U.S. markets closed
  • S&P 500

    4,280.15
    +72.88 (+1.73%)
     
  • Dow 30

    33,761.05
    +424.38 (+1.27%)
     
  • Nasdaq

    13,047.19
    +267.27 (+2.09%)
     
  • Russell 2000

    2,016.62
    +41.36 (+2.09%)
     
  • Crude Oil

    91.88
    -2.46 (-2.61%)
     
  • Gold

    1,818.90
    +11.70 (+0.65%)
     
  • Silver

    20.83
    +0.49 (+2.39%)
     
  • EUR/USD

    1.0257
    -0.0068 (-0.66%)
     
  • 10-Yr Bond

    2.8490
    -0.0390 (-1.35%)
     
  • GBP/USD

    1.2139
    -0.0064 (-0.52%)
     
  • USD/JPY

    133.4800
    +0.4810 (+0.36%)
     
  • BTC-USD

    24,587.20
    -101.82 (-0.41%)
     
  • CMC Crypto 200

    574.64
    +3.36 (+0.59%)
     
  • FTSE 100

    7,500.89
    +34.98 (+0.47%)
     
  • Nikkei 225

    28,546.98
    +727.65 (+2.62%)
     

Gov. Lee under fire after ally's 'dumbest' teachers comment

·6 min read

Hello and welcome to School Zone. This is education reporter Meghan Mangrum.

Despite being a holiday week, it’s already shaping up to be a busy one, so let’s get right to the news!

Gov. Bill Lee and Hillsdale President Larry Arnn talk Tennessee education

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee is under fire from public school teachers, education advocates and even some of his fellow Republicans after he didn't respond to Larry Arnn, the president of conservative Hillsdale College, as he made insulting comments about Tennessee teachers.

The controversy, first reported by News Channel 5's Phil Williams, stems from a June event featuring Arnn and Lee in Williamson County. According to a video of the event from News Channel 5, the two spoke about education during the private meeting.

Among his remarks, Arnn "mocks the intelligence of public school teachers and questions whether they really care about what is best for their students," Williams reported.

His comments included saying teachers "are trained in the dumbest parts of the dumbest colleges in the country" and characterizing public education "as a plague."

“You will see how education destroys generations of people. It's devastating. It's like the plague," Arnn said.

Lee, who announced a key partnership with Hillsdale College to launch more charter schools across the state during his State of the State address in January, did not respond to Arnn's comments.

But now teachers and their allies are responding.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee appears alongside Tennesse Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn at an awards event at Black Fox Elementary in Cleveland, Tenn. on April 7, 2022. Here Lee presents a $25,000 check to second-grade teacher Raeven Brooks during a surprise school assembly. Brooks was awarded one of only two Milken Educator Awards, a high-stakes national recognition program for teachers, for her work during the 2021-22 school year.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee appears alongside Tennesse Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn at an awards event at Black Fox Elementary in Cleveland, Tenn. on April 7, 2022. Here Lee presents a $25,000 check to second-grade teacher Raeven Brooks during a surprise school assembly. Brooks was awarded one of only two Milken Educator Awards, a high-stakes national recognition program for teachers, for her work during the 2021-22 school year.

Lee under fire from teachers

Lee faced backlash immediately following News Channel 5's story.

State Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, held a news conference Friday in Knoxville calling it a "sad day." Johnson said she wanted to talk about the amazing things that teachers are doing every day, and called Arnn's comments "heinous, demeaning and denigrating."

"He could have at any point said, 'I'm going to say Tennessee teachers are great,'" Johnson said of Lee's response to Arnn.

Johnson has since posted on Twitter encouraging people to contact their legislators and call out the governor.

Hundreds of teachers have also posted their reactions.

"Strong public education systems are the foundation of strong communities, and teachers are at the heart of this work. As I start year 19, I continue to be amazed at what I see happening in classrooms each day. Someone who thinks anyone can do it well- hasn’t," Trey Dukes, director of Murfreesboro City Schools, said.

"33 years in education has afforded me the privilege of working alongside amazing RCS Teachers. The level of their instruction is second to none AND mixed in with that instruction is love for their students," Ann Haley of Rutherford County Schools posted.

Even some off Lee's fellow Republicans have responded, though most haven't called Lee out by name.

State Sen. Ken Yager, R-Kingston, said as a former classroom teacher, he has "some idea of the challenges our public school teachers deal with on a daily basis. They do an outstanding job preparing our youth."

Yager retweeted GOP leader state Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, who said it bluntly: "The guy from Hillsdale doesn’t speak for any Tennessean I know."

Whether Lee will see further fallout or distance himself from Arnn remains unclear.

You can find more on the controversy from the Chattanooga Times Free Press, the Nashville Scene and Inside Higher Edu.

Tomorrow: District-level TCAP scores will be released

Results of the state’s standardized assessments for each of more than 140 Tennessee school districts will be released Wednesday.

The TCAP tests, administered this spring, gauge student proficiency in English, math, science and social studies for students in grades 3-8 and a variety of subjects including English language arts (ELA), math, algebra and biology for high schoolers.

Last month, the Tennessee Department of Education celebrated state-level results that indicated the percentage of students meeting grade-level requirements in reading is back to pre-pandemic levels. But even that means only about 36% of students are on grade level in ELA.

Keep an eye on The Tennessean for Metro Nashville Public Schools' results tomorrow, as well as a roundup for all of Middle Tennessee.

Coming soon: Teacher shortages + sex education

1. School districts across the country have been lamenting teacher and staff shortages for years, a challenge exacerbated by the pandemic. But how many teachers actually left Metro Nashville Public Schools last year and how many vacancies does the district have to fill before the upcoming school year? The Tennessean will dive into these numbers and more.

2. When it comes to sex education, most public school students in Tennessee only receive abstinence-centered instruction — if any at all. For years, some advocates and medical providers have argued that comprehensive sex education that offers more realistic information is more effective at preventing unintentional pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, and even can lead to teenagers delaying sexual intercourse. Now teens are chiming in. Hear what they have to say — coming soon from The Tennessean.

Support local journalism 

With that, thank you for reading! Our coverage of education and children's issues wouldn't be possible without Tennessean subscribers. If you aren't already one, please consider becoming a subscriber today.

We want to hear from you

Is there anything The Tennessean might have missed? I'd love to hear from you. You can reach me at mmangrum@tennessean.com or on Twitter @memangrum.

If you were forwarded this email, subscribe to this free newsletter here. School Zone will hit your inbox every Tuesday, jam-packed with some of the top education news from The Tennessean and across the state.

Extra credit

Changes at TEA: After four years under the leadership of Grundy County educator Beth Brown, members of the Tennessee Education Association elected new leaders at a recent assembly meeting. Knox County veteran educator Tanya Coats was elected president of the state's largest teachers' union and a Johnson City middle school teacher, Joe Crabtree, was elected vice president of the organization, according to a news release. TEA members also elected a slew of new members to its board of directors.

► The Tennessee State Board of Education is collecting public feedback on the state's existing social studies standards for grades K-12. The effort is part of a yearlong process of reviewing the existing academic standards for potential revision. Keep reading to find out more about the process. Submit your feedback online via the state board's website.

► Safe Haven Family Shelter, an organization that shelters families experiencing homelessness in Nashville, is collecting school supplies for school-aged children through July 18. Needs include binders, pocket folders, glue sticks, pens and other materials. Find more information or sign up to donate here.

► Nashville Mayor John Cooper's office is gathering information about child care providers and out-of-school programming available to Nashville families. The Mayor's Office is asking community organizations including churches, nonprofits, school-based organizations, child care providers and more to complete a survey about the resources available to Nashville families. Find the survey and more information here.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Gov. Lee under fire after ally's 'dumbest' teachers comment