Today in History: James Madison Vetoes “Bonus Bill” as Unconstitutional

This article is a reminder of just how far this country has strayed from constitutionalism that the main author of the Constitution vetoed the spending bill related to roads.  Today many people want to feds to do everything.

Tona Monroe to speak at Bill of Rights Banquet on December 18th

Recipient of last year’s Eagle Award, then Blount County Commissioner Tona Monroe, will be the speaker at the 4th annual Truth Radio Bill of Rights Banquet on Tuesday December 18th.  The topic of the speech will be Proof of Authority and the Proper Role of Government: The Foundation of a Constitutional Republic.

A dinner will be held at 7 PM at RJ’s Courtyard located at 3749 Airport Hwy, Louisville, Tennessee 37777.  Book your meal by calling WBCR at 984-1470. 

2017 Bill of Rights Banquet
Eagle Award Recipients Tona Monroe, Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and Scott Williams 

The Proper Role of Government

This is a gem by Ezra Taft Benson.  I encourage you to read it, but a video is included here for your convenience.  The video is entitled Man, Freedon & Government.

The Proper Role of Government


Men in the public spotlight constantly are asked to express an opinion on a myriad of government proposals and projects. “What do you think of TVA?” “What is your opinion of Medicare?” How do you feel about Urban Renewal?” The list is endless. All too often, answers to these questions seem to be based, not upon any solid principle, but upon the popularity of the specific government program in question. Seldom are men willing to oppose a popular program if they, themselves, wish to be popular – especially if they seek public office.

Government Should Be Based Upon Sound Principles

Such an approach to vital political questions of the day can only lead to public confusion and legislative chaos. Decisions of this nature should be based upon and measured against certain basic principles regarding the proper role of government. If principles are correct, then they can be applied to any specific proposal with confidence.

“Are there not, in reality, underlying, universal principles with reference to which all issues must be resolved whether the society be simple or complex in its mechanical organization? It seems to me we could relieve ourselves of most of the bewilderment which so unsettles and distracts us by subjecting each situation to the simple test of right and wrong. Right and wrong as moral principles do not change. They are applicable and reliable determinants whether the situations with which we deal are simple or complicated. There is always a right and wrong to every question which requires our solution.” (Albert E. Bowen, Prophets, Principles and National Survival, P. 21-22)

Unlike the political opportunist, the true statesman values principle above popularity, and works to create popularity for those political principles which are wise and just.

The Correct Role Of Government

I should like to outline in clear, concise, and straight-forward terms the political principles to which I subscribe. These are the guidelines which determine, now and in the future, my attitudes and actions toward all domestic proposals and projects and projects of government. These are the principles which, in my opinion, proclaim the proper role of government in the domestic affairs of the nation.

“(I) believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society.”

“(I) believe that no government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life…”

“(I) believe that all men are bound to sustain and uphold the respective governments in which they reside, which protected in their inherent and inalienable rights by the laws of such governments; and that sedition and rebellion are unbecoming every citizen thus protected, and should be punished accordingly; and that all governments have a right to enact such laws as in their own judgments are best calculated to secure the public interest; at the same time, however, holding sacred the freedom of conscience.”

The Most Important Function Of Government

It is generally agreed that the most important single function of government is to secure the rights and freedoms of individual citizens. But, what are those right? And what is their source? Until these questions are answered there is little likelihood that we can correctly determine how government can best secure them. Thomas Paine, back in the days of the American Revolution, explained that:

“Rights are not gifts from one man to another, nor from one class of men to another… It is impossible to discover any origin of rights otherwise than in the origin of man; it consequently follows that rights appertain to man in right of his existence, and must therefore be equal to every man.” (P.P.N.S., p. 134)

The great Thomas Jefferson asked:

“Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath?” (Works 8:404; P.P.N.S., p.141)

Starting at the foundation of the pyramid, let us first consider the origin of those freedoms we have come to know are human rights. There are only two possible sources. Rights are either God-given as part of the Divine Plan, or they are granted by government as part of the political plan. Reason, necessity, tradition and religious convictions all lead me to accept the divine origin of these rights. If we accept the premise that human rights are granted by government, then we must be willing to accept the corollary that they can be denied by government. I, for one, shall never accept that premise. As the French political economist, Frederick Bastiat, phrased it so succinctly, “Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.” (The Law, p.6)

The Real Meaning Of The Separation Of Church And State

I support the doctrine of separation of church and state as traditionally interpreted to prohibit the establishment of an official national religion. But I am opposed to the doctrine of separation of church and state as currently interpreted to divorce government from any formal recognition of God. The current trend strikes a potentially fatal blow at the concept of the divine origin of our rights, and unlocks the door for an easy entry of future tyranny. If Americans should ever come to believe that their rights and freedoms are instituted among men by politicians and bureaucrats, then they will no longer carry the proud inheritance of their forefathers, but will grovel before their masters seeking favors and dispensations – a throwback to the Feudal System of the Dark Ages. We must ever keep in mind the inspired words of Thomas Jefferson, as found in the Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” (P.P.N. S., p.519)

Since God created man with certain unalienable rights, and man, in turn, created government to help secure and safeguard those rights, it follows that man is superior to the creature which he created. Man is superior to government and should remain master over it, not the other way around. Even the non-believer can appreciate the logic of this relationship.

The Source Of Governmental Power

Leaving aside, for a moment, the question of the divine origin of rights, it is obvious that a government is nothing more or less than a relatively small group of citizens who have been hired, in a sense, by the rest of us to perform certain functions and discharge certain responsibilities which have been authorized. It stands to reason that the government itself has no innate power or privilege to do anything. Its only source of authority and power is from the people who have created it. This is made clear in the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States, which reads: “WE THE PEOPLE… do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

The important thing to keep in mind is that the people in mind is that the people who have created their government can give to that government only such powers as they, themselves, have in the first place. Obviously, they cannot give that which they do not possess. So, the question boils down to this. What powers properly belong to each and every person in the absence of and prior to the establishment of any organized governmental form? A hypothetical question? Yes, indeed! But, it is a question which is vital to an understanding of the principles which underlie the proper function of government.

Of course, as James Madison, sometimes called the Father of the Constitution, said, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.” (The Federalist, No. 51)

Natural Rights

In a primitive state, there is no doubt that each man would be justified in using force, if necessary, to defend himself against physical harm, against theft of the fruits of his labor, and against enslavement of another. This principle was clearly explained by Bastiat:

“Each of us has a natural right – from God – to defend his person, his liberty, and his property. These are the three basic requirements of life, and the preservation of any one of them is completely dependent upon the preservation of the other two. For what are our faculties but the extension of our individuality? And what is property but and extension of our faculties?” (The Law, p.6)

Indeed, the early pioneers found that a great deal of their time and energy was being spent doing all three – defending themselves, their property and their liberty – in what properly was called the “Lawless West.” In order for man to prosper, he cannot afford to spend his time constantly guarding his family, his fields, and his property against attach and theft, so he joins together with his neighbors and hires a sheriff. At this precise moment, government is born. The individual citizens delegate to the sheriff their unquestionable right to protect themselves. The sheriff now does for them only what they had a right to do for themselves – nothing more. Quoting again from Bastiat:

“If every person has the right to defend – even by force – his person, his liberty, and his property, then it follows that a group of men have the right to organize and support a common force to protect these rights constantly. Thus the principle of collective right -its reason for existing, its lawfulness – is based on individual right.” (The Law, p. 6)

So far so good. But now we come to the moment of truth. Suppose pioneer “A” wants another horse for his wagon, He doesn’t have the money to buy one, but since pioneer “B” has an extra horse, he decides that he is entitled to share in his neighbor’s good fortune, Is he entitled to take his neighbor’s horse? Obviously not! If his neighbor wishes to give it or lend it, that is another question. But so long as pioneer “B” wishes to keep his property, pioneer “A” has no just claim to it.

If “A” has no proper power to take “B’s” property, can he delegate any such power to the sheriff? No. Even if everyone in the community desires that “B” give his extra horse to “A”, they have no right individually or collectively to force him to do it. They cannot delegate a power they themselves do not have. This important principle was clearly understood and explained by John Locke nearly 300 years ago:

“For nobody can transfer to another more power than he has in himself, and nobody has an absolute arbitrary power over himself, or over any other, to destroy his own life, or take away the life of property of another.” (Two Treatises of Civil Government, II, 135; P.P.N.S. p. 93)

The Proper Function Of Government

This means, then, that the proper function of government is limited only to those spheres of activity within which the individual citizen has the right to act. By deriving its just powers from the governed, government becomes primarily a mechanism for defense against bodily harm, theft and involuntary servitude. It cannot claim the power to redistribute the wealth or force reluctant citizens to perform acts of charity against their will. Government is created by man. No man possesses such power to delegate. The creature cannot exceed the creator.

In general terms, therefore, the proper role of government includes such defensive activities, as maintaining national military and local police forces for protection against loss of life, loss of property, and loss of liberty at the hands of either foreign despots or domestic criminals.

The Powers Of A Proper Government

It also includes those powers necessarily incidental to the protective functions such as:

(1) The maintenance of courts where those charged with crimes may be tried and where disputes between citizens may be impartially settled.

(2) The establishment of a monetary system and a standard of weights and measures so that courts may render money judgments, taxing authorities may levy taxes, and citizens may have a uniform standard to use in their business dealings.

My attitude toward government is succinctly expressed by the following provision taken from the Alabama Constitution:

“That the sole object and only legitimate end of government is to protect the citizen in the enjoyment of life, liberty, and property, and when the government assumes other functions it is usurpation and oppression.” (Art. 1, Sec. 35)

An important test I use in passing judgment upon an act of government is this: If it were up to me as an individual to punish my neighbor for violating a given law, would it offend my conscience to do so? Since my conscience will never permit me to physically punish my fellow man unless he has done something evil, or unless he has failed to do something which I have a moral right to require of him to do, I will never knowingly authorize my agent, the government to do this on my behalf. I realize that when I give my consent to the adoption of a law, I specifically instruct the police – the government – to take either the life, liberty, or property of anyone who disobeys that law. Furthermore, I tell them that if anyone resists the enforcement of the law, they are to use any means necessary – yes, even putting the lawbreaker to death or putting him in jail – to overcome such resistance. These are extreme measures but unless laws are enforced, anarchy results. As John Locke explained many years ago:

“The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom. For in all the states of created beings, capable of laws, where there is no law there is no freedom. For liberty is to be free from restraint and violence from others, which cannot be where there is no law; and is not, as we are told, ‘a liberty for every man to do what he lists.’ For who could be free, when every other man’s humour might domineer over him? But a liberty to dispose and order freely as he lists his person, actions, possessions, and his whole property within the allowance of those laws under which he is, and therein not to be subject to the arbitrary will of another, but freely follow his own.” (Two Treatises of Civil Government, II, 57: P>P>N>S., p.101)

I believe we Americans should use extreme care before lending our support to any proposed government program. We should fully recognize that government is no plaything. As George Washington warned, “Government is not reason, it is not eloquence – it is force! Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master!” (The Red Carpet, p.142) It is an instrument of force and unless our conscience is clear that we would not hesitate to put a man to death, put him in jail or forcibly deprive him of his property for failing to obey a given law, we should oppose it.

The Constitution Of The United States

Another standard I use in deterring what law is good and what is bad is the Constitution of the United States. I regard this inspired document as a solemn agreement between the citizens of this nation which every officer of government is under a sacred duty to obey. As Washington stated so clearly in his immortal Farewell Address:

“The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government. – But the constitution which at any time exists, until changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government.” (P.P.N.S., p. 542)

I am especially mindful that the Constitution provides that the great bulk of the legitimate activities of government are to be carried out at the state or local level. This is the only way in which the principle of “self-government” can be made effective. As James Madison said before the adoption of the Constitution, “ (We) rest all our political experiments on the capacity of mankind for self-government.” (Federalist, No.39; P.P.N.S., p. 128) Thomas Jefferson made this interesting observation: “Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question.” (Works 8:3; P.P.N.S., p. 128)

The Value Of Local Government

It is a firm principle that the smallest or lowest level that can possibly undertake the task is the one that should do so. First, the community or city. If the city cannot handle it, then the county. Next, the state; and only if no smaller unit can possible do the job should the federal government be considered. This is merely the application to the field of politics of that wise and time-tested principle of never asking a larger group to do that which can be done by a smaller group. And so far as government is concerned the smaller the unit and the closer it is to the people, the easier it is to guide it, to keep it solvent and to keep our freedom. Thomas Jefferson understood this principle very well and explained it this way:

“The way to have good and safe government, is not to trust it all to one, but to divide it among the many, distributing to every one exactly the functions he is competent to. Let the national government be entrusted with the defense of the nation, and its foreign and federal relations; the State governments with the civil rights, law, police, and administration of what concerns the State generally; the counties with the local concerns of the counties, and each ward direct the interests within itself. It is by dividing and subdividing these republics from the great national one down through all its subordinations, until it ends in the administration of every man’s farm by himself; by placing under every one what his own eye may superintend, that all will be done for the best. What has destroyed liberty and the rights of man in every government which has ever existed under the sun? The generalizing and concentrating all cares and powers into one body.” (Works 6:543; P.P.N.S., p. 125)

It is well to remember that the states of this republic created the Federal Government. The Federal Government did not create the states.

