TENNESSEE, November 6, 2015– Rep. Andy Holt:
It comes as no surprise that when you take a stand for someone, others will be ready to knock you down. In politics, big money plays a role in this fight. When a level-5 teacher asked me to sit in on her class and take the standardized English & Language Arts TN-Ready practice exam with her 8th grade students because she had serious concerns and wanted me to see exactly what these children were going through and hear their voice, I honored her request. However, the state’s most powerful education bureaucrat decided she knew better than this highly trained teacher and blocked me from doing so. As we have come to learn over the past few days, Tennessee teachers and administrators are quite literally under attack. I have received countless emails from teachers across the state that have told me their stories of how they were either ignored or threatened with their jobs for coming forward with their concerns about standards and testing. In Nashville, as reported by investigative journalist Phil Williams, two educators were just recently forced to attain lawyers to protect them from the Tennessee Department of Education’s bureaucrats when they blew the whistle after noticing that the school system was purposefully manipulating standardized testing scores. It is absolutely shameful that educators are so afraid to come forward that they cannot do so without legal protection. Last I checked, we live in a democratic republic. The very idea that public school teachers must have legal protection from the state is down-right disgusting.
Now, Tennesseans for Student Success, the pro-Common Core group that is funded by multi-millionaire politicians, test makers, book publishers and special interests that make even more millions off of Tennessee tax-payers through the implementation of Common Core has come out against me. They say that my intentions are a “political stunt”. Funny claim from a hyper-political organization. They say that the tests are available online and that I could have simply taken it on my computer from home. First and foremost, the test given to students isn’t the test that’s online. It’s a watered down, sterilized version. Second, it was more than the test. It was also the voice of Tennessee students that I wanted to hear after they took the test. “Tennesseans for Student Success”? That’s a disingenuous name, at best. We have seen what Common Core has done to Tennessee students. The results are the antithesis of success. In fact, it’s so bad that just before former Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman was all but forced to resign, he broke state law to cover up hundreds of failing TCAP scores last year in order to inflate the score average. Today, we see the same thing happening as a national testing expert recently told investigative journalist Phil Williams that Nashville Public Schools is purposefully manipulating testing scores to protect bureaucrats. Never mind that our children and teachers are suffering under Common Core, there are millions of tax-dollars to be made. Therefore, political organizations with misleading branding will do all they can to deceive Tennessee parents and teachers.
The TN-DOE says it has nothing to hide, yet Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner McQueen tells teachers that they should privately come to the department with their concerns, not their elected officials. Educators hiring lawyers, commissioners breaking the law, scores being manipulated… Nothing to hide? Sure.
To be quite honest, I’m sick of the way the two party system and corporatism has turned Americans against one another. It’s no secret that I’m a conservative Republican. I always have been. However, when I say I’m taking a stand for teachers and parents, I mean it. I don’t play party politics, and that’s why some have come out against me. To say that I am doing this as a ”political stunt” is laughable. While some Republicans want to condemn social welfare, they are more than willing to hand over millions of dollars in corporate welfare to billion dollar companies (like the ones funding Tennesseans for Student Success), which hurts small businesses. If you want to cut welfare, let’s include corporate welfare in those cuts. I fight Republicans tooth and nail on this. Democrats want to legalize marijuana as a states’ rights issue, but fight against traditional marriage on the federal level, which is also a states’ rights issue. I’ll fight Democrats on this as well. My goal has always been to approach policy from a strictly constitutional and principled perspective. I have always loved watching US Senators Rand Paul (R) and Cory Booker (D) work together on criminal justice reform as partners. We need more of this in America. Most educators tend to believe that Republicans are not on their side. I can’t say I blame them when you look at how this Republican controlled state has turned against them. ‘
Teachers, you and I will probably never agree on everything. On the rare occasions that we do, let us band arms and fight for a cause greater than politics. For years I have been a college educator. I have taught more Tennessee students than I can count. I never once paid a single bit of attention as to whether they were previously home-schooled, private or public schoolers. They are Tennesseans. They are our future. I’m not going to stop standing for teachers, parents and students. My political foes can spin my intentions all they want. I hope you’ll see through it and stand with me.