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  • Regional Chambers Weigh In On No Child Left Behind Reauthorization

    by Marc Hill | Mar 03, 2015
    Sen. Lamar Alexander is leading the effort to reauthorize the federal education law this year, and Tennessee's four regional chambers of commerce have weighed in on behalf of the business community. Alexander is the new chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, which will be responsible for crafting the new legislation. In response to Alexander’s call for public input last month, the Chattanooga, Knoxville, Memphis and Nashville Area Chambers of Commerce submitted a letter sharing our perspective on accountability, flexibility of federal funds, early childhood education and teacher quality. You can read our letter here.

    The federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was first passed in 1965, providing federal funds to states and local school districts to support K-12 education. Over the years, ESEA has been reauthorized by Congress to include accountability requirements in exchange for these federal resources. The most recent reauthorization of ESEA in 2002, the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, required 100 percent of students to reach proficiency in math and reading by 2014. Schools and school districts whose students did not make “adequate yearly progress” toward the 100 percent proficiency goal faced stiff sanctions, including the potential for state takeover. ...
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    Category: Education
  • Nashville Chamber Announces 2015 Legislative Agendas, New State Lobbyist

    by Marc Hill | Jan 07, 2015
    The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce is pleased to release its 2015 state and Metro legislative agendas. Our advocacy work centers on creating an environment where business can prosper, developing the region’s workforce talent, building a great quality of life, and acting regionally to ensure economic prosperity. Each fall, we begin our policy process by surveying our members to see which issues are top of mind. Our members’ feedback then informs the development of an agenda which is approved by our board of directors. Top priorities at the state legislature this year are expanding the number of Tennesseans with health insurance through Gov. Haslam’s Insure Tennessee plan and support for rigorous K-12 academic standards accompanied by a new assessment that accurately measures student achievement.

    In January 2013, the Nashville Chamber was the first business organization in the state to endorse the expansion of health insurance coverage to working Tennesseans, funded wholly by federal Medicaid dollars through 2016. In our most recent policy survey, our members favored supporting the governor’s Insure Tennessee plan by a two-to-one margin. While Tennessee has not yet joined the growing number of states participating in expanding health insurance to those eligible for Medicaid expansion, Gov. Haslam ...
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    Category: Legislative Issues
  • Executive Orders Highlight Need for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

    by Marc Hill | Dec 08, 2014
    It is always an honor for Nashville to host the president of the United States, and we welcome President Obama to our prosperous city and region this week. The president is expected to speak Tuesday on an issue of great importance to the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce: the need for comprehensive immigration reform. Our Chamber has been a longstanding advocate for congressional action to fix our broken immigration system, opposing efforts in the state legislature to supplant the federal responsibility, as well as helping to defeat a local “English-only” referendum in 2009. We hope the president will share how he intends to work with leaders in both parties to pass comprehensive immigration reform when the new Congress begins work in 2015.

    Nashville has a well-deserved reputation as a friendly, welcoming city — not just for visitors and tourists, but also for immigrants from around the world. As a result, Nashville's immigrant population is growing quickly. As the Tennessean noted recently, more than half of our city’s growth since 2000 has come from immigrants, and 12 percent of all our residents were born outside the U.S. This population growth is important, because the Nashville region will be facing a shortage ...
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    Category: Legislative Issues
  • Regional Chambers Urge State to Reconsider School Funding

    by Marc Hill | Nov 03, 2014
    Last week, Tennessee’s four regional chambers, representing Chattanooga, Knoxville, Memphis and Nashville, urged the state to consider the unique financial challenges facing the state’s four largest public school systems. The message was delivered to a special task force appointed by Gov. Haslam to study the state’s Basic Education Program (BEP) funding formula.

    The BEP formula, implemented in 1992 and last revised in 2007, generates a funding allocation to local school systems, with the state and local contributions adjusted based on each county’s “fiscal capacity,” or ability to raise tax revenues. The fiscal capacity calculation causes the state’s four largest school districts to rely disproportionately on local funding to adequately resource their districts, despite serving a higher population of at-risk and special-needs students.

    The task force will meet again in November to develop common principles around how the funding formula should be changed. The full text of the letter from the Nashville, Chattanooga, Knoxville and Memphis chambers can be found below. The letter was sent Oct. 20 and read to the group on Oct. 27.

    October 20, 2014
    To the members of the BEP Task Force:

    We are writing to you today representing the business community in the four largest metropolitan ...
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    Category: Education
  • Positive Momentum For Resetting Charter School Conversation

    by Marc Hill | Aug 29, 2014
    What a difference two years can make. In 2012, the Metro school board was consumed for nearly a year with the Great Hearts charter school application, a standoff between the school board and the State of Tennessee that made everyone involved look bad. Most galling, to many business leaders, was the $3.4 million in state funds that Metro Schools lost as the result of the fiasco.

    So, what’s changed between 2012 and 2014? For one, after more than a decade of reacting to whatever charter school applicants happen to propose, Metro Schools is now asking potential charter operators to consider the district’s strategic needs. Perhaps more importantly, it appears that the school district administration and a majority of the board now recognize that the district’s lowest-performing schools are not improving fast enough, and that the charter sector will need to play a greater role in turning these schools around.

