From the Statehouse

Parent leave bill wrapped up

The proposal to let some parents take leave from work for school conferences has survived the 2009 legislative session with 45-20 House approval Monday of compromise language proposed by a conference committee.  The Senate had signed off on April 27.

Earlier in the session House Bill 09-1057 touched off a business vs. education debate. Some lawmakers and interest groups saw it as an unwarranted imposition on employers and argued that lack of parental involvement has broader causes than parents being unable to get time off from work for teacher conferences.

The Senate added an amendment that would allow employers to deny time off if it would disrupt the operations of a business. The House didn’t like that language and called for the conference committee.

The compromise leaves employer discretion in the bill but would limit it to situations “where the absence of the employee would result in a halt of service or production.”

Other provisions of the bill would:

  • Allow leave for a fairly narrowly defined list of academic activities, such as parent-teacher conferences, the meetings required for special-education students and meetings related to disciplinary issues (the definition was much looser in the original bill)
  • Apply only to employers with 50 or more workers (the original bill proposed 10)
  • Give workers 18 hours of such leave a year, not the 40 originally proposed
  • Require employees to give a week’s notice for taking such leave (instead of the original three days)
  • Prorate the amount of leave for part-time workers
  • Allow both the employee to request or the employer to require that paid leave be used instead of unpaid
  • Permit employers with existing school leave policies to incorporate the law into those practices
  • Generally conform the bill to federal family leave law
  • Exclude seasonal workers and workers whose jobs are vital for health or safety

The House also gave final approval to Senate Bill 09-285, the bill that would include career and technical education programs in the proposed statewide dual enrollment plan, and to Senate Bill 09-291, the controversial plan to lower state school aid to districts that reduce their local property tax revenues.

The House also accepted Senate amendments and repassed House Bill 09-1250 on a 42-23 vote. The is the bill to allocated federal forest revenues among counties and school districts. The compromise reached in the Senate requires that in affected counties, 25 percent of the money would go to schools and 25 percent to counties, with the split of the remaining 50 percent decided by negotiations between the two sides. If agreement can’t be reached, the money sits in escrow.

Representatives also agreed with Senate changes and repassed House Bill 09-1312, the bill to allow the state treasurer to loan money to school districts for renewable energy projects, and House Bill 09-1243, which would create a dropout prevention program – funded with grants – in the Department of Education.

awarding leaders

Meet the nine finalists for Tennessee Principal of the Year

PHOTO: Shelby County Schools
From left: Docia Generette-Walker receives Tennessee's 2016 principal of the year honor from Education Commissioner Candice McQueen. Generette-Walker leads Middle College High School in Memphis. This year's winner will be announced in October.

Nine school leaders are up for an annual statewide award, including one principal from Memphis.

Tracie Thomas, a principal at White Station Elementary School, represents schools in Shelby County on the state’s list of finalists. Last year, Principal Docia Generette-Walker of Middle College High School in Memphis received the honor.

Building better principals has been a recent focus for Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen as roles of the school leaders change under school improvement efforts.

“Successful schools begin with great leaders, and these nine finalists represent some of the best in our state,” McQueen said. “The Principal of the Year finalists have each proven what is possible when school leaders hold students and educators to high expectations.”

The winner will be announced at the state department’s annual banquet in October, where the winner of Tennessee’s Teacher of the Year will also be announced.

The finalists are:

West Tennessee

  • Tracie Thomas, White Station Elementary, Shelby County Schools
  • Stephanie Coffman, South Haven Elementary, Henderson County School District
  • Linda DeBerry, Dyersburg City Primary School, Dyersburg City Schools

Middle Tennessee

  • Kenneth “Cam” MacLean, Portland West Middle School, Sumner County Schools
  • John Bush, Marshall County High School, Marshall County Schools
  • Donnie Holman, Rickman Elementary School, Overton County Schools

East Tennessee

  • Robin Copp, Ooltewah High School, Hamilton County Schools
  • Jeff Harshbarger, Norris Middle School, Anderson County Schools
  • Carol McGill, Fairmont Elementary School, Johnson City Schools

you better work

Hickenlooper, on national TV, calls for bipartisanship on job training for high school graduates

PHOTO: Nicholas Garcia
Gov. John Hickenlooper spoke to reporters on the eve of the 2017 General Assembly.

Gov. John Hickenlooper on Sunday said Republicans and Democrats should work together to rethink how states are preparing high school graduates for the 21st century economy.

“It’s not a Republican or Democratic issue to say we want better jobs for our kids, or we want to make sure they’re trained for the new generation of jobs that are coming or beginning to appear,” he said on CBS’s Face the Nation.

Hickenlooper, a Democrat, appeared on the Sunday public affairs program alongside Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, to discuss their work on healthcare.

The Colorado governor brought up workforce training after moderator John Dickerson asked what issues besides healthcare both parties should be addressing.

“Two-thirds of our kids are never going to have a four-year college degree, and we really haven’t been able to prepare them to involve them in the economy where the new generations of jobs require some technical capability,” Hickenlooper said. “We need to look at apprenticeships. We need to look at all kinds of internships.”

Hickenlooper has long supported a variety of education reform policies including charter schools and linking student test scores to teacher evaluations. Last fall he backed a new program that is expected to this year connect 250 Colorado high school students with paid job training.

Watch Hickenlooper and Kasich here. Hickenlooper’s remarks on job training begin right before the 11- minute mark.