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VOL. 36 | NO. 14 | Friday, April 6, 2012




House delays bill to lift laws for public schools

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NASHVILLE (AP) - The House on Wednesday delayed a vote on a bill to give the state's education commissioner the ability to waive state laws in order to grant public schools more flexibility after several members raised concerns that the measure could amount to a power grab by the executive branch.

Republican Rep. Art Swann of Maryville said his bill is designed to emulate the leeway granted to charter schools for high-performing public schools.

"We are trying to build an achievement level, and we're trying to learn," Swann said. "It is not that we're doing a carte blanche for every school from top to bottom."

"We have to turn those people loose to do their jobs," he said.

But Swann agreed to put the measure on hold until at least Thursday after members of both parties raised concerns.

"That a commissioner - unelected, answering only to the governor - can overturn laws that we pass, that scares me to be honest with you," sa id Rep. Glen Casada, R-Franklin. "That's not prudent action on our part."

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner of Nashville said he doesn't believe it's constitutional to grant anyone the power to ignore state laws. He also suggested Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman would welcome the power to overrule the Legislature.

"He wants to be a dictator over education, I understand that," Turner said. "He's got a real taste for that. This is wrong."

A spokeswoman for Huffman said the commissioner was attending a series of meetings and did not have immediate comment.

Republican Rep. Mark Pody of Lebanon said he wasn't concerned about the prospect of education officials changing rules and regulations that they have control over. But he said he had a problem if "they can override something that we pass."

"If they need to change it they need to come back here," he said.

The Senate passed its version of the bill on a 32-0 vote on Monday.

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