Crom Carmichael Illustrates Why School Choice Is Important Now More Than Ever as Critical Race Theory Continues

Crom Carmichael Illustrates Why School Choice Is Important Now More Than Ever as Critical Race Theory Continues

 

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 the original all-star panelist Crom Carmichael to the studio who further illustrated why school choice is more important as critical race theory dominates government run school curriculum.

Leahy: In studio the original star panelist Crom Carmichael. Crom, during the break, we were talking a little bit about this new book from Os Guinness, the great writer, great Christian political philosopher. He’s the guy who came up with the concept that our country is based on the Golden Triangle of Freedom.

And that Golden Triangle is the following: Freedom requires virtue, virtue requires faith, and faith requires freedom. And it’s an ongoing circle. That was the character of America when we were founded. The problem is that character is being assaulted in our schools every day. And particularly through critical race theory.

Carmichael: And being assaulted by the government every day in states across the country and cities across the country where they’re trying to make it almost impossible for somebody to go to church or so uncomfortable to go to church, that people don’t go to church. And I think that they are doing that. That’s intentional.

Leahy: Os Guinness has a new book out called The Magna Carta of Humanity. We’re trying to get them as a guest. I think we’ll get him as a guest in the future. And I’m going to try to get them on a day that you’re here Crom because I think you enjoy talking with him.

Carmichael: Sure. There are two or three articles that are all about education and as I was driving in I was listening to your interview of Gabrielle Clark.

Leahy: Right. The biracial mom whose child refused to comply with an assignment in which he was compelled to admit that he was an oppressor as a mostly white person.

Carmichael: Here’s what was interesting about listening to that interview. She says that we have to stand up and fight. It cost her $200,000.

Leahy: Yes.

Carmichael: If you go to a restaurant where your service is bad, you don’t need to go hire a lawyer. What do you do?

Leahy: You don’t leave a tip.

Carmichael: And you don’t go there anymore.

Leahy: You do a Yelp review.

Carmichael: And you don’t go there anymore. But the reason that she has to stand up and fight is she’s being forced. Her child is being forced to go to a particular school and to have a particular curriculum with which she disagrees. And this is what’s fundamentally wrong with our educational system.

We don’t have a choice. And if you had school choice and then the kids who attend the charter schools here in Nashville on balance do much better than the kids who go to what I’m going to call the regular government-run schools.

Our magnet schools may be pretty good, but our magnet schools operate actually more even like private schools because the charter schools can’t be selective and of who gets to go there. The magnet schools get to be selective on who gets to go there, and they get to be really selective on who gets to stay there. But in California.

Leahy: Uh oh. I know this is going to be a crazy story already. I don’t know what the story is.

Carmichael: It’s a sad story. California had gone for a number of years where they had worked seriously at improving the math skills of students who attended the government-run schools in California. At one time, I’m quoting from the article here in The Wall Street Journal.

‘At one time, California took the goal seriously and made immense progress. California Department of Education data shows that while only 16 percent of students took algebra by the eighth grade in 1999 by 2013, it was 67 percent. Almost four times as many.

Leahy: That’s surprising that they made progress from 1999-2013. That’s interesting.

Carmichael: But then that’s when things started to unravel across the state. And so they also had gifted classes, kind of like AP classes. And now they want to do away with all those because they’re claiming they’re racist.

And you have the schools for the gifted which they are strongly considering doing away with completely. And then changing the math curriculum so that it is almost impossible to fail (Leahy laughs) because they’re actually claiming that math is not something that needs to necessarily be specific.

Leahy: Try building a car with a non-specific specialization.

Carmichael: What’s Caltech going to do if kids coming out of high school are not proficient. Even the top ones are not proficient.

People who have the money to attend private schools their children are going to have an opportunity that the children who are going to the government and schools don’t have. And this is along those same lines. It’s not academically, but it’s about a school board. This is in Monroe County, Indiana.

Leahy: Monroe County, Indiana?

Carmichael: The school board passed a resolution that says that the school resource officers cannot carry a gun.

Leahy: What are they supposed to do, just point their fingers?

Carmichael: That’s a great question because one person said there’s no evidence ever that a resource officer ever had to use their gun.

Leahy: If you have a gun you may not need to use it.

Carmichael: As it turns out,  that statement itself is false. And so there are instances where the resource officer had to use his gun to disarm a student that was identified as having a gun. But if nobody in the school is going to have security, that flies in the face of logic, because every place else where security matters. If you want to go into the Nashville courthouse, don’t you have to pass through security? Aren’t the security people armed? Yes.

Carmichael: Please go ahead.

Leahy: Would you like to hear the rest of the story?

Carmichael: Please.

Leahy: Guess where Monroe County is.

Carmichael: Where?

Leahy: Bloomington. Home of the University of Indiana.

Carmichael: Wow.

Leahy: Explains it all.

Carmichael: Wow.

Leahy: These are all probably a bunch of college professors on the board.