Things The Government Should Not Do

A category of government activity which, today, not only requires the closest scrutiny, but which also poses a grave danger to our continued freedom, is the activity NOT within the proper sphere of government. No one has the authority to grant such powers, as welfare programs, schemes for re-distributing the wealth, and activities which coerce people into acting in accordance with a prescribed code of social planning. There is one simple test. Do I as an individual have a right to use force upon my neighbor to accomplish this goal? If I do have such a right, then I may delegate that power to my government to exercise on my behalf. If I do not have that right as an individual, then I cannot delegate it to government, and I cannot ask my government to perform the act for me.

To be sure, there are times when this principle of the proper role of government is most annoying and inconvenient. If I could only FORCE the ignorant to provided for themselves, or the selfish to be generous with their wealth! But if we permit government to manufacture its own authority out of thin air, and to create self-proclaimed powers not delegated to it by the people, then the creature exceeds the creator and becomes master. Beyond that point, where shall the line be drawn? Who is to say “this far, but no farther?” What clear PRINCIPLE will stay the hand of government from reaching farther and yet farther into our daily lives? We shouldn’t forget the wise words of President Grover Cleveland that “… though the people support the Government the Government should not support the people.” (P.P.N.S., p.345) We should also remember, as Frederic Bastiat reminded us, that “Nothing can enter the public treasury for the benefit of one citizen or one class unless other citizens and other classes have been forced to send it in.” (THE LAW, p. 30; P.P.N.S., p. 350)

The Dividing Line Between Proper And Improper Government

As Bastiat pointed out over a hundred years ago, once government steps over this clear line between the protective or negative role into the aggressive role of redistributing the wealth and providing so-called “benefits” for some of its citizens, it then becomes a means for what he accurately described as legalized plunder. It becomes a lever of unlimited power which is the sought-after prize of unscrupulous individuals and pressure groups, each seeking to control the machine to fatten his own pockets or to benefit its favorite charities – all with the other fellow’s money, of course. (THE LAW, 1850, reprinted by the Foundation for Economic Education, Irvington-On-Hudson, N.Y.)

The Nature Of Legal Plunder

Listen to Bastiat’s explanation of this “legal plunder.” “When a portion of wealth is transferred from the person who owns it – without his consent and without compensation, and whether by force or by fraud – to anyone who does not own it, then I say that property is violated; that an act of plunder is committed!

“How is the legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime…” (THE LAW, p. 21, 26; P.P.N.S., p. 377)

As Bastiat observed, and as history has proven, each class or special interest group competes with the others to throw the lever of governmental power in their favor, or at least to immunize itself against the effects of a previous thrust. Labor gets a minimum wage, so agriculture seeks a price support. Consumers demand price controls, and industry gets protective tariffs. In the end, no one is much further ahead, and everyone suffers the burdens of a gigantic bureaucracy and a loss of personal freedom. With each group out to get its share of the spoils, such governments historically have mushroomed into total welfare states. Once the process begins, once the principle of the protective function of government gives way to the aggressive or redistribute function, then forces are set in motion that drive the nation toward totalitarianism. “It is impossible,” Bastiat correctly observed, “to introduce into society… a greater evil than this: the conversion of the law into an instrument of plunder.” (THE LAW, p. 12)

Government Cannot Create Wealth

Students of history know that no government in the history of mankind has ever created any wealth. People who work create wealth. James R. Evans, in his inspiring book, “The Glorious Quest” gives this simple illustration of legalized plunder:

“Assume, for example, that we were farmers, and that we received a letter from the government telling us that we were going to get a thousand dollars this year for plowed up acreage. But rather than the normal method of collection, we were to take this letter and collect $69.71 from Bill Brown, at such and such an address, and $82.47 from Henry Jones, $59.80 from a Bill Smith, and so on down the line; that these men would make up our farm subsidy. “Neither you nor I, nor would 99 percent of the farmers, walk up and ring a man’s doorbell, hold out a hand and say, ‘Give me what you’ve earned even though I have not.’ We simply wouldn’t do it because we would be facing directly the violation of a moral law, ‘Thou shalt not steal.’ In short, we would be held accountable for our actions.”

The free creative energy of this choice nation “created more than 50% of all the world’s products and possessions in the short span of 160 years. The only imperfection in the system is the imperfection in man himself.” The last paragraph in this remarkable Evans book – which I commend to all – reads:

“No historian of the future will ever be able to prove that the ideas of individual liberty practiced in the United States of America were a failure. He may be able to prove that we were not yet worthy of them. The choice is ours.” (Charles Hallberg and Co., 116 West Grand Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, 60610)

The Basic Error Of Marxism

According to Marxist doctrine, a human being is primarily an economic creature. In other words, his material well-being is all important; his privacy and his freedom are strictly secondary. The Soviet constitution reflects this philosophy in its emphasis on security: food, clothing, housing, medical care – the same things that might be considered in a jail. The basic concept is that the government has full responsibility for the welfare of the people and, in order to discharge that responsibility, must assume control of all their activities. It is significant that in actuality the Russian people have few of the rights supposedly “guaranteed” to them in their constitution, while the American people have them in abundance even though they are not guaranteed. The reason, of course, is that material gain and economic security simply cannot be guaranteed by any government. They are the result and reward of hard work and industrious production. Unless the people bake one loaf of bread for each citizen, the government cannot guarantee that each will have one loaf to eat. Constitutions can be written, laws can be passed and imperial decrees can be issued, but unless the bread is produced, it can never be distributed.

The Real Cause Of American Prosperity

Why, then, do Americans bake more bread, manufacture more shoes and assemble more TV sets than Russians do? They do so precisely because our government does NOT guarantee these things. If it did, there would be so many accompanying taxes, controls, regulations and political manipulations that the productive genius that is America’s would soon be reduced to the floundering level of waste and inefficiency now found behind the Iron Curtain. As Henry David Thoreau explained:

“This government never of itself furthered any enterprise, but by the alacrity with which it got out of its way. IT does not educate. THE CHARACTER INHERENT IN THE AMERICAN PEOPLE HAS DONE ALL THAT HAS BEEN ACCOMPLISHED; AND IT WOULD HAVE DONE SOMEWHAT MORE, IF THE GOVERNMENT HAD NOT SOMETIMES GO IN ITS WAY. For government is an expedient by which men would fain succeed in letting one another alone; and, as has been said, when it is most expedient, the governed are most let alone by it.” (Quoted by Clarence B. Carson, THE AMERICAN TRADITION, p. 100; P.P.S.N., p.171)

In 1801 Thomas Jefferson, in his First Inaugural Address, said:

“With all these blessings, what more is necessary to make us a happy and prosperous people? Still one thing more, fellow citizens – a wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it had earned.” (Works 8:3)

A Formula For Prosperity

The principle behind this American philosophy can be reduced to a rather simple formula:

Economic security for all is impossible without widespread abundance. Abundance is impossible without industrious and efficient production. Such production is impossible without energetic, willing and eager labor. This is not possible without incentive.

Of all forms of incentive – the freedom to attain a reward for one’s labors is the most sustaining for most people. Sometimes called THE PROFIT MOTIVE, it is simply the right to plan and to earn and to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

This profit motive DIMINISHES as government controls, regulations and taxes INCREASE to deny the fruits of success to those who produce. Therefore, any attempt THROUGH GOVERNMENTAL INTERVENTION to redistribute the material rewards of labor can only result in the eventual destruction of the productive base of society, without which real abundance and security for more than the ruling elite is quite impossible.

An Example Of The Consequences Of Disregarding These Principles

We have before us currently a sad example of what happens to a nation which ignores these principles. Former FBI agent, Dan Smoot, succinctly pointed this out on his broadcast number 649, dated January 29, 1968, as follows:

“England was killed by an idea: the idea that the weak, indolent and profligate must be supported by the strong, industrious, and frugal – to the degree that tax-consumers will have a living standard comparable to that of taxpayers; the idea that government exists for the purpose of plundering those who work to give the product of their labor to those who do not work. The economic and social cannibalism produced by this communist-socialist idea will destroy any society which adopts it and clings to it as a basic principle – ANY society.”

The Power Of True Liberty From Improper Governmental Interference

Nearly two hundred years ago, Adam Smith, the Englishman, who understood these principles very well, published his great book, THE WEALTH OF NATIONS, which contains this statement:

“The natural effort of every individual to better his own condition, when suffered to exert itself with freedom and security, is so powerful a principle, that it is alone, and without any assistance, not only capable of carrying on the society to wealth and prosperity, but of surmounting a hundred impertinent obstructions with which the folly of human laws too often encumbers its operations; though the effect of these obstructions is always more or less either to encroach upon its freedom, or to diminish its security.” (Vol. 2, Book 4, Chapt. 5, p. 126)

But What About The Needy?

On the surface this may sound heartless and insensitive to the needs of those less fortunate individuals who are found in any society, no matter how affluent. “What about the lame, the sick and the destitute? Is an often-voice question. Most other countries in the world have attempted to use the power of government to meet this need. Yet, in every case, the improvement has been marginal at best and has resulted in the long run creating more misery, more poverty, and certainly less freedom than when government first stepped in. As Henry Grady Weaver wrote, in his excellent book, THE MAINSPRING OF HUMAN PROGRESS:

“Most of the major ills of the world have been caused by well-meaning people who ignored the principle of individual freedom, except as applied to themselves, and who were obsessed with fanatical zeal to improve the lot of mankind-in-the-mass through some pet formula of their own….THE HARM DONE BE ORDINARY CRIMINALS, MURDERERS, GANGSTERS, AND THIEVES IS NEGLIGIBLE IN COMPARISON WITH THE AGONY INFLICTED UPON HUMAN BEINGS BY THE PROFESSIONAL ‘DO-GOODERS’, who attempt to set themselves up as gods on earth and who would ruthlessly force their views on all others – with the abiding assurance that the end justifies the means.” (p. 40-1; P.P.N.S., p. 313)

The Better Way

By comparison, America traditionally has followed Jefferson’s advice of relying on individual action and charity. The result is that the United States has fewer cases of genuine hardship per capita than any other country in the entire world or throughout all history. Even during the depression of the 1930′s, Americans ate and lived better than most people in other countries do today.

What Is Wrong With A “Little” Socialism?

In reply to the argument that a little bit of socialism is good so long as it doesn’t go too far, it is tempting to say that, in like fashion, just a little bit of theft or a little bit of cancer is all right, too! History proves that the growth of the welfare state is difficult to check before it comes to its full flower of dictatorship. But let us hope that this time around, the trend can be reversed. If not then we will see the inevitability of complete socialism, probably within our lifetime.

Three Reasons American Need Not Fall For Socialist Deceptions

Three factors may make a difference. First, there is sufficient historical knowledge of the failures of socialism and of the past mistakes of previous civilizations. Secondly, there are modern means of rapid communications to transmit these lessons of history to a large literate population. And thirdly, there is a growing number of dedicated men and women who, at great personal sacrifice, are actively working to promote a wider appreciation of these concepts. The timely joining together of these three factors may make it entirely possible for us to reverse the trend.

How Can Present Socialistic Trends Be Reversed?

This brings up the next question: How is it possible to cut out the various welfare-state features of our government which have already fastened themselves like cancer cells onto the body politic? Isn’t drastic surgery already necessary, and can it be performed without endangering the patient? In answer, it is obvious that drastic measures ARE called for. No half-way or compromise actions will suffice. Like all surgery, it will not be without discomfort and perhaps even some scar tissue for a long time to come. But it must be done if the patient is to be saved, and it can be done without undue risk.

Obviously, not all welfare-state programs currently in force can be dropped simultaneously without causing tremendous economic and social upheaval. To try to do so would be like finding oneself at the controls of a hijacked airplane and attempting to return it by simply cutting off the engines in flight. It must be flown back, lowered in altitude, gradually reduced in speed and brought in for a smooth landing. Translated into practical terms, this means that the first step toward restoring the limited concept of government should be to freeze all welfare-state programs at their present level, making sure that no new ones are added. The next step would be to allow all present programs to run out their term with absolutely no renewal. The third step would involve the gradual phasing-out of those programs which are indefinite in their term. In my opinion, the bulk of the transition could be accomplished within a ten-year period and virtually completed within twenty years. Congress would serve as the initiator of this phase-out program, and the President would act as the executive in accordance with traditional constitutional procedures.

Summary Thus Far

As I summarize what I have attempted to cover, try to visualize the structural relationship between the six vital concepts that have made America the envy of the world. I have reference to the foundation of the Divine Origin of Rights; Limited Government; the pillars of economic Freedom and Personal Freedom, which result in Abundance; followed by Security and the Pursuit of Happiness.

America was built upon a firm foundation and created over many years from the bottom up. Other nations, impatient to acquire equal abundance, security and pursuit of happiness, rush headlong into that final phase of construction without building adequate foundations or supporting pillars. Their efforts are futile. And, even in our country, there are those who think that, because we now have the good things in life, we can afford to dispense with the foundations which have made them possible. They want to remove any recognition of God from governmental institutions, They want to expand the scope and reach of government which will undermine and erode our economic and personal freedoms. The abundance which is ours, the carefree existence which we have come to accept as a matter of course, CAN BE TOPPLED BY THESE FOOLISH EXPERIMENTERS AND POWER SEEKERS. By the grace of God, and with His help, we shall fence them off from the foundations of our liberty, and then begin our task of repair and construction.

