Kingsport Times News Friday, November 28, 2014

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Updated: Kingsport BOE: Bills attack on local control of schools

March 10th, 2014 11:20 pm by Rick Wagner

Updated: Kingsport BOE: Bills attack on local control of schools

KINGSPORT — The city's school board has gone on record opposing a proposed Tennessee law that could quash the ability of school systems to pay dues for professional organizations of school board members, superintendents, principals and others if the organization lobbies the General Assembly.

Board of Education member Susan Lodal called the resolution a local control issue and said she feared the legislation and another bill allowing local funding body line-item vetoes of school budgets in some situations might make it into law.

"I've never seen anything like this," Lodal told the board before it voted 5-0 to approve the resolution.

"Our voices are not going to be heard," Lodal said. "Right now, public education is under attack."

The resolution specifically opposes House Bill 2293/Senate Bill 2525 Bell; HB 2250/SB 1935 "and any other legislation that seeks to limit the ability of school board members to do the job for which they were elected."

HB 2293/SB 2525 "would enable funding bodies to line item veto lobbying expenses or dues to associations that lobby from a school system's budget," while HB 2250/SB 1935 "grants local legislative bodies the power to line item veto administrative spending in a school district's budget when the spending exceeds 10 percent of the budget."

HG 2250 is assigned to the House Local Government Subcommittee but not moving, while House Bill 2293 is on the House Finance Ways and Means calendar next week but is not seeing any action yet in the Senate.

Lodal said she plans to see the resolution, based on one recently approved by Rutherford County, is distributed widely and plans to ask other area school systems, educators, parents and the public to stand up and speak up for public education in Tennessee. She said it addresses a local issue in Middle Tennessee that should be addressed locally there, not by the General Assembly with statewide application.

She said it is unfair that locally elected school boards can't have a voice in Nashville or a lobbyist to look out for their interests when what she called outside advocacy groups, such as groups that support charter schools or vouchers, outnumber traditional school groups about 50-to-10, not to mention campaign contributions of such groups.

Lodal said the legislation could affect the ability of school systems to pay dues for the Tennessee School Boards Association, Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents, principals and others.

She said that state Reps. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport, and Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, signed on to House Bill 2293 legislation but later removed their names. However, she said state Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, remains a co-sponsor of 2293. Shipley and Lundberg remain co-sponsors of 2250, but Hill is not.

The BOE resolution said the bills before the General Assembly "would restrict the ability of school board members across the State of Tennessee to fulfill their duties as elected officials by limiting their access to critical information and communication with state legislators and legislative committees regarding education-related matters.

It says school board members "not serving in close proximity to Nashville regularly need assistance from lobbyists to protect the interests of their communities and to help them know how best to advocate for their students and for public education."

For a copy of the Kingsport resolution, go to http://kingsport.schoolfusion.us/modules/groups/homepagefiles/cms/940474/File/BOE%20Meeting%20Notes/2014%20Supporting%20Documents/3-6%20Retaining%20Local%20Control%20Resolution%203-6-14.pdf.

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