Legislation to overhaul textbook selection moves forward
Mar 30, 2014 | 687 views | 0 0 comments | 29 29 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Kevin Brooks
Kevin Brooks
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Eric Watson
Eric Watson
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House Republicans moved forward this week with legislation that will move the Tennessee educational bar forward by overhauling the way our State Textbook Commission conducts business while also helping to empower parents to become more involved in the daily lives of our students.

The commission, which is responsible for recommending an official list of textbooks for approval by the State Board of Education, has come under fire in recent years by parents statewide for having adopted books containing inappropriate language and controversial interpretations of historical facts.

House Bill 2249, which passed out of the House Education Committee this week, is designed to remedy these problems by providing greater transparency and more public and parental input in the way textbooks are selected for use in our communities and local schools.

In summary, the bill has four major components, the first of which establishes specific criteria for reviewing textbooks by the commission, including verifying information contained in the text is factually accurate. Second, the legislation allows the Legislature to appoint members to the current governor-only appointed Textbook Commission, ensuring more legislative oversight of the textbook selection process with the input of Tennesseans across the state. Third, the bill requires that any book currently being reviewed by the Textbook Commission or set to be reviewed in the future to be placed online for public review and public comment. And, finally, the legislation gives parents, teachers, and local education experts who are knowledgeable on the subject a place at the review table by allowing them to be appointed to local textbook review committees.

Once passed, this legislation will completely overhaul the way textbooks are chosen in Tennessee. Currently, the book commission is not even required to look for factual errors in the reading. This new legislation will create a stronger, more accountable textbook review process that ensures our children’s textbooks are factually correct, free from grammatical errors, and do not contain the historical inaccuracies we see in so many schools today.

Over the next several months, leaders in our state must continue to build on the momentum we are currently experiencing in moving the educational bar forward. By revamping our state textbook system and creating new initiatives to bring parents more fully into the selection process, we will better prepare our students for life after school. By ensuring our students are equipped with sound educational knowledge, tools, and resources, we help maximize their future potential in fulfilling their dreams. By pushing to implement positive education programs like the legislation described here, we can continue down the path of making Tennessee the best place in the nation to live, work, and raise a family.

“Noah Dean and Nate Act” approved in subcommittee

Legislation aimed at preventing electric shock injuries and drowning deaths near marinas and boat docks in Tennessee passed out of this House Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee this week in Nashville. The “Noah Dean and Nate Act” requires marinas to install ground fault protection, post notices about the danger of electrical leakage into waters surrounding a marina, and it requires annual inspections by the Tennessee Fire Marshal’s office to ensure ground fault safety in the future.

On July 4, 2012, 10-year-old Noah Dean Winstead and 11-year-old Nate Lynam, best friends, were struck by an electric current while they were swimming near a houseboat at Cherokee Lake. Noah died at the lake, and Nate died the following day — both from electric shock drowning. Electric current flowed, not only through the children, but also into anyone who attempted to dive in and save the boys. Electricity can come from several places at a lake including pedestals, pumps and boat lifts. In this case, the electric current leaked from a boat and into the water where the two children swam. Unfortunately, the marina did not have Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters in place to contain the electric current.

The legislation takes steps to decrease the likelihood that a tragedy of this nature happens again. First, it calls for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters to be installed at each boat slip in a public marina and requires any main overcurrent protective device that feeds a marina to have ground-fault protection not exceeding 100 mA (milliamperes). Ground fault circuit interrupters act as breakers that kill the main power source when too much electricity is detected in the water. The act also requires an inspection of every marina in the state be made through a fire marshal’s office. Finally, permanent safety signage must be installed to give notice of the electric shock hazard risk to individuals using the boat dock or marina. Passing this bill into law will not only help in eliminating the potential risk of electric shock drowning, but will also shed light on this little known issue.

In 2012, eight children lost their lives because of electric shock drowning. Ironically, on the same day Noah Dean and Nate were electrocuted, two brothers in Missouri were killed after they suffered electric shock drowning near a private dock in the Lake of the Ozarks. As a result, states are slowly starting to take notice of this problem and pass legislation similar to Tennessee’s proposal. West Virginia recently passed into law the “Michael Cunningham Act,” which ensures that boat docks and marinas are up to date on the National Fire Protection Association and National Electric Code.

Tennessee Main Street

communities see success

House Republicans joined with the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development this week to announce the 2013 Economic Impact and Reinvestment Statistics from Tennessee’s 23 Main Street communities for activities occurring between Jan. 1, 2013, and Dec. 31, 2013. These Main Street communities generated more than $59 million of public and private investment in 2013, and continue to be a vital part of the state’s economic and cultural identity.

Tennessee Main Street provides technical assistance and training for communities in developing real-world solutions to make downtowns safe, appealing, vibrant places where folks want to shop, work, live, invest, and make memories.

Investment statistics from the designated Main Street communities report includes:

New jobs created: 646

New businesses started: 182

Building rehabilitation projects: 273

Public improvement projects: 126

Net new housing units: 173

Volunteer hours contributed: 88,036

Total public and private investment: $59,807,753

This year’s annual reinvestment statistics make a strong statement about the economic activity occurring within our Tennessee Main Street program districts. New jobs, businesses and investment, along with an impressive number of volunteer work hours, prove this community-based approach to downtown revitalization is hard at work.

For more information about the Tennessee Main Street Program, visit www.tennesseemainstreet.org.

(Editor’s Note: This legislative summary has been submitted jointly by state Rep. Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland who represent the 24th Legislative District, and state Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland who represents the 22nd Legislative District.)