As a conclusion to this discussion, I present a declaration of principles which have recently been prepared by a few American patriots, and to which I wholeheartedly subscribe.

Fifteen Principles Which Make For Good And Proper Government

As an Independent American for constitutional government I declare that:

  1. I believe that no people can maintain freedom unless their political institutions are founded upon faith in God and belief in the existence of moral law.
  2. I believe that God has endowed men with certain unalienable rights as set forth in the Declaration of Independence and that no legislature and no majority, however great, may morally limit or destroy these; that the sole function of government is to protect life, liberty, and property and anything more than this is usurpation and oppression.
  3. I believe that the Constitution of the United States was prepared and adopted by men acting under inspiration from Almighty God; that it is a solemn compact between the peoples of the States of this nation which all officers of government are under duty to obey; that the eternal moral laws expressed therein must be adhered to or individual liberty will perish.
  4. I believe it a violation of the Constitution for government to deprive the individual of either life, liberty, or property except for these purposes:(a) Punish crime and provide for the administration of justice;(b) Protect the right and control of private property;
    (c) Wage defensive war and provide for the nation’s defense;(d) Compel each one who enjoys the protection of government to bear his fair share of the burden of performing the above functions.
  5. I hold that the Constitution denies government the power to take from the individual either his life, liberty, or property except in accordance with moral law; that the same moral law which governs the actions of men when acting alone is also applicable when they act in concert with others; that no citizen or group of citizens has any right to direct their agent, the government to perform any act which would be evil or offensive to the conscience if that citizen were performing the act himself outside the framework of government.
  6. I am hereby resolved that under no circumstances shall the freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights be infringed. In particular I am opposed to any attempt on the part of the Federal Government to deny the people their right to bear arms, to worship and pray when and where they choose, or to own and control private property.
  7. I consider ourselves at war with international Communism which is committed to the destruction of our government, our right of property, and our freedom; that it is treason as defined by the Constitution to give aid and comfort to this implacable enemy.
  8. I am unalterable opposed to Socialism, either in whole or in part, and regard it as an unconstitutional usurpation of power and a denial of the right of private property for government to own or operate the means of producing and distributing goods and services in competition with private enterprise, or to regiment owners in the legitimate use of private property.
  9. I maintain that every person who enjoys the protection of his life, liberty, and property should bear his fair share of the cost of government in providing that protection; that the elementary principles of justice set forth in the Constitution demand that all taxes imposed be uniform and that each person’s property or income be taxed at the same rate.
  10. I believe in honest money, the gold and silver coinage of the Constitution, and a circulation medium convertible into such money without loss. I regard it as a flagrant violation of the explicit provisions of the Constitution for the Federal Government to make it a criminal offense to use gold or silver coin as legal tender or to use irredeemable paper money.
  11. I believe that each State is sovereign in performing those functions reserved to it by the Constitution and it is destructive of our federal system and the right of self-government guaranteed under the Constitution for the Federal Government to regulate or control the States in performing their functions or to engage in performing such functions itself.
  12. I consider it a violation of the Constitution for the Federal Government to levy taxes for the support of state or local government; that no State or local government can accept funds from the Federal and remain independent in performing its functions, nor can the citizens exercise their rights of self-government under such conditions.
  13. I deem it a violation of the right of private property guaranteed under the Constitution for the Federal Government to forcibly deprive the citizens of this nation of their nation of their property through taxation or otherwise, and make a gift thereof to foreign governments or their citizens.
  14. I believe that no treaty or agreement with other countries should deprive our citizens of rights guaranteed them by the Constitution.
  15. I consider it a direct violation of the obligation imposed upon it by the Constitution for the Federal Government to dismantle or weaken our military establishment below that point required for the protection of the States against invasion, or to surrender or commit our men, arms, or money to the control of foreign ore world organizations of governments. These things I believe to be the proper role of government.

We have strayed far afield. We must return to basic concepts and principles – to eternal verities. There is no other way. The storm signals are up. They are clear and ominous.

As Americans – citizens of the greatest nation under Heaven – we face difficult days. Never since the days of the Civil War – 100 years ago – has this choice nation faced such a crisis.

In closing I wish to refer you to the words of the patriot Thomas Paine, whose writings helped so much to stir into a flaming spirit the smoldering embers of patriotism during the days of the American Revolution:

“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it NOW, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; ‘tis dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed, if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.” (THE POLITICAL WORKS OF THOMAS PAINE, p.55.)

I intend to keep fighting. My personal attitude is one of resolution – not resignation.

I have faith in the American people. I pray that we will never do anything that will jeopardize in any manner our priceless heritage. If we live and work so as to enjoy the approbation of a Divine Providence, we cannot fail. Without that help we cannot long endure.

All Right-Thinking Americans Should Now Take Their Stand

So I urge all Americans to put their courage to the test. Be firm in our conviction that our cause is just. Reaffirm our faith in all things for which true Americans have always stood.

I urge all Americans to arouse themselves and stay aroused. We must not make any further concessions to communism at home or abroad. We do not need to. We should oppose communism from our position of strength for we are not weak.

There is much work to be done. The time is short. Let us begin – in earnest – now and may God bless our efforts, I humbly pray.

(Source: by The Honorable Ezra Taft Benson, Former Secretary of Agriculture. The Eisenhower Administration – ed. Published in 1968)

October 2017 Commission Report

Commission meeting
Light month for spending – equipment for Animal Shelter approved
In a rare change of pace, none of your hard earned tax money was spent this month.  The only budget increase was a use of Animal Shelter donation monies to purchase kennels to house cats.

Grant process remains dysfunctional
The Blount County Commission is habitually asked to approve grant worksheets, which are requests to apply for grants, after grant deadlines have passed.  There were three grant worksheets and all three deadlines had already passed.  The grants include state funds to purchase bullet proof benches for Juvenile Court, equipment for used oil collection and equipment for recycling at the new convenience center.

The Juvenile Court security grant application was provided with the worksheet.  The recycling equipment grants were not included with the worksheets.

Internal Control Policy approved
The commission approved an Internal Control Policy for Blount County government.  You can read the policy here.

The policy lacks specifics on maintaining internal controls because the policy is based on principles for standards.  The preface explains this:

“This policy summarizes internal controls based on standards for establishing internal controls published in September 2014 by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) in Standards for Internal Controls in the Federal Government (Green Book) and the Internal Control Manual for Local Governmental Entities and Other Audited Entities in Tennessee (the “Internal Control Manual”). Establishing and maintaining a system of internal controls is required by federal and state law.

This policy is based on principles as opposed to providing a detailed method of implementing internal controls because the GAO Green Book is principles based.”

Page 5 of the policy says, “Management reviews all new grant applications and grant agreements to identify potential risks due to changing grant requirements or other circumstances.”  Often the commission only receives a grant worksheet, when it approves a request to apply for a grant.  If management is identifying potential risks, the commission isn’t receiving a memo identifying or explaining potential risks.  It’s possible that grants with potential risks are being identified and aren’t being brought to the commission.  After reading this, I think it would be helpful for a statement of potential risks be included with a grant worksheet.

Page 6 of the policy says, “Management insures that separation of duties is observed; proper reporting and reconciliations are adopted; proper authorizations are received.”  There have been some issues with separation of powers and proper authorizations.  Read this and this.  What happens when the separation of powers and proper authorizations involves management?

Page 6 of the policy says, “Management requires third party service organizations to provide a Service Organization Control (SOC) report as a method of holding them accountable for their internal control systems.”  I’ve asked the finance director questions related to this.  If/when I receive answers, I may write further on this.

Page 7 of the policy says, “The information systems software, which is fully documented and includes backup and recovery processes, is approved by the Information Technology Committee.”  I’d like to see the IT Committee records showing that the IT Committee approved an information systems software.  Readers of this website may recall that I serve on the IT Committee and that I’ve written more than once that I don’t understand why the county has an IT Committee since it usually doesn’t do anything.  Many of the important IT decisions are made without input and approval from the IT Committee.

Page 8 of the policy says, “The Audit Committee has established a process for employees, taxpayers, and citizens to report suspected fraudulent, illegal, wasteful, or improper activity confidentially to the Audit Committee.”  The Audit Committee page on the county’s website contains no contact information for the members of the committee and there is nothing there explaining how to report anything to the Audit Committee.

Page 9 of the policy contains only the word Appendix at the top and is otherwise blank.  Page 1 of the policy says, “See Appendix for a complete list of all boards and committees.”

Much of this policy sounds good but I have to wonder if it is worth the paper it is written considering everything that I’ve just explained.

Up next:
It’s time to consider reforming the grant worksheet approval process.  Suggestions for reform are welcomed.

August 2017 Commission Report

Commission meeting
Commissioners Gary Farmer, Kenneth Melton and Steve Samples were absent.

Last month, the commission approved a contract for architectural services with Michael Brady Incorporated (MBI) without also approving a budget amendment to pay for the contract.  This month the commission approved the funding for the contract with the architectural firm as well as funding for public relations and a project manager.

Yes, Blount County government thinks that it needs a Ministry of Propaganda to tell you why they’ve hired an architect for the jail.  Unless you’ve been living in the forest you know that Blount County, like any other county in this nation, has a drug problem stemming from the use of pain pills and street drugs.  It’s really a shame that the taxpayers are having to pay to be told that there is an opioid and drug problem in the community.

The memo in the commission packet from the Blount County Purchasing Department, Human Resources and Finance Department says that the contract was approved by the Blount County Corrections Partnership (BCCP).  However, it was not approved by the BCCP.

The last time that the BCCP met was in March to discuss the purchasing agent’s selection of MBI.  The agenda for the meeting says, “Discussion and possible action regarding presentation regarding the solicitation and request for qualifications for architectural planning and/or design services and/or programming services for Blount County.”  There is no mention of a contract in the agenda or the unofficial meeting minutes of this BCCP meeting.  The minutes are unofficial because the BCCP has not met since this March 28, 2017 meeting and therefore has not taken any vote to approve the meeting minutes.

The contract with MBI is time stamped on the bottom with a date of May 24, 2017, which is almost two months after the BCCP March 28 meeting.  Why would the purchasing agent, human resources director and director of accounts and budgets (finance director) sign a memo with a false statement?  Why would their boss Mayor Ed Mitchell let them?

The cost to the taxpayers is $244,723 which includes $188,000 for the MBI contract.  Only Commissioners Mike Akard, Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and I (Tona Monroe) voted against this.

The resolution says that the monies came from funds “Assigned for Public Safety.”  Many remember when I found that Sheriff James Lee Berrong and Mayor Ed Mitchell had a $2 million jail plan in Tennessee Corrections Institute Board of Control meeting minutes.  The commission is the body who has the authority to express the county’s intent by assigning monies in the general fund.  The Tennessee Comptroller’s Office did not recognize the assignments of $2 million for public safety.

The bigger and potentially more expensive picture is that “Blount County has not set a specific scope or budget for this project,” as stated under Article 1.12 of the MBI contract.

Grant process dysfunctional
The commission was asked to approve five grants.  The deadline for two of these grants, one for juvenile court and the other for the animal shelter, had already passed.  While these two grants had already been written, neither provided the commission with copies of the actual grants.  The juvenile court grant worksheet included a memo about the grant while the animal shelter only provided the grant worksheet.  It seems reasonable that any department/office wanting the commission to approve a grant after the deadline would include a copy of the grant along with the worksheet.

Road projects
The commission approved a $360,791 increase to the state aid account of the highway department budget.  According to a memo from Highway Superintendent Jeff Headrick, Tennessee Department of Transport (TDOT) provided the funds for replacement of tiles/culverts on state highways.  The state aid account is now $1,082,000 for fiscal year 2018.

The commission approved TDOT’s proposal for the relocated Alcoa Highway.  While there was a public meeting in the City of Alcoa about this proposal in May, this was the first time that this commission was provided anything on the proposal.  It would have been nice to have been given more time to study the matter and to hear from the citizens on something this important.  Most seemed to be unaware that the commission was considering this matter.  I voted against this because of the short time frame to study the matter and because of the lack of information about other possibilities for Alcoa Highway.  Commissioners Jamie Daly and Karen Miller also voted no while the rest of the commissioners present voted yes.

A meeting was called to approve applying for federal funds to make improvements to Morganton Road.  This road has long been in need of repair.  People in the 1st, 6th and 7th districts have expressed their concerns about the road to me.  This has been one of the top 10 issues that I hear the most about from those in the community.

This a good start but more work is needed.  Some are upset that this project does not come further into the county.  There have been concerns expressed about the City of Maryville annexing part of Morganton Road.

According to the mayor, the commission approved $4 million for improvements to Morganton Road in 2006 but those funds were never spent for that purpose.  No one that I’ve spoken with seems to know why this money was never spent.

This project runs into 2023.  You can read more about it here.

Accounting and financial software
The commission approved a 7 year, $2.334M contract for a Financial Management Information System (FMIS).  This Services as a Software (SaaS) agreement is with Tyler Technologies.  The estimated cost for implementation is $293,470.50 and the annual recurring fees are $299,945.00 throughout the 7 year contract.

When the Kronos time keeping, payroll and HR software system was presented to the commission, a business case was made for savings through staff reductions.  Those projected savings never materialized.  According to a June 22, 2017 email from Finance Director Randy Vineyard, “there have been no retirements or departures since implementation in General County.”  He did write that there could be possible staff reductions in the future as “as staff retirements arise.”

