Haslam's first bills include lifting charter schools' enrollment cap

Thursday, February 17, 2011 at 11:40am

Gov. Bill Haslam submitted his first bills to the legislature Thursday, calling for lifting the state’s cap on charter schools, weakening teacher tenure and limiting damages in negligence lawsuits against businesses.

“When I first started all this, I said our goal is to make Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for jobs, and we have a legislative effort that reflects that,” the governor told reporters at Legislative Plaza after meeting with House Speaker Beth Harwell and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey.

Haslam said he will concentrate on education because “there’s no doubt preparing a high-quality workforce is one of the keys” to economic improvement. He said tort reform is needed “to make sure there’s a predictable environment” for businesses in Tennessee.

Charter schools now are capped at 90 in Tennessee and limited to students from low-income families who are eligible for federally subsidized lunches. Haslam said his bill will lift that cap and allow all students to attend, but school boards still could choose to limit enrollment.

Regarding teacher tenure, Haslam said he wants to extend the probation period of new teachers from three years to five years. Even then under the governor’s proposal, teachers must grade in the top two of five classes of performance to receive tenure. After receiving tenure, they could lose it again if they grade in the bottom two classes for two straight years.

Haslam’s proposal comes in the middle of a Republican legislative assault on the Tennessee Education Association, including the possible repeal of teachers’ collective bargaining rights, and the governor acknowledged he is asked, “Are you guys not just picking on teachers?”

“It looks like everybody keeps pointing fingers at teachers,” Haslam said. “I’d say that’s absolutely not true. What we’re doing across the board in education in Tennessee is raising standards.”

He said he wants to make it harder for teachers to receive tenure because “we want to take teaching and treat it like a profession and I don’t know any of the other professions that have a situation like tenure.”

Haslam’s tort reform bill would cap non-economic damages in negligence lawsuits to $750,000 and punitive damages to $500,000.

“We want to have the best business climate, and to do that, we want to make sure we’re competitive with our neighboring states. It’s one of the reasons we’re addressing tort reform. We want to make certain that there aren’t states around us that have a more welcoming climate for businesses than we have.”

5 Comments on this post:

By: pswindle on 2/18/11 at 1:27

This is all well, but don't take your eyes off of this Govenor. He wants teachers' rights to bargain be taken away. He is like a little boy, he can't say one way or the other, but we know what he will do with Ramsey's help. The workers of this state are in big trouble. I'm not sure we can survive four years of this inexperience little yes man.

By: tv8527 on 2/18/11 at 2:23

I agree with kicking out the unions.They only protect the worst teachers & promote mediocrity, But nothing we can do will stop any of this until parent's start taking responsibility for the children they bring into this world.If the parent's would / could teach the value of an education you would see a difference.There's no amount of testing that can fix the issue of a total lack of respect & discipline that the teachers have to put up with. That's what can cost the entire class their education.Bring back corporal punishment & if tat doesn't work throw out the kids that don't care/ want to learn. Let's put them in a farm type setting & let them see what hard work is,Then give them an option of learn or be a ditch digger the rest of their lives.

By: pswindle on 2/18/11 at 2:39

The teachers should vote on the status of having a union or not. Keep politics out of it. This is the right that each of us should have.

By: cookeville on 2/18/11 at 5:36

I really don't see how the state can take away unions without the teachers' permission. I thought the good citizens elected Haslam because they wanted LESS govt. interference in their lives, not more.

" He said he wants to make it harder for teachers to receive tenure because “we want to take teaching and treat it like a profession and I don’t know any of the other professions that have a situation like tenure.”

Gee, don't doctors and lawyers and policemen and nurses have unions, even though they may not be called that? And if the good gov wants to treat teaching like a 'profession', I suggest he give teachers a large wage increase because of all the other professions earn twice as much as teachers in this state. I don't have a quarrel with increasing years to achieve tenure, but trying to bounce unions smacks of more govt. interfence, not less. His tactics may wind up sending good teachers elsewhere so they can have a voice in how their profession is run and not have to abide by what undereducated school board members think should be.

By: Karen123 on 2/18/11 at 10:23

This proves to me even more how (never thought I would think this and I have 3 young children) but that No More Govt Education is actually the answer here. Yes, those attending school are paying for it. If you do not have children, well your taxes go down!
See, Everyone has to take painful cuts right now and these Teachers need to brush up on the American Revoltion. The Colonists had to cut back and suffer by not buying British goods in order to gain More Freedom and Prosperity by having their own Country. They are being very short sighted here. What good is having a nice big pension when all around you the Country is going to implode from Debt. It does no good. I had to go without bonuses and raises. My husband, a mechanic has taken 30-40% dip in his paycheck due to the Economy. The whole time, we have adjusted, prayed and kept on working...even harder! That is the answer...being selfish and stomping around is not.
Karen