Carmichael: Could could be.

Leahy: Good news. Our listeners have been listening for, like, two and a half hours to get the first bit of good news.

Carmichael: No, we’ve had some other good news that we’ve talked about. But this is good news. In the state of Florida, a teacher was fired for not honoring the ban on teaching critical race theory. This teacher just ignored the ban and kept teaching it and enforcing it. And bam!

Leahy: Gone.

Carmichael: Gone. Got fired.

Leahy: Governor DeSantis is not fooling around.

Carmichael: If the CEO of a company puts out an edit, that is a logical edict and lawful and some employee essentially gives the CEO the middle finger…

Leahy: Boom! They’re gone.

Carmichael: And nobody questions it.

Leahy: Now, let me tell you what the potential difference may be here in Tennessee. We have a state law that the bill that the General Assembly has passed that would prohibit, in essence, the teaching of critical race. There. 14 tenants. Sources tell me that Governor Lee will sign that bill.

We’ll find out. There’s some time to see on that. But if it becomes law, it has a certain provision in it. And that provision says that if a school district continues to teach critical race theory, the Commissioner of Education has the authority to withhold state funds from them.

Something is about to be set up because our lead story at The Tennessee Star is Memphis City Council adopts a resolution opposing state band on critical race theory. So Memphis and Shelby County schools, I can tell you right now if the governor signs this bill, they will defy it.

Carmichael: Let me ask you a question. You said two things there. You said Memphis and Shelby County.

Leahy: Yes.

Carmichael: Will they both, or will it be just the Memphis schools?

Leahy: This is from the City Council.

Carmichael: Memphis is in Shelby County.

Leahy: But it’s separate.

Carmichael: But there’s a lot of Shelby County that’s not Memphis.

Leahy: There’s a similar resolution before Shelby County. And sources tell me that it’s likely to pass. Memphis in Shelby County, I think, will be on the Shelby County and school directors already said I’m not gonna do that. I’m not gonna stop teaching critical.

Carmichael: Then the Commissioner can do what?

Leahy: Under the bill, the Commissioner will have the authority to do withhold state funds from Shelby County schools.

Carmichael: And that’s it. They can’t fire them?

Leahy: They can’t fire, but they can withhold state funds, which, in essence, would cripple the schools. Asterisk, many people are worried about Penny Schwinn. Many people are worried that she will not enforce that rule and that the Shelby County schools are going to say we’re going to teach it anywhere anyway. We’ll see how that turns out.

Carmichael: If they stick their finger in her eye we’ll see if she blinks. (Laughs)

Leahy: Yeah, I think she’ll blink. But we’ll see. Maybe give her the benefit of the doubt until it happens.

Carmichael: Absolutely we should do that.

Leahy: You are much nicer than I am.

Listen to the full show 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 “Crom Carmichael” by Crom Carmichael.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GOP Candidate for Tennessee’s Fifth Congressional District Robby Starbuck on Rand Paul Endorsement and Why He’s Running

GOP Candidate for Tennessee’s Fifth Congressional District Robby Starbuck on Rand Paul Endorsement and Why He’s Running

 

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 GOP candidate for Nashville’s Fifth District, Robby Starbuck, to the newsmakers line to discuss his motivation for running, an endorsement by Senator Rand Paul, and his upcoming Critical Race Theory event in Franklin on May 19.

Leahy: We are joined now by our very good friend, Robby Starbuck, who’s running for the GOP nomination in the Fifth Congressional District here in Tennessee. Good morning, Robby.

Starbuck: Good morning. How are you guys doing?

Leahy: We’re doing great. So you’re running for Congress. Tell us a little bit about what your theme is.

Starbuck: One of the primary goals for me is ensuring that we have a voice in Congress that pushes back against this Marxist movement on the left. I saw very clearly that this movement, the rise of the far left has a lot of parallels to what happened to my family in Cuba.

For those who don’t know, that’s where my family came from. And not enough good men and women stood up to the Marxists there and they lost their country and they lost their freedom. So that’s step one. Be a constant sort of antidote to the poison of Marxism that’s rising in the Democratic Party.

On the flip side of that, in terms of policy to be productive now, we want to bring some real change, like school choice to America. I think parents deserve to be able to have the money follow their child. We shouldn’t have a one size fits all system.

I think we’ve seen with all the craziness in public schools that that sort of indoctrination and leaving it to the government is not something that’s helping our kids. And parents are really unhappy about it.

Leahy: Where do people go on the web to find out about your campaign for Congress?

Starbuck: Right now, they can go to freedomforever.us. to sign up to volunteer. My full campaign site, Starbuck 2022 will launch in about two weeks. It’s pretty much done now, but we were waiting on a few things to get it completely solidified.

Leahy: Tell us a little bit about your own personal story, what your business background is, how long you’ve lived in Nashville, and your family situation.