No business case for savings was made for the purchase of Tyler Technologies software.  The commission was told that the current financial system was antiquated, unsecure, needed to be replaced with a modern system and that Tyler Technologies is the best fit for the county.  The commission not given anything to support the assertion that this company’s software is the best fit for Blount County.

The commission is often asked to vote on what the bureaucrats want without being given any information on comparable products.  With an annual reoccurring expense of nearly $300K, it would have been helpful to have seen what other companies had to offer.  Other companies might offer a bit less than a competitor but at a much lower price while still providing what the county needs.  I don’t know if there were any better deals or fits for the county because I wasn’t given any information on any other products.

The memo to the commission is from the county’s program manager for IT Abhijit Verekar of Avèro Advisors.  He is being sued in federal court by a previous employer.

Considering the lack of information about comparable products, I thought it best to vote no to this long term costly commitment.  Commissioners Mike Akard, Jamie Daly and Karen Miller also voted no.

Up next:  The end of August marks the end of the 3rd year of this four year commission term.  What would you like to see me focus on during the next year?

It’s also time to give serious consideration to running for local office.  In November, candidates can begin picking up petitions to run in the May 1, 2018 primary election.  That will be here before you know it.  Don’t let the opportunity slip past you.

In the words of a great American:

“We are not weak, if we make proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power… The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave.” Patrick Henry

Even if you don’t want to run, you can begin talking to others about running and support good candidates who do run.

“Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.” — Edmund Burke

Tennessee corporate welfare

Check out this new website which has an interactive map that tells where corporate welfare is being handed out.

In Blount County

Corporate Handouts for Alcoa

Alcoa, Inc. $950,000 training reimbursement 2013
K12 Management, Inc. $148,800 training reimbursement 2014
ProNova Solutions, LLC $525,000 training reimbursement  2013

Corporate Handouts for Maryville

Alcoa, Inc. $2,200,000 grant/low-cost loan 2013
Microtherm, Inc. $14,700 training reimbursement 2013
Surface Ignighter, LLC $540,000 training reimbursement 2013

Corporate Handouts for Rockford

Cooper Standard Rockford  $45,000 training reimbursement 2013

Not everything on this website is written by me

There are some in the community who think that everything on this website is written by me (Tona Monroe).  That is not the case.  This site was never intended to be a website solely with material written by me.  I own domains with my name and could just as easily write the material there.

There are some in the community who think that I agree with everything written on this website.  That is not the case either.  My intention in creating this website was never to have complete and total agreement with every word posted here.

The litmus test for content on this website was never complete and total agreement with my views and is not the case now.  My goals are to promote freedom and transparency in government.  Those are the reasons why I started this website and why I continue publishing on this website.  Those are also the reasons that I ran for office and what I hope to achieve while in office.

The content here is intended to be thought provoking while promoting freedom and openness in government.  Everything that is posted here should no more be viewed as my opinions than letters to the editors are viewed as being the opinions of the editors at newspapers.

As I’ve said many times before and will continue saying, let freedom ring!

June 2015 Commission Report

“And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.”  2 Peter 2:3

This month I did a lot of writing on issues prior to the monthly commission meeting.  If you haven’t already done so, please take the time to read those articles prior to reading this report.  Alternatively, you can read those articles that are linked throughout this report.

Agenda Meeting
The Commission rejected my request to move the Commission meeting to a bigger venue.  A move to one of the school auditoriums would have given all people the opportunity to sit and watch the commission meeting.  Instead people who arrived early were locked out of the commission room.

As a result, people in the commission room were cold and those left standing outside the meeting room were burning up.  The request came after the Chairman, Jerome Moon, ordered standing citizens out of the room last month while allowing uniformed officers to line the wall.

Commission Meeting

The fix is in – Commission raises property tax rate before voting on budget

State law requires the commission to pass an appropriations resolution (annual budget) and a property tax rate resolution.  In the interest of protecting the taxpayers, I tried to have the budget placed ahead of the tax rate for purposes of discussion.  Putting the tax rate ahead of the budget means that the fix is in as there is no incentive to cut the budget after the property tax rate has been set.

In a poor economic environment, where the commission wants to hold the line on taxes but is handed a bloated budget from the Budget Committee recommending a tax increase, the commission could set the rate ahead of the budget and then work on the budget until it is balanced without a tax increase.  That isn’t what happened though and there are still problems with setting the tax rate first.

The tax rate isn’t just one number.  In past years the tax rate has fixed the levy for three funds, General County, General Purpose Schools and Debt Service.  This year, after a court opinion in McMinn County, a new fund for Capital Education Projects was added.  Thus, the Commission isn’t voting on just one number in the tax rate but four.  How would the commission know how much to fix for each fund without discussing the budget?  Debt service is straight forward but the rest require discussion.  It doesn’t make sense to set the rate before knowing how much you are going to spend in each fund.  Do you know any business that sets the price of the products or services before they have any idea what their expenses are?

Voting for the tax rate first and then discussing the budget allows commissioners to play political games with their constituents because some commissioners will vote no on the tax rate or abstain knowing that the increase will pass but then will vote yes on the budget which caused the increase.  Voting for the budget which caused the increase has the same effect as the vote on the tax rate increase.  It spends the same amount of your money and these commissioners are just as responsible as those who didn’t play games with their yes vote on the tax increase.

My motion to discuss the budget before the tax rate failed 3-18 with only Commissioners Daly, Miller and myself (Monroe) voting to discuss the budget before fixing the tax rate.  The fix was in with a tax increase approved before the commission discussed the budget.

A citizen contacted me several days before the vote and told me what the tax rate would be.  Another contacted me telling me that the tax rate had already been determined but I would not be included.

It came as no surprise when commissioners Rick Carver and Gary Farmer offered amendments that set the tax rate at what I had been told without explaining why that was the rate needed.  Somehow those of us who weren’t included were just suppose to magically know where the reductions in increases (some call these cuts) would be made when the tax rate was voted on before the appropriations resolution, without any discussion as to why the tax rate of $2.47 was the one to go with.

Consensus and stifling of debate
There seemed to be a consensus amongst the majority of commissioners.  How they would know where Rick Carver was going to amend the budget and why he felt no need to explain it to the commission or to the public why those were the changes to make is beyond me.  Debate was stifled through parliamentary procedure and the only explanation given to the citizens as to why Carver’s cuts were the only ones that should be made was the comment from the Finance Director.

Commissioner Andy Allen moved to cut off debate on all amendments and the main motion moving adoption of the budget.  Only four commissioners voted not to cut off debate on over $175 million of your money.  Commissioners Grady Caskey, Tom Cole, Karen Miller and Tona Monroe voted to continue debate.  The rest voted to stifle debate.

Six commissioners voted no on the tax rate and the budget
A game that some commissioners play with their constituents is voting no or abstaining on the tax rate but voting yes on the budget that requires a tax increase to pay for it.  Only six commissioners voted no on both.  The contradictory votes of the one who abstained and other who voted no on the tax rate but yes on the budget should be viewed for the game and hypocrisy that it is.

The six commissioner who voted no are Mike Akard, Archie Archer, Tom Cole, Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and Tona Monroe.

Conflicts of interest
Several commissioners read conflict of interest statements prior to voting on the budget.  Sadly there are more who should have read statements but didn’t.  Since debate on the budget was stifled through parliamentary procedure, the commission spent more time reading conflict of interest statements than it did voting on the main motion adopting the annual budget.

Obtaining information
The public should know how difficult it can be at times to obtain information to make informed decisions.  Some are quick to provide information while others are not.

During the budget process I met with the Finance Director Randy Vineyard.  While I have been critical of his withholding information and not giving me a straight answer in the past, he actually was quite accommodating during the budget process.  He hired a new lady, Angelie Shankle, who took my questions and got answers to me promptly.  There is another lady in Accounting named Susan Gennoe who quickly works to get answers.  Both of these ladies have pleasant demeanors and based on my experiences with them appear to be doing their jobs well.

Troy Logan, Finance Director for the Schools, has always given me straight answers.  I met with him and he provided me with everything that I asked for.

Last year when I asked for information about the jail John Adams and Jeff French were quick to provide me with information.  The budget process with the Sheriff’s Office was not a pleasant experience.  Marian O’Briant, the PR person for the Sheriff’s Office attacked me multiple times, was slow to respond and told me that she was getting paid overtime to write me a short email that didn’t answer my questions.  The Sheriff’s Office doesn’t need a PR person.  Upper management is paid well and could answer media questions.

I never received the complete breakdown of the compensation from the Evergreen study that I asked for.  The study was incomplete, inadequate and it was a hasty decision for the commission to act on the study.  It was my intention to propose an alternative pay option for deputies in the Sheriff’s Office instead of using an unfinished study to base pay raises on.  15 minutes prior to the start of the Commission meeting, I was given a tiny portion of the information that I had asked for.  It was not broken down into the categories necessary to propose the alternative pay option making it impossible for me to propose an alternate solution.

Employees to be paid above average wages based on unfinished study

The pay recommendations of the Evergreen study are not based on merit.  Furthermore, county employees will be paid above average wages.

The story told me about the need for the study is that county officials got together and decided that they wanted to pay “competitive” wages.  An economist friend of mine pointed out that many positions in government aren’t competitive because they don’t compete in a free market, with the only competition being between surrounding governments.  He said that the more accurate description is that that the study would look at paying similar or better wages.

The officials looked at paying better wages that are above average.  Officials didn’t look to bring wages to average based on the 50th percentile.  The study was based on a pay scale of the 60th percentile of pay.  That would be reasonable if Blount County had a robust economy but it doesn’t.

The ET Index shows that Blount County is the only county in the eight county region where pay has actually dropped .5% after inflation.  Blount County is tied for the biggest drop in median household income at 15%, and is about $7,000 less than it was in 2000.  This type of economic environment is not conducive to a big tax increase.  The people of Blount County are living on substantially less and will now be forced to live on even less thanks to the big property tax increase.  Office holders should have looked harder to control spending and make pay more equitable.  Pay raises based on the 50th percentile or my alternative proposal that I wasn’t able to make because of the lack of information provided would have been more reasonable.  Government often lacks reason in the way it approaches problems.

The Evergreen study still has the word draft stamped on it but the FY 16 budget was built around the draft which only contained 3 of the 5 chapters that will be available in the final report.  No one would run a business this way if they wanted to stay in business and it is embarrassing to see the county run this way.

Fear mongering and Sheriff’s political playbook
Several people wrote me about their displeasure with the head of the library using their email addresses to solicit support for the tax increase.  The fear mongering worked on some because I got a few emails telling me to support raising taxes because of the library.  Overall, people saw through it and weren’t happy about the situation.

Every couple of years the Sheriff drags out his playbook and we go through the same predictable procedure of hearing about the lowest paid deputies.  This tugs on heart strings causing some to be willing to support a tax increase without knowing how much of a pay gap exists within government departments and offices.  The state sets minimum salaries for office holders, which are much higher than they should be but the county is compelled by law to pay those salaries.

This commission can raise the salaries above the state minimum for some office holders and it did that in FY15.  The Sheriff makes about the cost of an entire deputy salary above the state minimum.  He has no credibility talking about how much he cares about the deputies.  Actions speak louder than words.  He could have given this money to his employees but chose not to.  The same is true for Tom Hatcher, Bill Dunlap and Ed Mitchell.

My motion to the cut the salaries of these elected officials failed 4-16-1.  Commissioners Akard, Daly, Miller and I voted to cut their salaries.  Shawn Carter abstained.  The rest voted no.

Probation Services is projected to lose money in the new budget year
The political machine has bragged for several years that Probation Services makes money for the county.  It’s not a lot of money but Probation has usually been revenue positive, leaving more in the general fund than was spent administer the service.  However, that seems to coming to an end.  The approved budget for FY 16 projects that Probation Services will actually lose about $2,200.

Notice the budgeted increase in pay for the Administrator position.  More on that later.

Fund/Cost Center Title FY 14 FY 15 FY 16
105 Administrator $57,250 $65,000 $65,462
53910 Probation Services $504,783 $606,563 $624,482
43393 Fees Probation $607,026 $657,245 $622,250

Schools get a big increase in local revenue
Blount County Schools will see a huge increase in local revenue.  The sales tax increase last year will result in $2 million in increased revenue.  The creation of a Capital Educations Projects fund will result in about a $1.27 million increase funded by a 4 cent property tax increase.  State funding for the schools will be about the same as it was last year because the school population is up only slightly.

The sales tax increase was promoted to the public to be used to fund the purchase of textbooks, technology and infrastructure improvements.  The schools will getting about $1.27 million earmarked for infrastructure improvements.  A recent article in the paper shows that the majority of the $2 million from the sales tax increase will go to increased compensation rather than textbooks and technology.  Thus, we may hear the same old stories next year about there being no money for textbooks and computers.

I recently learned about a book keeper who has been with the schools for over 40 years.  She makes less than the part time PR person employed by the schools.  It was upsetting to read in the paper that the increase will be used to make a part time PR position full time.  This is definitely not a priority item over textbooks and computers.  I’ve asked for a breakdown of the school budget to see exactly how much is going to be spent on technology and textbooks and waiting for that response.

