Tennessee joins national debate on assisted suicide
AG: Lawmaker health care costs are public record
One Voter Showed Up At Santorum event
By the end of last week, 33 nontenured teachers had gotten the ax. Fifty-five such contracts were not renewed last year. This number doesn’t include outright firings, retirements, resignations or those who lose their jobs due to funding cuts, nor does it reflect administrative transfers. Nontenured teachers have no appeal rights.
The nonrenewal of Christina Graham, a third-year, nontenured kindergarten teacher at Copper Ridge Elementary School, has not only roiled the rural community where she teaches but is drawing statewide attention because Graham is an outspoken critic of over-reliance on high-stakes testing, especially the SAT-10, an achievement test recommended, but not required, by the state for kindergartners through third grade, which Knox County has now discontinued.
Allegations of retaliation do not come from Graham herself but from parents, colleagues and supporters who are upset by principal Kathy Castenir’s decision not to renew Graham’s contract and by her method of informing Graham – out of the blue, and on the last day teachers were required to report to school.
Graham’s supporters object to Castenir’s ordering Graham to clear out her room and turn in her keys by the end of the day. Graham’s colleagues pitched in to help her pack up the contents of her classroom, much of which she’d bought last year with the proceeds from a summer job at Hobby Lobby. LINK
AG: Lawmaker health care costs are public recordState documents showing the cost of health care for state lawmakers are public records, and releasing them does not violate federal privacy laws, said Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery in a recently released opinion.
Slatery issued the opinion Friday, in response to lawmaker questions and concerns over open records requests made by The Tennessean. Lawmakers, including House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada, R-Franklin, cried foul when The Tennessean obtained documents showing how much taxpayers and lawmakers spend on their health care premiums. LINK
Insure Debate Rages OnHow much longer can the state ignore the impact of Insure Tennessee?
Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan to use Medicare expansion funding to cover 280,000 uninsured Tennesseans would have meant an additional $1.77 billion in federal spending for the state.
A report from the White House Council of Economic Advisers also says it would have brought a $190 million reduction in uncompensated care.
It would have covered more than 12,000 eligible for insurance in southern Middle Tennessee. The analysis shows 4,895 eligible in Maury, 2,998 in Lawrence, 2,229 in Marshall, 1,617 in Hickman and 905 in Lewis counties.
The report examined the health and economic impact on states that did not expand Medicare programs. There were 22 who opted out, including Tennessee.
“This evidence leaves no doubt that the consequences of States’ decisions are far reaching, with major implications for the health of their citizens and their economies,” the report said.
So the answer would seem to be: Insure Tennessee is worth examining in detail, not rejecting through political pandering and empty rhetoric. It’s especially relevant if the Supreme Court strikes down the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.
If it brings millions to the state and improves health care, especially in rural areas like ours, what’s the down side? Higher insurance costs, but lower charity burdens from hospitals, might be the fallout.
But instead of finding out, two Senate committees defeated Haslam’s proposal without giving the entire General Assembly an opportunity to consider it.
Insure Tennessee is not a welfare program. It’s a health-care program aimed at improving the quality of life of thousands of hard-working people. In fact, 62 percent of those who would qualify have jobs and cannot afford insurance. LINK
Report lists TN at ‘bottom of the barrel’ in education funding fairnessA Rutgers University report that grades states on how they fund public education shows Tennessee at the “bottom of the barrel” in fairness, reports The Commercial Appeal.
Besides being one of 16 states earning an F for percentage of state resources allocated to K-12 education, family incomes of children attending its public schools on average are half that of children in private schools or being home-schooled.
“That’s a warning signal,” says David Sciarra, executive director of the Education Law Center.
“It becomes difficult to get the kind of forward-thinking reform in legislation if you have more affluent families not invested in this system,” he said.
The study looks at “fairness” in funding, including whether states allow more resources for districts with high numbers of students in poverty. Tennessee earned a B in the category, but Sciarra says even that is misleading.
“Because spending is so low, it really does not amount to much,” he said. LINK
Tennessee joins national debate on assisted suicideennessee lawmakers are set to discuss changing state law Tuesday so that some terminally ill patients believed to have less than six months to live could legally participate in assisted suicide.
It's a heated issue that's remained in the public discourse for decades. Oregon approved the nation's first assisted suicide law in 1997, but only Washington state and Vermont have followed with their own laws in the nearly 18 years since the first "Death with Dignity Act."
Controversial physician Jack Kevorkian, known to many as "Dr. Death," drew considerable ire and attention for his role in assisted suicides and subsequent conviction in 1999. More recently, the 2014 assisted suicide of 29-year-old advocate Brittany Maynard, who suffered from terminal brain cancer, received considerable national attention.
In Tennessee longtime political activist John Jay Hooker is the face of the movement. He and other advocates prefer terms such as "death with dignity," "right to die" or "physician-assisted death" to assisted suicide, arguing the term stirs up negative connotations.
Facing his own terminal illness, Hooker wants the ability to end his own life on his own terms. Depriving anyone of that ability, he argues, violates the spirit of the U.S. Constitution and "the American dream." LINK
One Voter Showed Up At Santorum eventAt first, one was the loneliest number for Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum on Monday.
Just one Iowan showed up at 2 p.m. campaign stop Monday at a restaurant in the unincorporated community of Hamlin, population 300, according to a report from The Des Moines Register — Peggy Toft, an insurance agent who chairs the county’s Republican Party.
Santorum told the Register that the low turnout was not surprising, but that it is all a part of the plan.
“It’s not glamorous, and you’re not out there raising money, but you’re doing what the money is ultimately supposed to do — getting votes,” Santorum told the Register. “This is a lot more fun than being on the phone raising money.”
While posing for photos outside Darrell’s Place, Santorum called the event a success, emphasizing the importance of every vote in the caucus system. LINK
Crockett Policy Institute