Starbuck: Absolutely. I was first actually known as a producer, director, self-directed, and produced Oscar-winning actors, actresses, and some of the biggest music stars in the world. I think that that side of my life is actually a really nice fit for Nashville being Music City and having that industry experience.

I think it’s a nice fit. But in terms of my family, we’re one of those families where we weren’t lucky enough to be born in Tennessee. But we came as fast as we could. As soon as I came out as a Republican and burned down my career essentially to do what I’m doing now, we knew we were going to have to move.

California was not a fit. It was something that was really destructive for our kids. We didn’t want to raise them there. And Tennessee was the place we fell in love with. And my wife and I knew that that’s where we had wanted to go for a long time.

So it was about two and a half years ago now that we bought our farm here. And we’re just so excited about it. We love Tennessee. Our kids had never been happier.

Leahy: You have a farm. Tell us about your farm.

Starbuck: Oh, it’s fun. It’s fun. Actually, we thought we were going to build a barn and everything and do all this stuff, and we got there, and this is one of the things about Tennessee that’s so amazing is our neighbors have been so awesome that we didn’t even end up needing to build one.

Our daughter rides all the time at our neighbor’s house. They have a bunch of horses and we have so many animals next door that we don’t even need to. It’s been kind of amazing.

Leahy: How big is your farm and where is it?

Starbuck: It’s 12 acres and it’s right on the edge of the county line.

Leahy: It’s on the edge of the Davidson County line.

Starbuck: Yes. Right on the edge there. And that’s an interesting thing, too, is the district itself, and something we’ve gotten a lot of questions about is the fact that it is going to change. We’re on that 10-year mark, where they’re redistricting, and I think the district is going to end up looking different.

That’s sort of the weird thing is like you don’t know if you’re going to get drawn out of the district and if that were to happen, we kind of have to wait and see what happens.

Leahy: You currently within the limits of the Fifth Congressional District. But what you’re saying is you’re not sure in the redistricting whether or not you will be within.

Starbuck: Yes, but you can adjust them. It’s not one of those things.

Leahy: Well, I have some good news for you. I’m sure you’ve studied this. The Constitution simply requires for you to represent a congressional district in Tennessee and it requires that you are a resident of the state of Tennessee.

You don’t have to actually be a resident of the district itself. But generally, it’s considered good politically to reside within the district.

Starbuck: Absolutely. And it’s one of those things, too, where it’s smart because when redistricting happens, you can have somebody in the district and they put in all this work to run for the district, and they feel like they’re part of the district, and then they get drawn out of it.

So it’s a smart thing in that respect. But I’m excited to see what it looks like. I do think that we’re going to see a district that’s more representative of Tennessee as a whole and the values that I think most Tennessee have. And I’m excited about that because Cooper has been there way too long. 32 years now in Congress.

And one of my top questions I ask people is what has Cooper done to make your life better? How has he improved your life in any way? And I have yet to meet one person who could give me an answer to that question.

Leahy: Why will you be the best Republican candidate to defeat Jim Cooper in the November 2022 general election?

Starbuck: I think one of the real selling points is that I’ve been deeply involved in politics for a while. So having the connections that I have already to members of Congress and senators. Like yesterday, I was just endorsed by Rand Paul.

Leahy: Stop the presses! Stop the press! You just made some news. Tell us about that endorsement.

Starbuck: So we haven’t put it out yet. But we filmed it yesterday. Rand has been a big supporter of mine. And he’s given a full-throated endorsement and is very excited about our race. He’ll come down to Tennessee at some point to do some type of event with me.

Yes, that’s a big one because I think when people ask me, who are you going to be most similar to in terms of the way you approach our government or Constitution? I would say it’s Rand. Rand and Josh Hawley. That’s sort of the mold.

Leahy: Did we just break some news here? Is this the first public notice that you’ve been endorsed by Senator Rand Paul?

Starbuck: We did.

Leahy: That’s pretty big news.

Starbuck: Yes, I’m excited about that. I think it’s a real testament to where my values are. And somebody like Rand, he doesn’t do many endorsements at all. I don’t know very many that he’s done. He actually says that in the video, like that’s not something he does.

Leahy: So when is this video going to be up?

Starbuck: I think probably about a week.

Leahy: In a week. We can’t wait to see that. And when is your next event?

Starbuck: Critical Race Theory event. And it is actually coming up this following Wednesday in Franklin at the Factory. And it is with Moms of Liberty for rallying against Critical Race Theory in the Williamson County Schools.

Leahy: Is it this Saturday or next Saturday?

Starbuck: I’m sorry. It’s actually it’s Wednesday, May 19.

Leahy: Robby Starbuck, candidate for the GOP nomination for Congress in the Fifth Congressional District. Robbie, thanks for joining us. Come in the studio sometime.

Starbuck: Thank you. I will for sure. I want to.

Listen to the full third hour here:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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:

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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.
Background Photo “Florida Capitol” by DXR. CC BY-SA 4.0.

 

 

 

 

 

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

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.