Several teachers voted no on giving the schools a million dollars.  A motion was made to cut $1 million from the economic development budget leaving it with about $62,000 since there is little accountability to the taxpayers.  Commissioners Akard, Archer, Carter, Daly, Miller and Monroe voted yes.  Commissioners Cole and Farmer abstained.  The rest voted yes.  Commissioners Grady Caskey, Dodd Crowe and Tom Stinnett, all teachers, voted no on giving the schools the money and allowing the unaccountability of this taxpayer money to continue.

The Blount Partnership is a private entity and Bryan Daniels denied my request for their budget.  However, it consists of many of the same people involved with the Industrial Development Board (IDB) and the Chamber of Commerce.  Apparently the IDB can go out and make promises to private business and hand the taxpayers the bill.  The commission doesn’t vote on these deals/promises made to private business and we are often not even informed what type of deals/promises are made.  It is absolutely wrong to allow a board to go out and promise taxpayer money to private businesses and then levy a tax on your home to pay for it.  Furthermore, some of these same people are involved with the Smoky Mountain Tourism Development Authority which is another unaccountable use of taxpayer money.

There is much more to say about the budget but I will stop here because this report is approaching a treatise.

Grant policy routinely violated
Office holders and department heads have repeatedly shown that the authority of the commission means nothing to them.  The commission is expected to rubber stamp grants and not ask questions.  The Chairman, Jerome Moon, tried to stop me from asking questions at the Commission meeting because I had asked questions at the Agenda meeting.  After the Agenda meeting, I did some homework and came prepared with questions to ask at the Commission meeting.  Apparently the Chairman doesn’t think you should actually do your job as a County Commissioner by researching matters and coming prepared with questions. What’s the point of having a meeting if you aren’t going to do your homework and come prepared to discuss the items on the agenda?

The deadline to apply for nearly every grant that the commission is asked to vote on has already passed before being brought to the commission.  Explanations are never given unless I ask why.  The Budget Committee never asks why the grants aren’t presented in a timely manner.  When I asked Jeff French why the deadline for the grant request from the Sheriff’s Office had already passed, he told me he didn’t know.  His name is listed as the reporting person.  See page 48.

The grant from the Facilities Coordinator, under the Mayor, didn’t even have a grant worksheet with the request in the Budget Committee and Agenda Committee meetings.  It only appeared in the Commission meeting packet after I pointed this out at the Agenda meeting.

While I was begrudgingly allowed to ask some questions about the energy efficiency grant for court house building improvements, I wasn’t able to ask everything.  When my questioning revealed that the county had already received the grant, without any commission oversight, knowledge or inclusion on the matter, the Chairman asked Commissioner Farmer to amend his motion to ratify the grant rather than to approve the worksheet to apply for the grant.  I had my light on to be recognized to speak to ask further questions but the Chairman turned it off.  I then asked if we were only voting on the amendment.  Chairman Moon shook his head yes in answer to my question.  After voting on the amendment, the Chairman proceeded on to the next Agenda item when we hadn’t even voted on the main motion, just the amendment.

I still had questions about how the county would benefit from energy efficiency in replacing the windows when the grant application said it would take over 179 years for the energy cost savings to be more than the cost of the windows.  See page 62 for the payback period.

RAC2 district created
The Commission voted to create what will eventually be a special new zone.  The wording is tricky saying that it isn’t creating a zone but it allows for it in the future and the effect is to allow special development privileges for a handful of properties.

“This section does not amend the Zoning Map, nor zone nor rezone any land to RAC2, but only identifies limits to location for any land that may in the future be zoned RAC2.”

This request morphed into nothing more than a crony deal for an office holder to develop his land when the rest of us can’t.  The matter has been the subject of discussion since 2013 in the Planning Commission.  It would have been quicker and simpler to have just sent the commission the crony deal to start with since the good ole’ boys get what they wanted.

Why do we have zoning regulations when anyone who is politically connected can get them amended to do what they want?  Zoning has become a tool of the politically connected to develop their land while squashing competition.  Unfortunately, some “conservationists” go along with this as those it’s a good thing for our community to create laws and regulations with special favors for the politically connected few while discriminating against everyone else.

Only Commissioners Akard, Cole, Daly, Miller and Monroe voted against this crony deal.  The rest took care of a political office holder while discriminating against you.

Blount County Corrections Partnership
The Corrections Partnership heard from Bob Bass of the Tennessee Corrections Institute.  He previously asked to speak to the Partnership about what he does in other counties, leading me to believe that he was going to offer solutions to reduce jail overcrowding.  He offered none.  His presentation was on the role of the jail and did not address how to reduce the overcrowding problem.

The only person to ask any questions was me.  I asked him what the TCI’s position was on keeping federal inmates when the jail is overcrowded.  He said the TCI doesn’t have a position.

After the meeting, it became apparent to me after further discussion with the people from the TCI that they want the county to build a new jail pod.  The inspector told me that work programs don’t work and the ILPP report didn’t tell me anything that I didn’t already know.  Actually the jail the report told me several disturbing things about our criminal justice system that I didn’t know.  It was the TCI presentation that didn’t tell me anything that I don’t already know.

A member of the community shared with me that the Sheriff didn’t get what he wanted in the jail study so he is trying to get what he wants out of the state, which is a position that the jail should be expanded.  Unfortunately I am afraid that this person is right.

There are people who need to be in jail.  However, I have heard from people in a variety of situations who should not be in jail.  There are numerous factors to the jail overcrowding.  The jail study addresses several of those factors.

One factor that would quickly reduce the number of inmates is to stop taking federal prisoners.  The ILPP study that the Mayor and Sheriff don’t want to talk about in public says that we lose money on federal prisoners.  The Mayor went so far as to threaten filing a frivolous lawsuit.  Where is that lawsuit Mayor?

There is genuine fear in the community about speaking out about the Sheriff, the judges and the condition of the jail.  People share their stories with me but won’t go public for fear of retaliation against them or their loved ones.  It makes my job of advocating for meaningful reform more difficult because people won’t share their stories with the public.  Couple the fear with a Sheriff who wants to expand political power with a bigger jail, and Mayor who has bowed to the Sheriff and some judges who can’t handle criticism and you have a mess.

The jail overcrowding is a multilayered problem.  One big layer of the problem that can be peeled off is the optional practice of keeping federal inmates.  For those of you who aren’t afraid of the Sheriff, tell him that you don’t want the county to keep federal inmates any longer.  His email address is and his phone number is 273-5000.

Role of government
One thing that emerged during budget discussions with the people of my district is what the role of government should be.  I had several people telling me that they are tired of paying taxes for services that they don’t use.  People are tired of paying for the schools, library and parks when they don’t use them.  Others told me that they are tired of having to pay fees to use these three, when they are already paying taxes on them.  Theselegitament points are frequently buried and not fully vetted in debate about taxes.

People complained to me about the schools always saying that they never get enough money.  Others expressed to me that they aren’t happy with upper management making big salaries.  Others homeschooling or sending their kids to private school feel that they shouldn’t pay taxes for public education when they pay for their kids education.

People complained to me about having to pay for the library when they don’t use it.  Others told me that they love the library and would pay more taxes for it.  Others said that they find the fees that the library charges to use meeting rooms ridiculous when they pay taxes for the library.

People complained to me that they are tried of paying taxes for Parks and Rec when they charges big fees for summer time activities.

These are all legitimate points worthy of discussion, not suppression and emotional, libelous branding of the people who make them.  Should people pay taxes for services that they don’t use?  Some County Offices are fee offices like the County Clerk’s Office and the Circuit Court Clerk’s Office.  They are funded by fees rather than taxes.  Should services like the library and Parks and Rec be funded by fees from the people who use them, rather than taxing the homes of people who don’t use them?  Some people certainly think so.

Media coverage
People regularly send me emails asking why the media doesn’t cover more local government issues.  They also complain to me about media bias favoring the good ole’ boys.

One person commented about the paper in Knox County offering a more balanced approach to the coverage of deputy pay while the local paper ran several puff pieces in support of the Sheriff’s Office.  Others have complained to me about the editorials always supporting Senators Doug Overbey, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker.

The best place to address these concerns are with local media sources although I did publish some of what was sent to me here.

Up next
County Revenue Commissioners.  This is an old statute still on the books that I found that could bring some transparency and accountability to a local government that lacks an Audit Committee.  Newly elected Commissioners in multiple counties are trying to revive the positions since Audit Committees are optional unless the Comptroller requires one and even then an Audit Committee may do nothing.  The Comptroller is talking about having it repealed since they enjoy being in charge.  Tell your state elected officials that a fully functioning Audit Committee should be required or the County Revenue Commissioners law should stay.

Question for the people of Blount County
Each month I spend a great deal of time writing lengthy detailed commission reports.  One of my campaign promises included writing commission reports and I will continue to keep that promise.  Do you want the reports to continue to be as detailed as they are now?  Or would shorter reports suffice?

Where are the Common Core MOUs? – Part 2


by Eric Holcombe


In my previous post, I showed you the State Dept. of Education has admitted that the federal government-provided Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) claimed to be signed by all the Tennessee public school districts (directors of schools as well as local school board chairs and union representatives when applicable) in the Race To The Top (RTTT) application for millions in federal taxpayer funds simply “do not exist”.

The state Dept. of Education lied on the RTTT application for federal millions. The picture above is the information that I was given when I requested the federal MOU signature pages. These are different, state-generated MOUs, not the federal government-provided one claimed to have been signed by all the districts in the RTTT application. In addition, none of them are signed prior to the RTTT application date of January 18, 2010. At the time of this writing, the state is still maintaining copies of these MOUs along with the attached “scope of work” for each district here. As a follow-up to this delivery of paper MOUs, I sent a second request with four questions, which resulted in only the first one being answered essentially admitting the state lied about the unanimous support of the federal MOU. The other questions were not answered. They were as follows:


“2. If not, did the local chairs of boards of education and/or the local union representative in these districts sign another MOU such as the altered one signed by the directors of schools that have been provided to me?

3. Were there any other MOUs related to RTTT requirements signed by these three parties (directors of schools, chairs of local school boards, union representatives) that are dated prior to the RTTT application date of January 18, 2010?

4. Who wrote this portion of the RTTT application quoted above regarding the “sign on” rate of the school districts to the sample MOU? Education First?”


I now have the answer to questions 2 and 3. In that big stack of paper the State Dept. of Education provided, there are four school districts missing. There is something curious about all four of these districts that I believe made the State Dept. of Education decide to delete them from my request:


They have different MOUs from the rest. They also are signed in December of 2009 – before the first “confidential” draft of the Common Core “state” Standards even existed (January 13, 2010).


Here are the districts:


Jackson County, Jackson-Madison County, Sullivan County and West TN School for the Deaf. A fifth district was partially withheld: Marshall County. Marshall County has two MOUs, one signed in December 2009 and another different version signed in June 2010. The State Dept. of Education chose to only give me the later version in their response. At the time of this writing, the state RTTT website still shows the 2009 dated MOU for all these districts.


Note the language on this 2009 MOU, especially under “Assurances”. This MOU is more similar to the federal version language and has the four signature blocks. The district leadership had to “assure” that their LEA certifies and represents they were familiar with the still-under-construction 1100-page RTTT application and were “committed to working on all or significant portions of the State Plan”. They were asked to sign this MOU agreement while the application was still in the works.The “confidential” first rough draft of the Common Core “state” Standards didn’t exist yet and wouldn’t exist in any form the state could review until just five days prior to the RTTT application being submitted to the federal government.

A couple of items of interest:


  1. Jackson-Madison County. Note that the TEA representative Janis Carroll added an attachment to her signed agreement to the MOU assuring implementation of RTTT application requirements (before they existed). She appears to have signed under protest and notes her signature is made “with reservations” (page 12) and refers to an attachment (page 14). You can get an impression from the concerns listed there that probably all of the districts were facing the same uninformed concerns, most notably her first one:Our members have not seen the Race To The Top application or its requirements.Remember, this is signed on December 15 2009. Makes all those rubber-stamp letters of endorsement dated about the same time look even more ridiculous, because you know they couldn’t and didn’t read the application either. And of course, Common Core doesn’t exist yet in its first “confidential” draft for anyone to review.
  2. This December 2009 MOU refers to a different “Preliminary Scope of Work” attached as Exhibit 1 (page 13) and is more vague than the later versions. This earlier attachment is only found in four of the five districts.
  3. Marshall County shows both a December 2009 signed by all three parties and a June 2010 MOU signed only by the director of schools typical of the other districts. Both versions of the “scope of work” are present also. It is interesting to see how this language changed pre to post RTTT application.
  4. The Jackson County file includes instructions they were sent for completing the scope of work forms and a state Race To The Top timeline. Note that this timeline begins in March 2010 after award of the federal taxpayer money. There will be another post coming on these instructions and timeline. This isn’t the first version of them.

We now have established:

A) The State of Tennessee lied on the RTTT federal grant application about the signed agreement of the local school district directors, school board chairs and TEA representatives to the requirements of RTTT including the concealed implementation of the Common Core “state” Standards and greatly increased data mining of students.

B) There was in fact effort by the State Dept. of Education to strong arm districts into committing to the requirements of the RTTT application including the Common Core “state” Standards concealed within before the first “confidential” draft of those standards even existed. This is evidenced by the five districts having signed the MOUs in December 2009. This was done when at least one district (Jackson – Madison County) did not even have the application to review.

