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Business, Free Enterprise and Constitutional Issues; Pro-Life and Pro Second Amendment. Susan Lynn is a member of the Tennessee General Assembly. She serves as Chairman of the Consumer and Human Resources subcommittee and on the Finance Ways and Means Committee. She holds a BS in economics and a minor in history.

Thursday, July 14, 2016


Tennessee Department of Education Reduces Testing Time by 30 Percent
Part I eliminated for all TCAP tests; new test restructured for easier scheduling while still ensuring all students on track for success in college and career

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Commissioner McQueen's New Blog

I had a long conversation with Tennessee Education Commissioner McQueen today.  Our committee is to consider a contract for a new testing company this week but we talked about many other issues as well.

She made me aware of her new blog and asked me if I would share her first three posts with my readers which are about testing.  I said that I would...

Blog post #1:  What we’ve learned  - and where we can improve  - on testing in Tennessee

Blog post #2:  How tests help improve teaching and learning

Blog post #3:   Why we have state tests

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Why Unions Want a Higher Minimum Wage

Labor contracts are often tied to the law—and it reduces the competition for lower-paying jobs.

Organized labor's instantaneous support for President Obama's recent proposal to hike the minimum wage doesn't make much sense at first glance. The average private-sector union member—at least one who still has a job—earns $22 an hour according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's a far cry from the current $7.25 per hour federal minimum wage, or the $9 per hour the president has proposed.  Altruistic solidarity with lower-paid workers isn't the reason for organized labor's cheerleading, either.
The real reason is that some unions and their members directly benefit from minimum wage increases—even when nary a union member actually makes the minimum wage.
The Center for Union Facts analyzed collective-bargaining agreements obtained from the Department of Labor's Office of Labor-Management Standards. The data indicate that a number of unions in the service, retail and hospitality industries peg their base-line wages to the minimum wage.
The Labor Department's collective-bargaining agreements file has a limited number of contracts available, so we were unable to determine how widespread the practice is. But the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union says that pegging its wages to the federal minimum is commonplace. On its website, the UFCW notes that "oftentimes, union contracts are triggered to implement wage hikes in the case of minimum wage increases." Such increases, the UFCW says, are "one of the many advantages of being a union member."

The labor contracts that we examined used a variety of methods to trigger the increases. The two most popular formulas were setting baseline union wages as a percentage above the state or federal minimum wage or mandating a flat wage premium above the minimum wage.
Other union contracts stipulate that, following a minimum-wage increase, the union and the employer reopen wage talks. The negotiations could pressure employers and unions to hammer out a new contract, regardless of how long their existing contracts last. Presumably the reopened negotiations could also prompt an employer's demand for union givebacks, but that possibility does not seem to scare the unions.
Minimum-wage hikes are beneficial to unions in other ways. The increases restrict the ability of businesses to hire low-skill workers who might gladly work for lower wages in order to gain experience. Union members thus face less competition from workers who might threaten union jobs.
This view is not speculation. A 2004 study in the Journal of Human Resources by economists William Wascher, Mark Schweitzer and David Neumark determined that lower-wage union workers typically see a boost in employment and earned income following a mandated wage hike. Never mind the corresponding drop in jobs and earned income for nonunion minimum-wage workers. They may have been priced out of the jobs they need, but that is not the union's concern—its members have landed higher wages and reduced competition for jobs.
Such considerations are worth keeping in mind when contemplating the president's wage proposal and the fervent Democratic support for similar and often more ambitious measures, such as Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin's bill to raise the minimum wage to $9.80. Labor unions spent an estimated $174 million on the 2012 election, with 91% of the money going to Democrats, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Now many union members could see their paychecks grow as the result of a Democrat-backed mandate—even though the overwhelming majority of scholarly evidence says that these wage increases have a negative effect on employment.
Mr. Berman is the executive director of the Center for Union Facts.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Vendor for Scoring 2015-16 Assessments

We have received this statement from the Department of Education on TNReady.

The department of education has executed a new contract for scoring and reporting of the 2015-16 assessments (including TNReady). After terminating the state’s contract with Measurement Inc. on April 27, the department, in collaboration with the state’s Central Procurement Office (CPO), immediately began the process of securing an emergency contract with a vendor with which the department already has an existing relationship. Pursuant to T.C.A. § 12-3-505 state agencies can purchase, in the open market, services for immediate delivery to meet emergencies arising from any unforeseen cause. In collaboration with CPO, the department has selected Pearson to score assessments from the 2015-16 school year.

