Monday, November 25

Tennessee Higher Education Commission Awards Veteran Reconnect Grants to Higher Education Institutions (Clarksville Online) The Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) has announced grant awards for nine higher education projects through the state’s Veteran Reconnect program, developed to assist veterans and service members attain college degrees and workforce training … The grants were included in Governor Bill Lee’s proposed budget and approved by the Tennessee General Assembly earlier this year. LINK

Hamilton County schools getting just over $1 million in first two years of state school security program (Times Free Press) Hamilton County’s public schools have received nearly $333,000 so far under a Tennessee school safety grant program created last year in the wake of a mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school. And local officials anticipate getting another $668,510 during the current fiscal year that runs through June 30 as a result of the Safe School grant program, proposed by then-Gov. Bill Haslam and approved by state lawmakers in 2018. Officials in Tennessee’s 147 local school districts can use the safety funds to pay for school resource officers, surveillance technology and access controls aimed at better securing schools. LINK

Governor, congressmen turn out for Faison fundraiser (Morristown Citizen Tribune) More than 100 people gathered at the home of David and Sharon Hayes Friday to support state Rep. Jeremy Faison, 11th District representative and chairman of the state House Republican Caucus. One of the biggest names in attendance for the Friday fundraiser for Faison was Bill Lee, governor for Tennessee. Lee had nothing but praise for Faison. “That’s a man I have come to respect and to love and to pray with and more importantly, for you all, is to work together, we get stuff done.” Lee said its important when there is a good relationship between the executive branch and the legislative branch. LINK

Driving You Crazy: Deaths increasing on TN highways (WBIR-TV) This year, more people are dying from highway crashes in Tennessee. So far, nearly 1,000 people have died on the road, according to the Department of Safety and Homeland Security. Millions of drivers use Tennessee highways every day. Year after year, hundreds never make it home. “What we want to see is that everyone gets home safely; unfortunately that’s not the case,” said TDOT spokesperson Mark Nagi. “Currently, our fatality rates on Tennessee roadways for 2019 are higher than they were on similar dates one year ago.” LINK

In one of Tennessee’s poorest counties, $732 million in unspent anti-poverty funding stings (Tennessean) Jumbled boxes of donated sneakers, school supplies and food compete for space with Emily Partin’s desk in the Tracy Elementary School resource office, where she counsels children and tracks down help when running water or electricity have been shut off at a student’s home. It is one of two elementary schools in Grundy County, a community of about 13,425 people on the Cumberland Plateau just north of Chattanooga. The federal government has designated the county “persistently poor,” with a poverty rate topping 20% since 1990. Among children, the poverty rate is 31%. LINK

Key players in controversial $4M grant fund in Tennessee budget downplay role, remain silent (Tennessean) Last week, the Republican chairman of a legislative committee denied Democrats’ request for two Tennessee commissioners involved in administering a little-known economic development grant to appear before the panel. Meanwhile, all the main players involved in the creation of the grant, which was added to the state budget by former House Speaker Glen Casada, spent the week downplaying their role or remaining quiet. LINK

Capital Notebook (Tennessean)  Legislative hearings don’t always generate news but last week, a whole host of information came out … On Monday, when the Department of Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn appeared before the budget committee, she said recipients of the governor’s signature education savings account legislation would have to report the money on their federal income taxes … At one point, Rep. Martin Daniel, R-Knoxville, asked Eugene Neubert, a deputy commissioner, if Commissioner Stuart McWhorter, who was absent, was around. LINK

Cohen introduces bill to stop rising airline fees (WMC-TV) As passengers embark on that Thanksgiving holiday travel, many will no doubt pay add-ons fees. Memphis Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN09) calls some of those fees ridiculous. Cohen introduced a bill called the Forbidding Airlines from Imposing Ridiculous (FAIR) Act, which would prohibit airlines from charging fees that are not reasonable and proportional to the costs of services provided. “The airlines make a lot of their money on fees, on baggage and they charge an exorbitant amount or on cancellations and they charge you a lot,” said Cohen. LINK

President Donald Trump’s administration ordering National Parks to send rangers to aid in border protection (WATE-TV) President Donald Trump’s administration has ordered park rangers from all over the country to help aid in border protection. WATE 6 On Your Side reached out to the Great Smoky Mountain National Parks and spoke with a representative. She tells us this order is nothing new and has been in place for a few years. The GSMNP has already sent two Rangers earlier this year and plan on sending two more before the end of the year. She says the Rangers help aid in the border protection for two weeks and then come home. LINK

OPINION

Guest column: School voucher program will help more parents choose schools for their children (Tennessean) When I was reading The Tennessean recently, a stat about Nashville students caught my eye. “More than one in three students — about 32,000 of the 86,300 children enrolled this year — commute to a public school outside of their designated neighborhood zone.” That’s a significant percentage — and it doesn’t even include the thousands of students in independent, virtual and home schools. The article does a good job of laying out how choice within Metro Nashville Public Schools works, but the main takeaway is that while choice exists in Nashville, it’s still limited to people who can navigate a complicated system, or to those who can afford to move elsewhere. LINK

Steve Hunley: The Story Behind the Story (Knoxville Focus) The Gannett newspapers are heralding the “bipartisan” effort to repeal the signature legislation pushed by Governor Bill Lee and approved by the Tennessee General Assembly – – – the Educational Savings Accounts. The “bipartisan” aspect of the bill – – – which is co-sponsored by all the Democrats in the state House of Representatives but for one – – – is Bruce Griffey. Virtually everybody reading this is asking himself or herself, “Who in the world is Bruce Griffey?”  Griffey is a first-term Republican from Paris, Tennessee who represents three largely rural counties in the northwestern corner of the state. LINK

Guest column: Mentors needed to spark Tennessee Promise students (Daily Memphian) Everyone needs encouragement. After more than a decade of leading tnAchieves, the partnering organization to Tennessee Promise in 90 Tennessee counties, I witness the life-changing power of encouragement each day. When Gov. Bill Haslam and the General Assembly launched TN Promise in 2014, it was instantly celebrated as a national model. It’s much more mainstream just five years later, but the concept of tuition- and fee-free college at a statewide level was unprecedented. Headlines, stories and conversations touted the funding component as the game changer for our state and its students. These captured half the magic. LINK

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