Sunday, February 8, 2015

Delta Kappa Gamma Xi State Legislative Symposium

"Cultivating Educational Relationships with Legislators"
February 3rd & 4th, 2015
Millennium Maxwell House Hotel
Nashville, TN

Xi State Legislative Panel Forum, Tuesday, Feb. 3rd
As the Legislative chair of the Knoxville Zeta Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma, I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to Nashville for its yearly Legislative Symposium.  As a participant in the symposium, I, along with our chapter president, Dr. Tricia Jones, attended the Xi State Legislative Panel Forum on Tuesday evening at 7:30pm.  This year's moderator was Beta Kappa's, Teresa Brown and members of the panel included the following:
There were approximately ten questions posed to this year's panel that ranged from topics about BEP funding, teacher raises, more spending for school technology and internet access, graduation requirements and common core state standards, teacher preparation programs, teacher retention, the impact of Governor Haslam's Tennessee Promise program, charter schools, and Tennessee's "on-time" graduation rates.

Notable comments:
Representative Raumesh Akbari stated that Commom Core State Standards are not an example of "federal intrusion" since they were not developed on the federal level. She also stated in support of the standards since state training has already begun and that there has been positive change.  She reported that teachers she has talked to are supporting these changes, and notably according to the National Assessment to the Education Process (NAEP), Tennessee is the #1state in student growth. Donna Cotner, Executive Director of TN Retired Teachers' Association added that "reform must occur in the classroom in order for students to compete nationally."  With regards to charter schools, Donna Cotner also stated that statistically, charter schools have not done any better than current public schools and that "management by desertion is poor management."  Jim Wrye also added that charter schools have "high attrition rates," and that he is especially concerned about those rates as they relate to elementary schools.

Xi State Legislative Breakfast, Wednesday, Feb. 4th
On Wednesday morning at 6:30am, symposium participants attended the Music City Breakfast Buffet
Dr. Candice McQueen 

with keynote speaker, and newly appointed Tennessee Commissioner of Education, Dr. Candice McQueen. Dr. McQueen emphasized three key points in her Legislative Symposium Breakfast Address.  Those key points were as follows:
  • Ensure that we move from the bottom half of all states according to NAEP by 2019.  This goal is the right direction for creating an educated workforce for the state of Tennessee.
  • Majority of students will go to post secondary schools. There is a very small success rate for students after graduating high school and their average salary is $9,000.
  • Improving ACT scores and aligning our standards to the ACT standards.
Notable comments:
Early childhood reading rates must show that students are on reading level by 3rd grade.  Also, there must be more accountability in PreK schools to help ensure that students are appropriately ready for Kindergarten.  Dr. McQueen also noted that older students are a concern as well. Data shows that there is very little change in literacy rates between the 8th and 12th grade years. 

Pictured are: Jessica Holman, Alpha Mu President; Nancy Irwin, Alpha Tau President; Beverly Smith, Xi State President; Linda Garner, Alpha Tau; Dr. Tricia Jones, Zeta President; Denise McGaha, Zeta; Christine Furman, Alpha Mu

The overall atmosphere of the symposium was very positive and many participants were able to attend the state's capitol for meetings that were scheduled with elected legislators. The emphasis here is the belief that contact from a district's constituents can have an important role on legislative votes. Delta Kappa Gamma Society offers these five important things to remember when contacting your legislator.
  1. Know how a bill becomes law.
  2. Know the bill number.
  3. Know their schedules and agendas which are posted at the Capitol and on the internet.
  4. Know their committee assignments.
  5. Be simple and be brief.


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