Pearson is the Tennessee’s current vendor for the SAT-10 test, an optional test districts can administer in kindergarten through second grade. Also, Pearson, known for scoring NAEP (or the “Nation’s Report Card”)for three decades, is currently partnering with 25 states across the country, including Kentucky, Virginia, and Indiana. In fact, Pearson developed, administered, and scored grades 3–8 tests and/or high school End of Course exams in Tennessee from 2003 through 2014.

Our emergency contract with Pearson is only for scoring and reporting of 2015-16 assessments. This will include scoring high school End of Course exams, Part I grade 3–8 tests, and any completed Part II grade 3–8 exams. High school score reports, as well as grade 3–8 raw data, will be shared in fall 2016 as we have previously communicated.
Attached is an FAQ designed to answer questions about the selection of the scoring vendor.
The department is currently working on a separate procurement process in collaboration with CPO to select a vendor to develop and administer next year’s assessment. We will communicate information related to next year’s test as we move through the procurement process.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Tennessee Does Well on Pension Funding and Retirement Health Benefits

New GASB rules have now standardized the reporting of municipal liabilities, JP Morgan created a single measure for each state.  
Total liabilities include bonds and obligations related to underfunded pensions and retiree healthcare benefits (referred to as “OPEB”, an acronym for Other Post-Employment Retirement Benefits).  Pensions and OPEB are a big part of the debt picture: while US states have ~$500 billion of bonds supported by state tax collections and general revenues, they have another $1.0-$1.5 trillion of unfunded pension and OPEB liabilities, depending on rates used to discount them.
JP Morgan analyzed 330 state pension and OPEB plans.  The chart shows the ratio of what states currently spend on bonds, pensions and OPEB as a percentage of their revenues (blue bars), and what they would be spending assuming a 6% return on plan assets, amortizing any unfunded pension and OPEB liabilities over 30 years (total bars).  
As you can see - Tennessee is doing very well.


Alternative residential program part of governor’s Public Safety Action Plan
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced with Major General Max Haston of the Department of Military and Department of Children’s Services (DCS) Commissioner Bonnie Hommrich that Tennessee has been approved by the U.S. Department of Defense for a National Guard Youth ChalleNGe program.
The National Guard Youth ChalleNGe is an alternative residential program that offers youth between ages 16-18 who have dropped out of school and have no criminal record the opportunity to learn self-discipline, leadership and responsibility while working to obtain a high school equivalency diploma outside of a traditional school setting. Its implementation is one of the steps in the governor’s Public Safety Action Plan.
“This program creates another path to success for some teens who really need one, and it falls right in line with our Drive to 55 goals by helping them earn high school diplomas and making them eligible for Tennessee Promise,” Haslam said. “I appreciate our Children’s Services and Military departments collaborating in an innovative way to serve these young Tennesseans and our state.” 
The program is voluntary, focusing on eight core components: academic excellence, physical fitness, leadership/followership, responsible citizenship, job skills, service to the community, health and hygiene and life coping skills. Program cadets are constantly monitored during a three phase instructional period. The cadets begin with a two week acclimation period followed by a 20 week residence phase and 1 year post residence “mentoring” phase.
“This is an exciting time for us at DCS, and the move not only makes way for the Youth ChalleNGe, it gives us an excellent opportunity to roll out our new programs to help our older youth get ready to become more independent,” Hommrich said. “They will have new opportunities for learning how to enter to the job market and for continuing their education."
Tennessee’s program will be known as the “Volunteer Youth ChalleNGe Academy” and will occupy the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center in Nashville operated by DCS. The department is moving its current operations at Woodland Hills to the unoccupied New Visions Youth Development Center next door. DCS expects to complete the move by early fall and has been developing Gateway to Independence, a new set of programs specifically tailored for older juvenile-justice youth who are in state custody.
“We wanted to bring Youth ChalleNGe to Tennessee for a number of years, and at long last, the pieces fell into place and we’ve been able to make it a reality. This is a great day for the youth of Tennessee,” Haston said.
The National Guard Youth Challenge was included in Haslam’s 2016-17 budget with funding of $5.7 million, of which $4.35 million comes from new federal funds, making the state’s investment $1.35 million. The Department of Military expects to have the program staff in place later this fall. The first class of cadets is projected to include 100 students and should begin by mid-2017.
Tennessee’s program will be the 40th in the country, joining programs in 29 states, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico.