Newspaper article News Sentinel

Bill Would Repeal Teacher Licensing Policy

Newspaper article News Sentinel

Bill Would Repeal Teacher Licensing Policy

Article excerpt

NASHVILLE -- A bill to repeal the state Board of Education's new policy on teacher licensing has been filed by state Rep. Matthew Hill with 60 of his House colleagues signing on as co-sponsors.

The policy, adopted last August by the board at the urging of Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman and the support of Gov. Bill Haslam, ties the granting and renewal of teacher licenses to student test scores. It has drawn widespread criticism from teachers and school administrators.

The Jonesborough Republican's bill to reject the board's policy (HB2263) is titled "the Educator Respect and Accountability Act of 2014" and is sponsored by Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, in the Senate. Its preamble includes a declaration that the board's policy changes "undermine the sacrifice and commitment of public school teachers of the state."

Besides undoing the licensing policy, the bill requires the state Department of Education to set up an electronic complaint form on its website where people can report concerns about individual teachers.

Co-sponsors signing on as supporters of the measure along with Hill were 43 Republicans and 17 Democrats.

Medicaid expansion: A bill to flatly prohibit Gov. Bill Haslam from Medicaid expansion has been amended to instead require only that he get the Legislature's approval before doing so -- just as the governor has promised he will.

With the softening amendment in place, the measure (HB937) was approved on a 6-2 party-line vote last week by the House Insurance and Banking subcommittee. Leslie Hafner, Haslam's lead legislative liaison, told the panel the governor has no objections to the amended version because it "mirrors what he told you."

As amended, the bill by Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, says any expansion of Medicaid, operated as TennCare in Tennessee, must be approved by both the House and Senate in a joint resolution.

Haslam announced last year that he would not seek expansion under current conditions, but would seek modifications from the federal government and might come up with a "Tennessee plan" for expansion later. To date, he has not, though the governor said last week he expects to discuss the subject with federal officials during a trip to Washington for a meeting of governors later this month.

Democrats on the subcommittee objected to the bill. Rep. Joann Favors, D-Chattanooga, noted that if Haslam comes up with a plan while the Legislature is not in session, the bill will require that the Legislature either be summoned back to Nashville for an expensive special session or forgo federal funding for expansion until regular session resumes -- perhaps a period of months. She compared the situation to the state refusing federal emergency funding following a natural disaster unless the Legislature was in session to approve. …

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