“Life is a hurricane, and we board up to save what we can and bow low to the earth to crouch in that small space above the dirt where the wind will not reach. We honor anniversaries of deaths by cleaning graves and sitting next to them before fires, sharing food with those who will not eat again. We raise children and tell them other things about who they can be and what they are worth: to us, everything. We love each other fiercely, while we live and after we die. We survive; we are savages.”
Jesmyn Ward, Men We Reaped

Today’s posting is going to be shorter than usual. In all honesty, I wasn’t going to write anything.

The sun is shining. We got a baseball game later today. The kids and wife are home from school and it’s Good Friday. Any one of those is enough on their own to take a day off.

Couple them with the fact that I’m tired. I’ve spent nearly three years closely watching Commissioner Schwinn and her ever-diminishing posse at the Tennessee Department of Education assert their will of education policy, an endeavor that has created a desire to spend hours under a hot shower.

I’ve watched legislators privately admit to not trusting her, or the man who she serves, Bill Lee, and then publically support their efforts because they share a letter behind their name. It’s disheartening, to say the least, and contributes to an undermining of the belief in our system of governance.  But don’t think those with a “D” behind their name are without sin, their sins are often ones of omission compared to commission.

If you need an example, ask yourself, why is the Tennessee Achievement School District still in operation.? By any definition, it’s an abject failure that has cost Tennessee taxpayers a billion dollars, with virtually no return. A billion dollars could have been invested in the state’s children instead of lining the pockets of private entities.

But this legislative session saw not one bill introduced that would end the fiasco. Instead, we heard promises from the TNDOE to take more students and schools – ven as they cut loose the ones they failed.

It’s demoralizing to watch. And I had no desire, to dive into the mud this morning. Instead, I am making plans to mow the lawn, shop for carpeting, and have lunch as a family, while my 12-year-old daughter explores the mall with friends.

But there remain things that can’t go without saying. And I’ve never been good at holding my tongue, even as I pinch my nose.

Monday marks the beginning of standardized testing in Tennessee, affectionally known as TNReady.That test will be followed by more testing, right up to the end of the school year.

Why you may ask? The simple answer is, that adults need the data to justify their existence. Oh, they’ll cache it in all kinds of feel-good slogans, but those are just that, slogans.

The last two years have been an unprecedented time of upheaval for our children. Whether we did the right thing or wrong thing in response to the COVID threat is a debate for another time and another place. What is undebatable, is that the pandemic had a life-altering impact on children, and teachers, in ways that we don’t yet fully understand.

I will admit, I was guilty of being one of those parents who argued, that my children are warriors, they are navigating the crisis and striving in some ways. I was wrong. The depth of my misdiagnosis is still under question,. It could be worse, or lesser than I anticipated. But the key thing is my uncertainty at this point.

The impact isn’t an either/or, it’s an ongoing assessment. There were positives and there were negatives, and there were, and are,  impacts that are just now being revealed. But we are too busy rushing off to satisfy accountability concerns to take time and properly assess needs. This is to the detriment of all of us.

I’ve always warned, be wary of the well-intentioned man. Sometimes the best intentions can lead to real missteps. And sometimes, the worst intentions are cloaked in the guise of well meaning.

Let’s not forget the volume of money that is on the table. There is a lot of money at stake. Money that reverts back to the federal government if not utilized in the next two years, not exactly encouraging us to be diligent in our needs assessment.

So come Monday, kids across Tennessee will sit down at their desks and start being assessed. It doesn’t matter that many are still dealing with trauma induced by a pandemic of generational proportions.

Nobody cares that many are exhausted because, quite frankly, dealing with adult efforts to “catch up”, is exhausting.

A picture of a lost generation is continually presented, despite it logically not making sense. We act as if we don’t push them without impunity, they will be doomed to a life of underachievement. Unable to forge marriages, raise kids, maintain employment, or participate in their civic duties. It’s a stupid proposition mired in selfishness and greed.

Imagine if you went to the doctor after a mugging, and instead of assessing and treating your injuries, they insisted on giving you a physical to assess your general overall health. Then they used that information to prescribe you a long-term treatment plan provided by third parties. All while not treating the wounds caused by the mugging.

You’d probably find a new doctor. I’d say Tennessee needs a new education doctor.

Before I closed the laptop and left to enjoy the day, I’d be remiss if I didn’t comment on the latest Tennessean Editorial written by Tennessee’s self-appointedfcivility cop, David Plaza.

In this piece, Plaza takes Democrat House Representative Gloria Johnson to task for a tweet that warns that strategies employed around the passage of the Governor’s education funding reform plan should serve as a harbinger of an end to democracy.

