While Momma Bears were out on Spring Break, it seems like our new Governor has been up to some shenanigans. Typical. Just typical to try to sneak in some bad bill amendments while we were busy with the kids home from school.
We are back now and paying attention. So, let's catch you up on what's going on….
Last week, the House Education Committee met and passed a last minute 38 page bill amendment to House Bill 940 without even having time to read it. This amended bill creates an alternate system of charter schools run by a nine member commission hand-picked by the Governor. We have all the ugly detail here.
So, how did such a crazy amendment get past committee members when they didn't even get a chance to read it?
We are hearing lots of accusations that Governor Lee with the help of Bill Haslam's ed reformy cronies has been bullying lawmakers. And as a result, some representatives changed their vote allowing a bill stuck in committee to get through and get through with a big, ugly, gigantic amendment. So, how did that happen? What could convince these lawmakers to turn on Tennessee's school children?
There is some BIG money and we mean BIG money from out-of-state lobbyists interested in destroying public education in Tennessee. We saw this in the 2018 elections where Tennessee Federation for Children tried to buy themselves some politicians. Those suckers invested almost a quarter million dollars into various house races last year. They sent out mailers and other campaign materials trying to get certain candidates elected. But as you can see from the list, they lost a lot of races.
TN Federation for Children's Purchasing Power
Maybe Shaka forgot that many of the Tennessee Federation for Children candidates were defeated including some of the ones that received the most campaign help: Tommy Vallejos, Reginald Tate, and Patricia Possel. And if the name Shaka Mitchell sounds familiar to you, then you might remember him from his previous job at Rocketship charter schools in Nashville. We told you all about the Rocketship real estate schemes in our past blog. Shaka was the Nashville regional director for Rocketship when it came under scrutiny for lack of transparency and conflict of interest in $7.74 million in tax-free bonds.
But Wait, There's More...
Tennesseans for Student Success is a 501(c)(4) who listed their contributions as nearly $2.5M on their 2016 990 Form. They came onto the scene in 2015 to shove Governor Haslam's pro-common core stance down our throats. And they have very close ties to Haslam and Lamar Alexander. According to the Tennessean, Haslam and Alexander's former campaign manager, Jeremy Harrell, opened the doors of Tennesseans for Student Success as its executive director. Their first order of business was to run TV ads supporting Tennessee Standards, our version of Common Core State Standards.
And they are no stranger to attack ads. In 2016, they ran this ad against Democrat Gloria Johnson from Knoxville. Johnson, who was defeated in 2016, won her seat back in 2018 and ironically, was there to witness some strange goings-on in committee. She posted on Facebook what happened:
All the ugly things we hear about politics, lots of them are true, sadly.
I've committed to speaking truth to power, no matter what they try to do to me. I won't be bullied and I will do right by my constituents. That doesn't mean I will do what they all want, all the time, that isn't possible. But I will tell the truth and I will do what I think is best for my district-and I will do it based on conversations with them-not with lobbyists or under threat from bullies.
Last week there was a vote on a Charter Authorizer, it takes away the right of the local school district to decide whether or not a certain Charter school fits in the district. Weird things started happening during that committee. The governor called a member of the committee to his office before the vote, the Speaker was in the back hallway calling his members out of the committee to chat one at a time. Then he came on the committee floor and whispered in all his members ears just before the vote. (I took pictures because it was odd;-)
Based on their earlier remarks, it seems perhaps a couple of GOP members changed their vote to yes last minute, hmmm? Some GOP members held strong for their constituents. This isn't a partisan issue, but it is a $$ issue, and Wednesday the $$ won. Below you can see what I imagine the threat was, vote no and you will get these ads in your rural district. I wonder how long these GOP members will stay loyal to bullying tactics. Give in once, they will do it again and again.
Stand up folks, on both sides of the aisle. If you don't stand up for the families in your district, you aren't doing your job. Let's bring back political courage!
This first picture is a freshman Republican Rep Cochran, he showed political courage, I'm willing to bet he was told this ad would happen if he voted wrong, he voted with his constituents anyway. Give him a call and tell him thanks for standing up for TN families on the charter authorizer vote. I barely know him, he seems like a nice young man, we may not agree on much, but he did what was right and his party punished him with flat out lies, playing the tired "Hillary Clinton" friend tactic.
And there is even more…
Stay tuned for Momma Bear's next blog where we tell you all about the ESA bill set for hearing 8:00am Wednesday. Get on the phones and make your legislators understand that money and lobbyists don't vote but Momma Bears sure do!!