Leahy: What would you say have been the big accomplishments of the Tennessee General Assembly this session so far?

White: Some of the biggest things we did were one reason I was able to get our committees closed as of last week is a special session. What we dealt with the main issues facing education because of the disruption we’ve had for a year and in some ways, continue to have a disruption in education due to the virus is making sure that this summer we put in place summer tutoring programs and summer bridge programs to get our children back to the classroom to catch up and make sure they’re ready to go in August 2021 as we start the school year.

We are very focused on making sure that all our schools are back in person. The virtual has gone on long enough. I’ve talked to too many children, and I even talked to a college student a day. The virtual has its place when you have to use it, but it is not a replacement for a child being back in the classroom with a qualified teacher.

Leahy: I think everybody would agree with that State Representative Mark White.

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