C) The State Dept. of Education doesn’t want us to know about A or B and attempted to hide the early MOUs from me. Unless of course you believe it is just coincidence that only these four districts (and half of Marshall County) were missing from their response. They also declined to answer if any MOUs were signed by districts prior to the RTTT application date of January 18, 2010. Obviously, there were some. For the RTTT application to be legal, there should be one for every district and it would have to be the federal version MOU.

More to come…



Where are the Common Core MOUs?

rotten-applecore-673by Eric Holcombe

I believe the TN State Dept. of Ed. is guilty of fraud at the federal level for lying on the Race To The Top Application for hundreds of millions received in federal taxpayer funds.

I found the recent story of the petition circulating amongst various public school district leaders and the TEA’s version in Nashville and Williamson County stating a vote of “no confidence” in state education commissioner Kevin Huffman a little surprising, if not hypocritical. If you have looked at the State of Tennessee’s application for Race To The Top (RTTT), you know there was a requirement for the states to show solidarity among the public school districts by signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) committing themselves to the requirements contained in the 1100-page Race To The Top application which included great expansion of data collection on the students, mandatory online achievement testing, as well as implementing the Common Core “State” Standards (or if you had the time and resources, implementing your own multi-state consortium of academic standards instead). The state made the claim in this application that their goals were aligned to the federal department of education, so they used the MOU provided by the federal department of education and obtained signatures from not only the directors of schools, but the school board chairs and teacher’s union representative (as applicable) from nearly every district in TN.

From page 17 Section A(1)(ii)(a) in the RTTT application:

We also used the U.S. Department of Education’s sample MOU because our goals were aligned with it and because our districts asked for an MOU as soon as possible so they could have discussions with their unions and school boards. The MOU, reflecting the terms and conditions of our application, is attached as Appendix A-1-2.

• Section A(1)(ii)(b): Similarly, we sent the U.S. Department of Education’s sample Scope of Work because we believed our goals were aligned with it. We are pleased that 100% of our 136 participating districts and 4 state special schools committed to each and every reform criterion, as the summary table demonstrates. We achieved this sign-on rate even though all participating LEAs will have to implement a bold set of policy and practice changes, including using student growth as one of multiple measures in evaluating and compensating teachers and leaders; denying tenure to teachers who are deemed ineffective as gauged partly by student growth; relinquishing control over their persistently lowest-achieving schools; increasing the number of students who are taught by effective teachers; and, in many cases, opening their doors to more charter schools. The sample Scope of Work is attached as Appendix A-1-3.

• Section A(1)(ii)(c): As a sign of our statewide approach, 131 of our 136 participating districts and 4 state special schools submitted all three applicable signatures – superintendent, school board president, and union leader.The summary table demonstrates that we had 100% success rates in obtaining the signature of every superintendent and applicable school board president, and a 93% success rate in obtaining the signature of every applicable local teachers’ union leader. (Not all Tennessee school districts have collective bargaining; nonetheless, we asked for the support of local union/association leaders regardless of whether they represented teachers in a collective-bargaining capacity.)”

 I found it pretty interesting that all those directors of schools and union leaders who allegedly signed the Federal Dept. of Ed. MOU selling their souls for Common Core would develop convenient amnesia and start complaining about Huffman implementing the very things contained in the application they would have sworn assurance to “be familiar with” and agree to. I was figuring they really didn’t read the 1100-page application and possibly didn’t actually see the first “confidential” rough draft of the Common Core “state” Standards that were contained in the application. I suspected they had to hurry and rubber stamp their approval (like the legislators, gubernatorial candidates, charter operators, philanthropists and colleges did). I was particularly interested in the date they signed these MOUs. Here’s why:

 1.    The date of the Race To The Top application is January 18, 2010.

2.    The “confidential” first rough draft of the Common Core “state” Standards contained within the application is dated January 13, 2010, only five days prior.

3.   I  figured there was no way these directors, school board chairs and union reps actually read this stuff, but it would be especially ridiculous if their signatures on the MOUs were dated prior to January 13, 2010 because that would mean it was not possible to even see the first rough draft of Common Core before committing to whatever it becomes in the future.

I requested an electronic copy of these signed MOUs from the state Dept. of Ed. After an initial written response announcing a 10-day delay to collect the information, I was told on day ten that these were on legal sized paper and it would be “easiest for them” for me to come to Nashville to pick up copies. I agreed and traveled to Nashville to pick them up. Upon receipt of the copies, I noticed that not only were the provided MOUs NOT the same federal-government-provided ones claimed to be signed in the Race To The Top application, but in addition they were only signed by the directors of schools. Also, I was surprised by the signature dates. They were all signed in May and June of 2010, four to five months AFTER the Race To The Top application and at least 45 days after the RTTT money was awarded to Tennessee.

 I made a second request for the signed federal-government-provided MOUs including the quoted portion above from the RTTT application that explicitly states all the signatures were collected on the federal MOUs:

1. Did the 131 participating districts and 4 special school districts submit this MOU included in Appendix A of the RTTT application signed by all parties as claimed in the RTTT application? If so, this was the information I originally requested and still want to obtain copies for all districts.

2. If not, did the local chairs of boards of education and/or the local union representative in these districts sign another MOU such as the altered one signed by the directors of schools that have been provided to me?

3. Were there any other MOUs related to RTTT requirements signed by these three parties (directors of schools, chairs of local school boards, union representatives) that are dated prior to the RTTT application date of January 18, 2010?

4. Who wrote this portion of the RTTT application quoted above regarding the “sign on” rate of the school districts to the sample MOU? Education First?”

The response I received truncated my questions to answer only #1 above, ignoring the follow-ups. The answer: They do not exist.

Now the protest and petition by the directors of schools makes sense. So do the words of White County HS Assistant Principal Jerry Lowery in the Senate Education Committee “fact-finding” hearing: “We were presented with a done deal and now we are caught in a web that we never spun”.

Bottom line: The State of Tennessee committed federal fraud in obtaining hundred of millions of taxpayer dollars by lying on the RTTT application about the non-existent, local “unanimous support” for RTTT and the Common Core standards to improve their grant score.

The Common Core “state” Standards first became available for the public to view and comment on March 17, 2010. This is nearly 60 days after Tennessee’s RTTT application was submitted on January 18, 2010 committing TN schools to the standards that didn’t exist yet. Round one RTTT money was awarded on March 29, 2010, less than two weeks later.

Not a single Tennessee director of schools, school board chair or TEA representative had signed either the Federal Dept. of Ed. MOU or the altered state version MOUs yet. This would not happen for another 60-90 days. These were all signed in May and June, presumably in order for the State Board of Ed. To pass Common Core in their special called meeting in July as they promised to do in the RTTT application.

If you would like to see the MOUs that were actually signed (only by the directors of schools), those can be found on the state’s RTTT website here at the bottom of the page under “Approved District Scopes of Work” by school district. These are identical to the copies that were provided to me. I am not certain why the department didn’t simply refer me to these electronic versions rather than give me the run-around with the paper copies, but it is possible they didn’t know they existed since the two contacts I made were not employed there in 2010 (Bredesen’s administration). Within these documents, you can also see what spending each district committed to for the amount of RTTT money they were to be awarded. Of course this is all taking place after the federal grant was awarded to the state. There is an additional “scope of work” signature block with spaces for the director of schools, school board chair and TEA representative or funding agency for the district that is not signed. The TEA representative block has been made “optional” when it is used. A second, rotated copy of this page follows with the signatures. However, these signatures only assure their awareness that the money provided is one-time and will not cover any recurring expenses the district commits to in spending the RTTT money. Only the directors of schools committed the school districts to implementation of RTTT requirements with the altered state-version MOUs two months after the money was awarded. These state-version signed MOUs and LEA commitments follow the scope of work tables with projected expenditures. Note that these MOUs are even more vague than the one provided by the Federal Dept. of Ed, such that it is certainly not clear what you are committing to. I hope your director of schools read all 1100 pages before selling you out for some one-time money and signing onto that last line:

Although all programs listed in the commitments have not been developed, my LEA will participate as they become available. Even though my LEA may or may not spend RTTT funds on the elements of RTTT, I do understand my LEA will be expected to support/implement the commitments listed above.

Good luck with that. Might be worth looking back at your April, May, June 2010 board meeting minutes for discussion on completely changing all the academic standards, mandatory online testing, etc.

So, my questions to the State Dept. of Ed remain:

  1. Were there any other MOUs related to RTTT requirements signed by these three parties (directors of schools, chairs of local school boards, union representatives) that are dated prior to the RTTT application date of January 18, 2010?

  2. Who wrote this portion of the RTTT application quoted above regarding the “sign on” rate of the school districts to the sample MOU? Education First?



Common Core is bought and paid for

haslam bredesen gates

by: Eric Holcombe

I made a prediction (without seeing the speaker list) that 90% of the proponents of Common Core “state” Standards in last Friday’s Senate Education Committee hearing would fall into one of two groups (if not both):

1. They are part of an organization that received direct or indirect funding (meaning millions of dollars) from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as payment to implement the standards (note: this includes the National Governors Association (Phil Bredesen, Bill Haslam), the Council of Chief State School Officers (Tim Webb, Kevin Huffman), Achieve Inc. (Phil Bredesen, Bill Haslam), the testing arms Race To the Top created: PARCC and SBAC (Kevin Huffman), Memphis City Schools, among others. I.e., they have a financial conflict of interest to be there.

2. They are part of an organization that endorsed the Common Core “state” Standards via the Race To The Top application with a rubber-stamp letter or a Memorandum of Understanding dated prior to the “confidential” draft of the standards being made available to the state on January 13, 2010, only five days before the Race To The Top application was submitted on January 18, 2010. (note: this includes the State Board of Education, Tennessee School Boards Association, State of Tennessee Higher Education Commission, The University of Tennessee Chattanooga, Knoxville and Martin, Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents, ALL 136 district directors of schools, ALL 136 district school board chairmen, the TEA and their local affiliates, among others. They all endorsed standards that weren’t available to see in “confidential” draft form and wouldn’t be available for public comment for another 60 days.

Well, it turns out I was wrong. Only 88% of the proponents fit the bill:

A. Kevin Huffman – Huffman serves on the governing board for PARCC, the national testing organization created with Race To The Top federal funds – and the testing arm Tennessee is committed to. Also as Commissioner of Education, he has great latitude in authority since the reform legislation was passed (First To The Top Act of 2010 and the Complete College TN Act of 2010) and the promises that Tennessee made in the Race To The Top Application. PARCC’s “project manager” is Achieve Inc., which received multi-millions from the Gates Foundation. Bill Haslam is on the board of directors of this Washington DC corporation. Phil Bredesen was formerly co-chair.

B. Jamie Woodson – Former state senator who was very prominent in passage of the First To The Top Act of 2010 and the Complete College TN Act of 2010. Once these were accomplished, she quit to become president and CEO of Bill Frist’s TNSCORE organization, which has received over $1.8 million from the Gates Foundation. Woodson is also in the second category as she signed one of the rubber-stamp letters endorsing the Race To The Top application which committed Tennessee to implementing the Common Core “state” Standards. Of course, Bill Frist did the same on January 14, 2010, one day after the “confidential” draft of Common Core was made available.

C. Clint Satterfield – Director of schools for Trousdale County. Clint is of course one of the 136 directors of schools who signed the Memorandum of Understanding (date unknown) provided by the federal government which claimed an “assurance” that they were “familiar with” the Race To The Top application which of course committed Tennessee to implementing the Common Core “state” Standards. I doubt these were turned around in the span of five days from January 13, 2010 when the first “confidential” draft was made available and January 18, 2010 when the application was submitted. He rubber-stamped Common Core without reading the 1111-page application just like the rest. Clint is also part of a special group of taxpayer-funded Common Core lobbyists called LIFT.

D. Michael Petrilli – Executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which also received over $6 million from the Gates Foundation. Fordham is being paid to do this all over the country and are supposed to be the “right wing” think tank to appeal to the Republican sheep. I told you the players in Common Core come from both sides against the middle. As Petrilli gets up to leave, Sen. Tate says “hopefully the check is in the mail” (at the 4:04:39 mark).

E. Casie Jones – Teacher from Martin Luther King Transition academy in Memphis, an alternative school for convicted juvenile delinquents to transition back into “traditional” classrooms. Casey made an impressive plea for the “rigorous” Common Core “state” Standards, however this would seem to be diametrically opposed to her previous pleas to maintain the Not Meeting Standards (NMS) program in 2010 where failing students were not given an “F”, but more of an “incomplete”. And of course, since the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation pumped $90 million into City of Memphis schools, she falls into category 1. If instead she were counted as a Teach For America employee, she would fall into the rubber-stamper category 2.

F. Candice McQueen – Dean of Education, Lipscomb University. McQueen serves in Tennessee’s Educator Leader Cadre for the PARCC testing Consortium and also serves as the liaison for higher education for the State Department of Education’s Common Core State Standards Leadership Council for K-12 and on the Common Core advisory board for the Tennessee Higher Education Commission’s Institutes of Higher Education. She like Woodson is a double dipper. Work for PARCC puts her in Category 1 and work for the rubber-stampers of the State Department of Education and the Tennessee Higher Education Commission puts her in Category 2.

