If you are wondering why a school district/board might need lobbyists, look no further than what is happening with StudentsFirst (SF), a group founded by Michelle Rhee who also happens to be the ex-wife of Tennessee’s Education Commissioner, Kevin Huffman. The Sacramento.-based organization backs charter schools and vouchers and is funded by donations from extremely wealthy individuals, corporations, and foundations—including the Gates and Waltons. SF currently has an office in Nashville, along with 8 lobbyists.
There are other similar lobbying groups in TN, (who don't have you or your children's best interests at heart) including the following:
- Tennessee Federation for Children: Supports charter schools and vouchers. 5 lobbyists.
- TN Charter Center: Supports proliferation of charter schools. Employs 8 lobbyists.
- Stand for Children: Supports charter schools and vouchers. Employs 2 lobbyists.
- Beacon Center of TN: Supports vouchers. Employs 2 lobbyists.
- Pearson, Inc.: Publishes Common Core materials and tests. Employs 1 lobbyist.
- K12 Inc.: Runs K12 for-profit virtual charter school. Employs 5 lobbyists.
(Go to this link https://apps.tn.gov/ilobbysearch-app/search.htm to find documentation of these lobbyists.)
Why do local school boards need lobbyists?
School board members in TN are part-time positions and these representatives do not have the time to follow all of the bills that are going through the legislature. They need the help of lobbyists to help them keep track of bills that directly affect their schools and constituents. And just in case you are keeping score, here are the lobbyists school boards/districts use in our state:
- Coalition of Large School Systems: Represents Shelby, Nashville, Hamilton, and Knox County school systems. Employs 2 lobbyists
- Tennessee School Board Association: Represents all school boards who pay dues to it. Employs 1 lobbyist.
- Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents: Represents interests of school board directors who pay dues to it. Employs 3 lobbyists.
StudentsFirst & Company = 31 lobbyists!!!
School boards/districts = 6 at the most.
As you might suspect, StudentsFirst, Stand for Children, TN Charter Center, and other groups reportedly support these bills. They apparently have no problem suppressing the voices of our elected officials and, subsequently, our voices in the legislative process—especially when the views expressed by these officials run counter to their agendas.
(Note: All Momma Bears are volunteers. We are concerned parents who do this solely because we care deeply about public education.)
Please email or call the members of the Local Government Committee ASAP.
(This bill is up for a vote at 12:00 on Tuesday, March 4th.)
You can cut and paste the text of this letter into your email:
Dear Local Government Committee,
We urge you to vote against HB 2293 that would allow city commissions and councils to veto lobbying expenditures in school district budgets. This would set a dangerous precedent because it would allow a municipal-level, elected body to dictate how another municipal-level, elected body uses its money. And, if some councils/commissions decide to exercise this veto authority, they would effectively silence our voices in the halls of the legislature because these lobbyists represent our elected school boards who, in turn, represent us--the voters. This seems to be an effort by a group of well-moneyed special interest groups to silence the voices of elected officials and voters. We believe passage of this bill would further remove our government and education system from the will of the people and place it almost solely in the hands of the wealthy and powerful elite. Please hear our voices and vote against HB 2293.
And you can cut and paste the following emails into your email:
***UPDATE to this blog: Click HERE to see how many other lobbyists we forgot on this list!