2) There are actually 59 registered lobbyists (not 31 as we originally reported) that are pushing privatization and/or testing agendas that, in our opinion, are undermining public schools in Tennessee.
Here is an UPDATED list of all of these groups and the number of lobbyists they employ:
1. Tennessee Federation of Children (charters, vouchers): 5 lobbyists
2. Tennessee Charter Center: 8 lobbyists
3. Stand for Children (charters, vouchers): 2 lobbyists
4. Beacon Center of TN (vouchers): 2 lobbyists
5. Pearson, Inc. (high-stakes testing): 1 lobbyist
6. K-12, Inc. (for-profit virtual charter schools): 5 lobbyists
7. Aspire Charter Schools: 1 lobbyist (They've had as many as 3.)
8. National Heritage Academies (for-profit charter company): 3 lobbyists
9. Charter Schools USA (for-profit charter company): 3 lobbyists
10. Education 2020 (K-12, Inc. competitor): 2 lobbyists
11. Connections Education (for-profit virtual charter school): 1 lobbyist
12. SCORE (charters): 2 lobbyists
13. Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce (They support this bill and lobby for charters.): 5 lobbyists
14. Rennaissance Learning (testing): 4 lobbyists
15. Parent Power Fund (parent-trigger bill): 1 lobbyists
16. Public Consulting Group: 1 lobbyist
17. Americans for Prosperity (They support vouchers, charters, and HB 2293): 2 lobbyists
18. Catholic Public Policy Commission of TN (vouchers): 3 lobbyists
And last, but definitely not least,
19. StudentsFirst (charters, vouchers, and Michelle Rhee!): 8 lobbyists
PRO-PUBLIC EDUCATION = 6 lobbyists
PRIVATIZATION/TESTING = 59 lobbyists
3) We have heard from some Tennesseans in a particular county that they asked the current sponsor, Rep. Jeremy Durham, to introduce the bill because they are upset with a particular lobbyist their school district is using to lobby for them. We agree on many issues with them, so we hope to not offend them, but we also hope that they understand that this bill, which is a reaction to something that is happening at a local level has serious repercussions for the rest of our state. And the fact that a group such as StudentsFirst supports this bill should set off alarm bells because this organization has made no effort to hide their belief that elected school boards should be bypassed and handed over to other elected officials, including mayors and governors.
How this bill could be devastating for other districts across Tennessee:
This bill could really hurt the newly formed municipal public school districts in Shelby County and Memphis. Over the past 2 years, the Shelby County Commission sued the municipal districts. There is no doubt that the animosity that the Commission has towards these districts will result in them cutting lobbying out of their budgets. (Please note that the bill is not clear in how it relates to municipal districts and commissions, but based on the overriding theme of the bill, it appears that the Shelby County Commission would likely have the authority to veto municipal-district lobbying monies.)
In Metro Nashville the Mayor is very much in favor of charters and vouchers and there is little doubt that he will attempt to pressure the City Council to cut lobbying out of the school board budget as well. (It should be noted that the lobbyists that represent Metro Nashville Public Schools lobby against vouchers, for-profit charters, and the state charter authorizer.)
Some claim that, in the state of Tennessee, county commissions currently have line item veto power over every other county department except for school districts and this would just allow commissions to exercise that same authority over them. But, and this is a very big BUT, the departments over which they exert this authority are appointed by the commissions--they are not elected by voters. School boards, which oversee the development of budgets, are elected by their constituents for the sole purpose of overseeing the function of their schools. County commissions were not elected for this purpose and, thereby, should not have the authority to override the will of the voters who selected, by virtue of their votes, the members of a school board.
We urge those of you reading this to contact Rep. Jeremy Durham and ask him to pull HB 2293. If you are in Williamson County and/or are one of his constituents, it is vitally important that you contact him and let him know that you feel it is a very dangerous bill that sets a terrible precedent. His phone number is 615-741-1864 and his email is firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also contact the members of the Local Government Committee that is meeting on Tuesday and ask them to vote against the bill.