G. Pitt Hyde III – Founder of Autozone. Pitt being asked here just highlights the fact that these standards are about serving employer business needs, not educating. This being one of the claims of the opponents of Common Core, made it rather humorous that Pitt was selected to speak on the state’s behalf. Of course, Pitt is one of the rubber-stampers that endorsed Race To The Top with his December 18, 2009 letter found in Appendix A of the Race To The Top application, dated three weeks prior to the “confidential” draft of the Common Core “state” Standards even being available to the states.

H. Lt. Col. Eric Goslowsky – Director of Tennessee Guard Family Support Programs. Goslowsky was the only pro-Common Core speaker for the day that didn’t fit my two categories. I believe he was there primarily to generate an appeal to fear as he reminded us that only ½ of 1% “wear the uniform” and if we don’t implement the Common Core “state” Standards (which haven’t been proven anywhere period), then terrorists will invade our country and no one will be there to defend you – and he will have to homeschool his one child that is still in school because our schools suck so bad without them that he has left his child in the sucky system the entire time, or he may take an assignment in California (where they will have Common Core) so hurry up and implement them.
I will give Goslowsky credit for being the ONLY proponent there that actually had some skin in the game, because that is the one thing continually missing from all the “demand” for Common Core – the actual parents and taxpayers.

Common Core “state” Standards – Whodunit Part 3 – Commiting to standards that don’t exist

In Part 1, I introduced you to the Tennessee Race To The Top (RTTT) application for federal taxpayer funds that committed the public schools in Tennessee to implementing the Common Core “state” Standards – before they were even available for public review, and the signatories of this agreement. In Part 2, I showed you the additional unanimous, blind agreement of all 136 directors of schools and all 136 school board presidents to whatever the state said in the RTTP application to get their federal money. Also, we reviewed the two pieces of legislation that were hurriedly passed as part of the “reforms” necessary to implement Common Core and keep those promises made in the RTTT application and who those bill sponsors were. In this post, we will take a look at the specific promises to implement the Common Core found within the RTTT application, because despite being told repeatedly that Common Core is “state-led”, we just don’t find it anywhere in the legislation passed by our elected legislators, even though the First To The Top Act was explicitly made part of the RTTT application . You will only find it in the promises to the federal government as part of Race To The Top application in order to get federal taxpayer dollars.

Here are a few excerpts from the RTTT application that obliged all public schools in Tennessee to the Common Core (signed by Governor Bredesen, Education Commissioner Tim Webb and State Board of Education President B. Fielding Rolston) while they weren’t even available yet for public comment:


page 14: “New standards and aligned assessments are major tools in teachers’ toolboxes, and we are committed to making the standards even stronger through adoption of the Common Core. In this application, we describe the process we will use to adopt the Common Core, the timeline for implementation, and the way in which we will ensure that Tennessee educators receive training on the new standards.”

I must have heard that “tools in the toolboxes” quote from Jamie Woodson about a hundred times when she was working on the “reform” legislation.

page 15: “We seek to organize our efforts and interventions around this data, enabling it to be used from the Capitol to the classroom. We believe that an expansion from a K-12 data system to a P-20 data system, as well as the creation of an early-warning system, will enable us to reach our graduation rate goal of 90%.”

Just in case you forgot begging the Governor to start tracking all students from pre-kindergarten to four years AFTER they leave college with a diploma. Giving the level of  information proposed in Common Core via the Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) to the federal government is illegal and a violation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).  The U.S. Department of Education (an unconstitutional entity itself) KNOWS this and sees FERPA as a roadblock for the data-mining in Common Core.  The U.S. Dept of Education has altered FERPA to empower the data-mining within Common Core and they have been sued for doing so, by the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

page 16: “The stars in Tennessee – the Governor’s Office, the General Assembly, the Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Tennessee Board of Regents, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, leading business associations, philanthropic foundations, and community groups – are aligned when it comes to the next generation of education innovation. The support ranges from our Congressional delegation in Washington, D.C., to the organization representing our five largest district superintendents, to the statewide Tennessee State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE), chaired by former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist…”

Gee, I guess that just about covers everybody who got paid by Bill Gates. Any response from the students or their parents? Oh, that’s right, the “public” draft isn’t available yet…

page 44: “First, we know our state assessment does not measure the level of rigor we know students must experience to succeed, which is why our performance on the NAEP has trailed that of our state assessment. With the introduction of a new test aligned to the tougher Common Core standards, we expect that student proficiency rates will more closely mirror those reported on the NAEP.”

This statement does not fit the “official” story that Common Core is only a set of standards, not a curriculum and not tests. Of course, since the English Language Arts author, David Coleman (who has never taught English in any capacity), has since moved on to become president of the College Board, he is re-writing the SAT college entrance exams to “align” with Common Core.

page 48:We will continue to lead by adopting the Common Core standards at a special State Board of Education meeting the last two weeks of July 2010.

Remember, they aren’t even available for public viewing at this point and won’t be until March 2010, but here the state declares they will be adopted.

page 49:Governor Bredesen and Education Commissioner Timothy Webb have signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to join the Common Core standards initiative led by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The initiative will result in new K-12 grade-by-grade standards in mathematics and English, including a set of college- and career ready standards, which Tennessee will adopt in July 2010.”

NGA and CCSSO both paid millions by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Plus, we are sold the story that the Governors made these standards as part of NGA. Here it is made to sound as if they do not yet exist (which is true), but that Tennessee will adopt them in July 2010 – when they cannot even know what they are yet.

page 49: Achieve has notified us that it will conduct a grade-by-grade alignment study between our standards and the Common Core. Based on our previous work with Achieve, we expect our standards to be well-aligned with the Common Core standards, but will make any adjustments as needed. Please see Appendix B-1-1 for a copy of the Common Core MOA, Appendix B-1-2 for a copy of the proposed Common Core standards, Appendix B-1-3 for documentation that they will be internationally benchmarked and prepare students for career-readiness, Appendix B-1-4 for a list of participating states, Appendix B-1-5 for our College and Career-Ready Policy Institute (CCRPI) plan submission, and Appendix B-1-6 for a final feedback letter from our CCRPI partners.”

Well, that’s nice that the Washington D.C. company paid millions by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is going to conduct an alignment to Common Core. I thought these were supposed to be “state-led”. Don’t we know what we want? Keep in mind these standards do not yet exist, yet again we are committing to make “any adjustments as needed”. Here is a link to Appendix B where you can see what is being called the “standards” on January 18, 2010. Notice the MOA is dated April 28, 2009 and labeled Draft/For Discussion Only. Yet, Governor Phil Bredesen and Education Commissioner Tim Webb have signed it?  Also note that the document following purported to be the Common Core State Standards beginning on page 14 have a “CONFIDENTIAL”  watermark and the heading that states these are a “DRAFT-1/13/10”. That is the Wednesday before this RTTT application was delivered on Monday 1/18/2010. I guess there was a really thorough, around-the-clock review of these standards in order to put this application together and claim that Tennessee would adopt these incomplete standards no matter what and would make any adjustments needed to adopt them. Doesn’t this seem just slightly irresponsible to you?

If these Common Core “state” Standards are “state-led” and not federally-demanded, why is Tennessee committing to the federal government to implement something that doesn’t exist yet – and since they are supposed to have originated with us, why don’t we know what they are and are relying on Washington D.C. non-profits funded by Bill Gates to tell us?

Part 4 in this series will show the multitude of “higher” education leaders, state and federal legislators, candidates for governor, business “leaders” and others who gave their rubber-stamp approval of this ridiculous commitment to standards that didn’t even exist yet.

Common Core “state” Standards – Whodunit Part 1

by Eric Holcombe

As the Tennessee Senate Education Committee meets this week for a “fact-finding” session on the Common Core “state” Standards, I thought it was important to show you where these came from, who approved and lobbied for them at the state level and who should have a good memory about what they are and where they came from.

The “official” story we have been given is that the Common Core “state” Standards are a “state-led” initiative and originated through the work of a small number of state governors (including Phil Bredesen) via the National Governors Association (NGA); that they are internationally benchmarked academic standards for Math and English Language Arts (ELA) only; that these are “proven” and “rigorous” standards;  and that they apply to the P-20 years (meaning pre-Kingergarten to four years post college graduation). I have previously shown how the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation spent hundreds of millions of dollars influencing the creation and implementation of these standards and that federal taxpayer funds were used as a bribe in the Race To The Top (RTTT), a.k.a. Race To The Trough, initiative to force acceptance of the Common Core “state” Standards on the states in order to have any chance of receiving the federal money. In this post, I will introduce you to Tennessee’s application for RTTT and point out some key promises made in that application and more importantly WHEN those promises were made and exactly WHO made the promises. Future posts will explore some of the interesting players in the application that endorsed the idea of committing all the public schools in the state to the Common Core “state” Standards upon the condition of receiving federal money.

After you see some of this information and the players involved, you will like me be scratching your head at the idea that the state legislature needs to have a “fact-finding” meeting about Common Core or what is in it. The RTTT application is a lengthy document comprised of 264 pages that has seven appendices which include an additional 847 pages. The total application contains 1111 pages. At the time of this writing, the state Department of Education still has the documents on their website here. The RTTT application is dated January 18, 2010. The RTTT application deadline date set by the U.S. Department of Education was January 19, 2010. This date is important because of the testimony of Dr. Sandra Stotsky, the ELA expert on the Common Core Validation Committee:

“The deadline for producing a good draft of the college-readiness and grade-level ELA (and mathematics) standards was before January 19, 2010, the date the U.S. Department of Education had set for state applications to indicate a commitment to adopting the standards to qualify for Race to the Top grants. But the draft sent to state departments of education in early January was so poorly written and content-deficient that CCSSI had to delay releasing a public comment draft until March. The language in the March version had been cleaned up somewhat, but the draft was not much better in organization or substance – the result of unqualified drafters working with undue haste and untouchable premises. None of the public feedback to the March draft has ever been made available. The final version released in June 2010 contained most of the problems apparent in the first draft: lack of rigor (especially in the secondary standards), minimal content, lack of international benchmarking, lack of research support. In February 2010, I and presumably all other members of the VC received a “letter of certification” from the CCSSI staff for signing off on Common Core’s standards (even though the public comment draft wasn’t released until March 2010 and the final version wasn’t released until June).”

This is important because the people who signed off on this application and wrote letters of endorsement/encouragement and signed a memorandum of understanding agreeing to the promises made in the application did so without even knowing what the Common Core “state” Standards were yet. At best, assuming the “poorly written, content-deficient” draft was available January 4, 2010, in a two-week span this 1111 pages was assembled along with many rubber-stamp letters of endorsement. Some of those were even made in December of 2009. We, the public, are told in the “official” story that this effort is “state-led”, that allegedly this is something we the people must have asked our state leaders for, yet, there was not even a public-comment draft of the Common Core “state” Standards available until two months after the state of Tennessee committed to them. So who made that commitment that the public didn’t ask for?

Here is the RTTT application (less appendices):

Race To The Trough Application by horbunce

You will find the signatory parties to the application on pages 2 and 3 of the pdf. They are: Governor Phil Bredesen, “Chief State School Officer” Timothy Webb (the former Lewis County School superintendent and deputy education commissioner that was appointed to Commissioner of Education by Bredesen), the President of the State Board of Education, B. Fielding Rolston (also appointed by the Executive branch and confirmed by the legislature), and the TN State Attorney General, Bob Cooper (appointed by the TN State Supreme Court judges, who are illegally selected by the governor contrary to our state constitution). This “Chief State School Officer” language is not used by the state of Tennessee, but is a federal term referring to the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), which is one of the parties paid multi-millions by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation over recent years in Common Core implementation “encouragement”.

Beginning on page 10, there is a nice “imagine” story about a utopian public education system that would exist if only we had enough money. Some interesting quotes from that section:

page 11:“Two years ago, the American Diploma Project established the framework in our state for a public education system that is truly focused on college- and career-readiness. Today,
because of his powerful commitment and Tennessee’s extraordinary progress, Governor Bredesen is the national co-chair of Achieve, which leads the Diploma Project.

The Diploma Project was another program funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Achieve Inc. was given over $12.6 million for this purpose in 2008. As I have written before, Bredesen out, Haslam in at the board of Achieve Inc. and the Gates money kept rolling in. I would like to know why our governors felt it necessary to be on the board of a Washington D.C. company that wasn’t part of creating these “state-led” standards and yet it is a bragging point in our application to get federal money which, if we receive, we will then implement the Common Core “state” Standards.


page 12:

“To demonstrate our commitment to the Race to the Top philosophy — and to meet President Obama and Secretary Duncan’s bold challenge for transforming public education in America — Tennessee is responding in a comprehensive and bipartisan manner.”

Wait a minute, shouldn’t this say something more like, let us states show you the “state-led” standards we have already created and are implementing? I thought the federal government had nothing to do with this…

Last week, Governor Bredesen, Democrat and Republican lawmakers, the State Board of Education, the Tennessee Education Association, school districts, business groups, and child advocates joined together in the State Capitol for an extraordinary session of the legislature in order to focus the total energy and will of government on the single task of improving education. The result? Lawmakers enacted the most sweeping set of education reform measures in a generation – the Tennessee First to the Top Act of 2010.”

