If you are wondering why a school district/board might need lobbyists, look no further than what is happening with StudentsFirst (SF), a group founded by Michelle Rhee who also happens to be the ex-wife of Tennessee’s Education Commissioner, Kevin Huffman. The Sacramento.-based organization backs charter schools and vouchers and is funded by donations from extremely wealthy individuals, corporations, and foundations—including the Gates and Waltons. SF currently has an office in Nashville, along with 8 lobbyists.
There are other similar lobbying groups in TN, (who don't have you or your children's best interests at heart) including the following:
- Tennessee Federation for Children: Supports charter schools and vouchers. 5 lobbyists.
- TN Charter Center: Supports proliferation of charter schools. Employs 8 lobbyists.
- Stand for Children: Supports charter schools and vouchers. Employs 2 lobbyists.
- Beacon Center of TN: Supports vouchers. Employs 2 lobbyists.
- Pearson, Inc.: Publishes Common Core materials and tests. Employs 1 lobbyist.
- K12 Inc.: Runs K12 for-profit virtual charter school. Employs 5 lobbyists.
(Go to this link https://apps.tn.gov/ilobbysearch-app/search.htm to find documentation of these lobbyists.)
Why do local school boards need lobbyists?
School board members in TN are part-time positions and these representatives do not have the time to follow all of the bills that are going through the legislature. They need the help of lobbyists to help them keep track of bills that directly affect their schools and constituents. And just in case you are keeping score, here are the lobbyists school boards/districts use in our state:
- Coalition of Large School Systems: Represents Shelby, Nashville, Hamilton, and Knox County school systems. Employs 2 lobbyists
- Tennessee School Board Association: Represents all school boards who pay dues to it. Employs 1 lobbyist.
- Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents: Represents interests of school board directors who pay dues to it. Employs 3 lobbyists.
StudentsFirst & Company = 31 lobbyists!!!
School boards/districts = 6 at the most.
As you might suspect, StudentsFirst, Stand for Children, TN Charter Center, and other groups reportedly support these bills. They apparently have no problem suppressing the voices of our elected officials and, subsequently, our voices in the legislative process—especially when the views expressed by these officials run counter to their agendas.
IMPORTANT TO NOTE: This law does not apply to Charter Schools. They can hire as many lobbyists as they want to support them.
(Note: All Momma Bears are volunteers. We are concerned parents who do this solely because we care deeply about public education.)
HB 2293/SB 2525
Let our locally elected school board members do their jobs.
We'll hold them accountable.