    The most recent step forward for Metro Schools on this issue took place on Aug. 21, when the school board voted to approve the amended application of STRIVE Academy, a charter middle school proposed for the McGavock cluster that was initially rejected in June. The Metro School board’s recent vote means ...
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    Category: Education
  • SuccessPAC Endorses Candidates for the Metropolitan Board of Public Education

    by Marc Hill | Jul 21, 2014
    SuccessPAC, the political action committee created by the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce for school board elections, has announced its support for four Metro school board candidates in the Aug. 7 election.

    As previously discussed on this blog, this year's school board elections are a pivotal moment for the future of Metro Nashville Public Schools. Because Director of Schools Dr. Jesse Register's contract expires June 30, 2015, chances are good that the school board convening after this August’s election will be responsible for selecting Dr. Register's replacement.

    Due to its status as a nonprofit membership organization, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce does not endorse candidates for political office. As a political action committee, SuccessPAC helps identify highly qualified candidates for the Metropolitan Board of Public Education. To determine its endorsements for this year, the SuccessPAC board conducted its most extensive vetting process to date. Board members interviewed all candidates who qualified for the ballot across the four districts up for election. In addition, all candidates completed a SuccessPAC questionnaire.

    The committee announced its endorsements following the four candidate forums sponsored by the Chamber, the Metropolitan Nashville Education Association and the Urban League of Middle Tennessee.

    SuccessPAC-endorsed candidates are:
    District ...
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    Category: Education
  • Ready For Our School Board to Decide

    by Marc Hill | Jun 03, 2014
    Our nine-member Metropolitan Board of Education has a tough job. They are elected by district and have an obligation to represent their constituents. At the same time, under Tennessee law, their role is modeled after corporate governance. They don’t legislate or run the organization. Instead, Tennessee school boards set policy and strategy for the school system. They have only one employee, the director of schools, who is accountable to the board for achieving the organization’s goals. And they can only act as a board, through majority vote. Once the board has acted, its members have a responsibility to respect and honor that decision.

    A board that has a unified vision and speaks with one voice exudes strength and confidence. A board lacking that discipline can appear to be heading off in nine different directions. Increasingly, members of the business community are wondering which kind of board our current Metro school board wants to be. For the past several months, public statements between meetings by individual members of the school board, on a variety of topics, have started leaving an impression of confusion, if not dysfunction. And as the public opinion polling in the Chamber’s Education Report Card demonstrates each year, ...
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    Category: Education
  • Who’s Running For School Board This August?

    by Marc Hill | May 30, 2014
    Improving public education remains a top priority for Nashvillians, whether you’re a member of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce or the mayor of our city. According to public opinion poll results released in the Chamber’s annual Education Report Card last year, 27 percent of Nashville residents listed education as the most important issue or problem facing our city, 11 percentage points higher than crime, which was second.

    On August 7, Nashvillians will elect four members of the nine-member Metropolitan Board of Education. Why is the school board important? As just about any seasoned executive will tell you, the effectiveness of any organization starts at the top. A board with a unified vision of where they are heading—and the self-discipline to stay that course—engenders confidence and a firm sense of direction throughout an organization. A board that is dysfunctional sends the message that there is no clear direction.

    The most important decision the school board makes is to select a director of schools to lead the school system’s more than 10,000 employees. And with current director Dr. Jesse Register’s contract set to expire on June 30, 2015, there’s a good chance the new board convening after this August’s election will ...
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    Category: Education
  • Academies of Nashville Awards Celebrate Excellence in Public Schools

    by Marc Hill | May 13, 2014
    Last night, more than 300 academy business partners and Metro Schools educators packed Rocketown for the fourth annual Academies of Nashville Awards, a celebration of the successes of Metro's 12 zoned high schools. For the first time in awards history, we had a tie for the coveted "Academy of the Year" award, which is shared by McGavock High School’s Academy of Health Science & Law and Overton High School’s Academy of Engineering. The Academies of Nashville Awards are made possible by presenting sponsor Altria.

    A committee composed of school district, Nashville Area Chamber and PENCIL Foundation leadership selected nominees for each of the 15 categories. More than 400 educators and business partners then voted for a nominee in each category through an online secret ballot managed by Deloitte.

    In addition, one student from each of the 12 high schools will receive an award for Academy Student of the Year. The student winners were selected by the executive principal of each school and will be recognized during the PENCIL Foundation’s Bravo luncheon Friday, May 30.

    Academies partner with area businesses, community agencies and postsecondary schools to provide an enriched experience in and out of the classroom, creating relevancy in education and ...
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    Category: Education
  • What Does Every Business Need To Know About Health Care Reform?

    by Marc Hill | May 07, 2014
    Set aside, for the moment, your personal feelings about the federal Affordable Care Act, even though there is pretty much a consensus among business folks that its implementation will probably eat into your company’s bottom line. You might have seen the recent news that 151,352 Tennesseans have enrolled in an exchange-based insurance plan under Obamacare in its first year. The health care landscape is clearly changing, and businesses need to anticipate and adapt to these changes in the months and years ahead.

    The Nashville Area Chamber assembled an expert panel in November 2013 covering the tax, legal and human resources implications of the Affordable Care Act that every business should consider. This 60-minute program features Brian Haile with Jackson Hewitt Tax Services, Susan Heard with Paradigm Group, Tom Lee with Frost Brown Todd, and Alex Tolbert with Bernard Health. With shifting requirements and changing deadlines, these business leaders talked about the kinds of things you need to be thinking about in the months and years ahead.

    Here are a few of the questions addressed by the experts:
    • Should your business continue to offer health insurance to your employees?
    • Would ending your employer group plan shift costs to your employees?
    • When ...
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    Category: Policy