Look, I can be as critical as anyone of Johnson for her liberal usage of hyperbole, but in this case, she’s not wrong. In fact, there is more truth in her alarm than there is in Plaza’s previous call to pass the bill, in the name of doing something, and fixing it later.

That’s not really an option as Commissioner Schwinn has stated repeatedly in testimony offered to lawmakers in committee. She recently offered up that states who adopt this plan don’t normally adjust it for at least a decade. But they sure do piggyback off it, as evidenced by the state of Ohio, which passed similar legislation last year. The funding plan becomes a vehicle for passing voucher legislation.

As reported last week by the Ohio Capitol Journal,

Only months after the reformulated education payment plan was finally approved – following a years-long bipartisan effort to create more equitable, stable and predictable revenue streams for Ohio’s 1.6 million public school children – McClain and John pitched their plan for a cut of the action. They held a press conference, staged with private school kids and a highly partisan religious lobbyist, and framed their proposed raid on the public dole as a benign enterprise “about students and increasing opportunities for all.”

Yea, that won’t happen in Tennessee will it?

Plaza has written ad nauseam about the events of January 6th and the threat posed to American democracy. He has no problem linking the actions of that day to the death of democracy.

Here’s the thing, democracy is not going to die on live TV because some morion shows up in the Rose Garden with a buffalo helmet on his head.

It’ll die because policy decisions are made in country clubs and private offices, far from the eyes of the public,  based more on private money than public opinion. The ever-growing investment by private non-profits in regard to our governance should be a concern for all of us. But instead, the checks are cashed and the eyes are averted.

If Plaza was more interested in being a journalist instead of being a moralist, he might find the common thread that runs through Johnson’s warning. He might find a money train that should alarm all of us.

At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, following the money, in this case, leads back to one source. The Gates Foundation. Let’s run through some examples,

  • Chiefs for Change – $4,925,000. since 2018
  • TNTp – $9,834,821 since 2019
  • SCORE – $7,767,325 since 2018
  • Education Trust – $13,728,576 since 2020
  • Stand for Children – $2,050,000  since 2018
  • Intructional Partners – $2,067,962 since 2019
  • Chalkbeat – $1,350,005 since 2018
  • Sycamore Institute – $100,000

That’s a lot of cabbage and comes directly from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation website. All of these are active in Tennessee and involved in some way, shape, or form in the passage of TISA.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. The financial tendrils run deeper and in smaller increments. We have no idea how much has been spent behind clothes doors in an effort to seduce lawmakers. Nor do we seem to have any inclination to find out. Castigating, instead of supporting, lawmakers who dare raise questions. Ask Republican ScottCepicky how questioning policy has worked out for him?

A lack of transparency is without a doubt a bell ringer for the death of democracy. The only question remaining is, are we going to allow it?

This isn’t a Republican or Democrat problem either. I will go to my grave arguing that Governor Lee and Commissioner Schwinn have no allegiance to either party. For them, a party system is just a useful tool to fulfill their aspiration and personal ambitions.

But again, Plaza should know all of that. So to attack Johnson is not only disingenuous but further raises the question of which master does he serve?

To some degree, that’s a question for all of us.

I suspect more illumination is on the horizon. We shall see. We always talk about being on the right side of history, time will tell if the Tennessean is right, or once again failing to read the tea leaves. The same holds true for the rest of us.

I’m not overly religious, but the story of Apostle Peter in the garden after Christ’s arrest seems particularly relevant this Easter season.

But I’ve already written more than I intended for today. Time to wrap it up and enjoy the holiday weekend. I’m sure I’ll plenty to say on Monday.

If you’ve got something you’d like me to highlight and share, send it to Any wisdom or criticism you’d like to share is always welcome.

A huge shout out to all of you who’ve lent your financial support. I am eternally grateful for your generosity. It allows me to keep doing what I do and without you, I would have been forced to quit long ago. It is truly appreciated and keeps the bill collectors happy. Now more than ever your continued support is vital.

If you are interested, I’m sharing posts via email through Substack. This has proven to be an effective way to increase coverage. I am offering free and paid subscriptions. Paid subscriptions will receive additional materials as they become available. Your support would be greatly appreciated.

If you wish to join the rank of donors but are not interested in Substack, you can still head over to Patreon and help a brother out. Or you can hit up my Venmo account which is Thomas-Weber-10. I don’t need much – even $5 would help – but if you think what I do has value, a little help is always greatly appreciated. Not begging, just saying.


Categories: Education

2 replies

  1. Happy Easter, TC. Thank you for all that you do.



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