This piece of legislation (Senate Bill 5), along with the Complete College of Tennessee Act of 2010 (Senate Bill 6) were both passed in special session. The Tennessee First to the Top Act of 2010 is also contained within the RTTP application in Appendix E (p. 16). It was passed on January 15 and signed by Governor Bredesen on January 16, 2010.  Judging by the name of the bill, apparently they may have known they would be “first” ahead of time and awarded Round 1 RTTT money. The Complete College of Tennessee Act of 2010 was passed the next week on January 21 and signed by Governor Bredesen on January 26, 2010. These bills amount to the education “reforms” that were passed by the Tennessee Legislature dealing with a litany of things: charter schools, teacher evaluations and merit pay, achievement school districts and otherwise laying the foundation required to implement the Common Core “state” Standards in order to keep the promises made in the application for the federal taxpayer funds. Much has been made of charters and teacher evaluations, but you didn’t hear much about those “state-led” standards that we allegedly were asking for.

In fact, this application includes a letter of support from all seven Democrat and Republican candidates for governor – a show of bipartisan support that ensures our application will be carried out no matter who holds the governor’s office.

This is true and in a future post I will highlight the candidates for governor along with other elected and unelected officials that committed to enforcing Common Core on the state. Notice that only the Big Two parties are invited. Apparently they also know in advance that no one else will be elected as governor. More importantly, it proves this is not an R vs. D issue. They are both involved in the federal takeover of public education. Neither private political party will step up to rescue you, because they are both in on the game.

In the next post, we will see whom else had committed to these standards without being able to review them as well as the specific promises to implement the Common Core “state” Standards within Race To the Top.

Common Core “state” Standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics are a fraud


by Eric Holcombe

The Common Core “state” Standards have been pitched by both our state and federal governments as being “state-led” and something that a small group of state governors (12) cooked up in their spare time at National Governor’s Assocation (NGA) conferences. Phil Bredesen was among this group of twelve, though you will not remember the people of Tennessee, nor Phil Bredesen for that matter, requesting for Tennessee schools to be made exactly the same as all the other states in the country in English Language Arts (ELA) or Mathematics standards. He did spout the NGA-speak phrase “prepare our students to compete in the global marketplace” a lot. We mere taxpayers are to believe that allegedly this group of governors created these standards as part of the NGA. New standards for pre-Kindergarten through college age students and that we desired to measure all students for these school years and beyond to include four years AFTER the state has educated them for the first sixteen, thus the term P-20 you will find in the standards. This creation of standards allegedly occurred in 2008-2009, but for some reason, these state governors who just had to make us all exactly the same since we allegedly were begging them to, didn’t implement any of their academic standards back home. I’ll bet you can’t find a single press release from the Bredesen administration bragging about how he was instrumental in completely reforming our ELA or Mathematics standards for every public school in the country. Instead, implementing these standards was a requirement for obtaining the Race To The Trough federal funds. It was a part of most states’ applications to get the federal money – or of course, they wouldn’t get the federal money. Massive, online data mining is part of the Common Core and two new testing arms were created to administer all the data collection as part of Race To The Trough funding. Tennessee leadership is in deep. The fact is, our state committed to full implementation of Common Core in 2010 in order to get the federal carrot at Race To The Trough. When Governor Haslam later asked for and received a waiver from the No Child Left Behind federal requirements, this was a huge Common Core padlock that permits no deviation from the requirements of the Common Core “state” Standards. They cannot be deviated from,  only added to, but addition is capped at 15% because of the granted NCLB waiver. Of course we were having a hard time explaining why we were such a failure at NCLB that we needed a waiver since 80% of the schools would not make Adequate Yearly Progress, yet at the same time we had allegedly implemented Common Core two years earlier at Race To The Trough time and were wanting to report all this improvement with the “reforms”.  Of course all you ever remember reading are the stories about the “Mean Republicans” demanding teacher accountability, with Bill Frist and Jamie Woodson running interference with SCORE (a non-profit also created just in time to cash in on Race To The Trough). It is also important to note the arguments about Common Core being incessantly touted as  “rigorous” academic standards, though you will note once changing to them our scores went up, yet we still failed NCLB requirements simultaneously and begged for the waiver.

Of course the “official story” about Common Core is a lie. It was absolutely not “state-led”, nor was any of it implemented except as a condition to receive federal money. There are many players in this story, some benefit financially, some benefit ideologically. They don’t all come from the same political party. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was instrumental on the financial side and has invested at least $120 million to various players in this scheme, including the NGA, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), the NEA, the AFT, Memphis City Schools, Bill Frist’s SCORE among others. Other organizations were created as the game unfolded to cash in as the standards are implemented. So the school officers are paid off, the teacher’s unions are paid off, the governors are paid off. Did we leave anyone out?

Dr. Sandra Stotsky, professor emerita, University of Arkansas and R. James Milgram, professor emeritus of Stanford University are scheduled speakers for today’s conference at Notre Dame titled: The Changing Role of Education in America: Consequences of the Common Core.  Stotsky served as the English language arts (ELA) standards expert on the Common Core “state” Standards Validation Committee. Milgram served on the Validation Committee for the Mathematics standards. These folks have some very concerning things to say about these alleged “state-led” standards and the foundational meetings they were part of.  Stotsky has made her presentation available in advance which can be read in its entirety here. This is one serious smoking gun. I am including a few excerpts below.

For many months after the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) was launched in early 2009, the identities of the people drafting the “college- and career-readiness standards” were unknown to the public. CCSSI eventually (in July) revealed the names of the 24 members of the “Standards Development Work Group” (designated as developing these standards) in response to complaints from parent groups and others about the lack of transparency. What did this Work Group look like? Focusing only on ELA, the make-up of the Work Group was quite astonishing: It included no English professors or high-school English teachers.

That right there seems kinda important don’t it?

The lead ELA writers were David Coleman and Susan Pimentel, neither of whom had experience teaching English either in K-12 or at the college level. Nor had either of them ever published serious work on K-12 curriculum and instruction. Neither had a reputation for scholarship or research; they were virtually unknown to the field of English language arts. But they had been chosen to transform ELA education in the US. Who recommended them and why, we still do not know.

Silly Professor….don’t you remember, these are all “state-led”; why all us dumb taxpayers recommended them back in 2008. By the way, I am certain Phil Bredesen MUST have been there and she has simply forgotten his input. David Coleman has since moved on to become president of the College Board, in order to rewrite the SAT college entrance exams. Apparently they have been measuring all the wrong college readiness stuff lo these many years and need to be changed to match our new Common Core “state” Standards too. What this means is that your “new” SAT score is absolutely meaningless compared to the “old” SAT scores. Don’t forget, this is the Bill Gates hit man that has zero experience teaching English.

As a condition of membership, all VC members had to agree to 10 conditions, among which were the following:

Ownership of the Common Core State Standards, including all drafts, copies, reviews, comments, and nonfinal versions (collectively, Common Core State Standards), shall reside solely and exclusively with the Council of Chief State School Officers (“CCSSO”) and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (“NGA Center”).

I agree to maintain the deliberations, discussions, and work of the Validation Committee, including the content of any draft or final documents, on a strictly confidential basis and shall not disclose or communicate any information related to the same, including in summary form, except within the membership of the Validation Committee and to CCSSO and the NGA Center.

As can be seen in the second condition listed above, members of the VC could never, then or in the future, discuss whether or not the VC discussed the meaning of college readiness or had any recommendations to offer on the matter.

Gee, it seems like these “state-led” standards should belong to the people or the states, not copyrighted by a couple of corporations. Why did “we” give them the standards “we” asked for? Why did the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant millions of dollars to the CCSSO simultaneously?

“The deadline for producing a good draft of the college-readiness and grade-level ELA (and mathematics) standards was before January 19, 2010, the date the U.S. Department of Education had set for state applications to indicate a commitment to adopting the standards to qualify for Race to the Top grants.

But the draft sent to state departments of education in early January was so poorly written and content-deficient that CCSSI had to delay releasing a public comment draft until March. The language in the March version had been cleaned up somewhat, but the draft was not much better in organization or substance – the result of unqualified drafters working with undue haste and untouchable premises.

None of the public feedback to the March draft has ever been made available. The final version released in June 2010 contained most of the problems apparent in the first draft: lack of rigor (especially in the secondary standards), minimal content, lack of international benchmarking, lack of research support.

In February 2010, I and presumably all other members of the VC received a “letter of certification” from the CCSSI staff for signing off on Common Core’s standards (even though the public comment draft wasn’t released until March 2010 and the final version wasn’t released until June).”

Still think Common Core is “state-led”?  Both Stotsky and Milgram refused to sign off on these standards.

Milgram served as an expert on the Mathematics standards Validation Committee and was the only mathematician. Others involved in mathematics education were on the committee, but no other content expert on mathematics. Milgram had been involved in the then current mathematics standards for Texas public education. A presentation he made before the Texas legislature regarding his experience on the Common Core Validation Committee and the reality of the low expectations of the Common Core Math standards can be read here. Another big smoking gun for the mathematics side. Some choice excerpts follow:

 “As a result, there are a number of extremely serious failings in Core Standards that make it premature for any state with serious hopes for improving the quality of the mathematical education of their children to adopt them. This remains true in spite of the fact that more than 35 states have already adopted them.  For example, by the end of fifth grade the material being covered in arithmetic and algebra in Core Standards is more than a year behind the early grade expectations in most high achieving countries. By the end of seventh grade Core Standards are roughly two years behind.”

The Core Mathematics Standards are written to reflect very low expectations. More exactly, the explicitly stated objective is to prepare students not to have to take remedial mathematics courses at a typical community college.”

So much for “rigorous”….

Time to up the ante state leaders. We aren’t buying your story. Time to parade Phil Bredesen around and get him to explain how it all went down, maybe produce those reams of emails from constituents begging for us to be just like everyone else so our children can “compete in the global marketplace” (and get data mined without our consent). Maybe you could trot out Arne Duncan for another round telling us how it is all “state-led”. Or, you could start telling the truth.

A Brief Audit of Bill Gates’ Common Core Spending



by Eric Holcombe:


As you study the Common Core “state” Standards and their roots, who pushes them and who benefits either financially, ideologically (or both simultaneously) you will find many competing interests coming from “both sides” in the two party, Republican vs. Democrat facade. Thus, you will also find some strange bedfellows on both sides of not only the Common Core “state” Standards conspirators, but also those who are digging to expose the truth.



One Way the State Legislature Binds the State and Localities to the Feds

The last sentence of this bill, excluding the date of effect statement, shows how the States incorporate federal law, binding State and local officials to it, per State code.

(g) The policy shall comply with state and federal laws regarding the placements of students.

Bolded for emphasis.

Look at how many of the Republicans who claim to want less federal involvement have already signed on.

Why add the words “federal law” to a State bill, if you want to free yourself from the federal government?  There must be some money involved.  That usually makes principles dissolve quickly.

Big Government Republicans and You

Here we are, another year older and another year wiser. In 2011 we learned that Republicans are not serious about cutting spending. We learned that Republicans are willing to increase taxes in order to cover their horrible spending addiction. We also learned that Republicans like bigger government. Will 2012 be any different? Let’s find out!

The first item of the New Year involved…creating more government! The Tourism Authority would track tourism dollars with the Blount County, City of Alcoa, and City of Maryville governments being involved. This is not a new agency, simply an expansion of an existing one (Folts voted No). By 19 Republicans approving this, the Blount County commission has “…authorized to levy a privilege tax upon the privilege of occupancy in any hotel…not to exceed 5%”. Any business owner not reporting the tax will be charged $50. This agency will not be answerable to the commission and therefore not answerable to the citizens. This, of course, presumes the commission believes itself answerable to its constituents.

The next items were authorizing a $55,000 Debt Service Fund increase (All voted yes), a $19,000 Schools Adult Education budget increase (All voted yes), and a $62,000 General County Visitor Center budget increase (Folts and Hasty voted No). More spending!

And what month would be complete without more grant money? The (20) commissioners who were present voted to apply for The Institute of Museum and Library Services grant. According to the resolution, “…the grant requires no matching money and would be fully funded.” What do they mean it “…would be fully funded?” Do these people not understand that grant money is just money taken from taxpayers? Whatever the government gives, it must first take away.

One of the final items was the adoption of a debt policy that would, “…establish a set of parameters by which debt obligations will be undertaken by the Blount County Government.” Why don’t our commissioners adopt a “No More Spending” Debt Policy? Oh yeah, I forgot, Republicans love big government!

And, in a move that left most of us scratching our heads, Mayor Mitchell appointed ex-Mayor Jerry Cunningham to the Public Building Authority. This is the agency that got us into the million-dollar toxic asset game. Under Jerry Cunningham’s watch, Blount County’s debt went from $60 Million to $250 Million. And this is a guy you want back in government? And despite the fact that our past budget committee has overseen Millions of dollars in spending and recommended little, if any, budget cuts, Mayor Mitchell re-appointed the same folks to this year’s committee. It would appear that Mayor Mitchell is part of the problem.

So, while we may be older and wiser, we can at least rest easy in the fact that we are a year closer to voting these irresponsible commissioners out of office!

Here is the grading scale:

A – Participated in the discussion and voted to uphold the libertarian values of fiscal responsibility and/or personal liberty

B – Did not participate, but voted to uphold libertarian values

C – Participated in the discussion and voted against libertarian values

F – Did not participate and voted against libertarian values

Here are the grades for January: Folts: C; The rest: F.