- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:

Feb. 22

The Daily News Journal, Murfreesboro, Tenn., on six-year high schools may mark 21st century:

Tennessee may need to re-evaluate organization of its secondary schools in light of ongoing discussions about the need to have students prepared with the necessary skills to take present jobs and jobs that could be coming to the state.

Gov. Bill Haslam has proposed the Tennessee Promise that would guarantee free tuition and fees for state high school graduates who attend two-year community colleges and technology-related colleges. Funding would come from lottery reserves.

At least two other states have begun the process of creating six-year high schools that would provide the traditional four years of high school and two years of post-secondary study with receipt of an associate degree at the end of six years.

President Barack Obama recently visited the Pathways in Technology Early College High School in New York, which despite its awkward name is a pioneer in this new high school structure.

The Tennessee Promise would use the resources of the state’s community colleges and colleges of applied technology, but if such job preparation is as important to the state as the governor indicates, should the state consider establishing six-year high schools?

Such an approach, of course, would require the state to invest tax dollars in it, and legislators may be reluctant to make such an investment.

However, if the governor is able to win approval for the Tennessee Promise, it could provide an opportunity to study how well such a program prepares students for current and future workforces.

Development of six-year high schools with a combined secondary and post-secondary structure could be the model for the 21st century.

Tennessee Promise could be the start.




Feb. 21

Jackson (Tenn.) Sun on fixing labor law to allow Volkswagen to expand:

Controversy surrounding last week’s vote by Volkswagen workers rejecting unionization under the United Auto Workers ended up casting doubt on whether the world’s second largest automaker would expand operations in Tennessee. We believe the focus is on the wrong issue.

What the German company wants is to establish a works council at the plant. It operates works councils at every other Volkswagen plant. Works councils represent blue collar and white collar workers in helping negotiate working conditions such as safety and production issues, but not pay. Volkswagen is highly supportive of works councils as good for the company and good for workers. More important, no one appears to be in opposition to establishing such a works council at the Chattanooga plant.

Republican Sen, Bob Corker, who helped recruit Volkswagen while mayor of Chattanooga, spoke out strongly against workers approving the UAW. He even went so far as to claim he had inside information that the company would not expand the plant to produce the new mid-size sport utility vehicle if workers chose to unionize. Corker’s remarks have been roundly criticized as interfering with the vote.

The one person who has made sense during the controversy is Gov. Bill Haslam. He noted that Tennessee has recruited and worked with companies that are unionized and non-unionized. He said the state has no union litmus test in recruiting economic development. He also pointed out that Tennessee’s right-to-work status and largely non-unionized workforce has been a major factor in recruiting Japanese companies. He also noted that the move toward unionization could dissuade smaller manufacturing suppliers from locating in Tennessee. These are sensible facts and observations.

What no one seems to be asking is why Volkswagen can’t have works council without having the United Auto Workers represent rank and file workers. Apparently, this is somehow a function of U.S. labor law.

It is clear from Volkswagen management that the company remains neutral on the union issue. But what also is clear is that Volkswagen wants a works council in Chattanooga. Worker rejection of the UAW should not be allowed to endanger Volkswagen expansion in Tennessee. Let’s fix the labor law so the company can function here as it does at its plant in Mexico and others around the world. If we fail to fix this problem, Mexico is in line to get production of the new SUV.




Feb. 24

The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tenn., on state legislators should leave Common Core alone:

The legislative assault against Tennessee’s Common Core state standards initiative is scheduled to begin in earnest this week when lawmakers begin committee hearings on several bills aimed at removing Tennessee from Common Core or delaying or modifying its implementation.

A lot of time and financial resources already have been invested in training some 30,000 teachers to begin teaching the new curriculum next year, which aims to make sure students are mastering proficiency in core subjects under the same standards, whether they attend public schools in Memphis or in Boston.

Common Core seems like the most logical way to make sure Tennessee students are competitive with students across the country and, by extension, students around the word. If not Common Core, how do legislators who want to do away with the initiative plan to make that happen?

Forty-six other states also have adopted Common Core. Tennessee joined in 2010. In spring 2015, the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) exam will replace TCAP in math, language arts and end-of-course tests in other subjects.

The Tennessee Department of Education is in the third year of helping school districts phase in the new standards and about 30,000 teachers have been engaged in in-depth training for more than a year.

It is baffling that legislators, some of whom have been supportive of legislation giving students better education choices, want to deep-six an initiative that makes sure Tennessee’s public education students are academically competitive with students in other states.

Their objections mirror objections to Common Core taking place nationally - chiefly that this is an attempt to hijack education decisions from local school districts. Common Core, though, was started by a consortium of states, where education and business leaders realized that if American students are going to be competitive in today’s job market, an A in science earned by a graduating senior in Memphis must be earned under the same standards as an A for a graduating Pennsylvania senior.

During a visit with The Commercial Appeal’s editorial board last week, Jamie Woodson, president and chief executive officer of SCORE (State Collaborative on Reforming Education), a Tennessee-based education reform nonprofit organization, touted the fact that Tennessee had the largest academic growth on the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress of any state, making Tennessee the fastest-improving state in the nation.

The flip side of that, she said, is that the state still is in the bottom half of national rankings for student proficiency.

With that in mind, legislators should leave Common Core alone because it appears to be the best way to get the state into the top half.



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