Good afternoon, everyone.
Yesterday, Governor Bill Lee announced his intent to expand the state’s education savings account program to all 95 counties. He called the initiative Education Freedom. There are still a lot of questions that remain unanswered, but his proclamation set the stage for what will be at the top of the legislative agenda in 2024.
It's probably confusing for those not fully abreast of political developments why the topic of education savings accounts—otherwise known as school vouchers—causes such an uproar. On the surface, it's a straightforward proposal: tax dollars follow the student, not the school district. Seems simple enough.
But when you encounter the quasi-religious opposition to it, you start to wonder what is actually going on. Is giving parents options bad ackchyually? What shadowy force could be behind this effort? What's the catch?
To critics, the whole voucher question is a mirage, conjured by the magicians at the Koch Kingdom. Rep. John Ray Clemmons invokes the specter of the Charles Koch Foundation, while Sen. Jeff Yarbro assures us that this “focus of a handful of dark money groups” is absent a "public groundswell" of support. The main counterargument is that only more money will solve America’s deepening education crisis—after all, think of all the jobs that could be lost!
Listening to El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele speak about opposition to his efforts to clean up gang activity in the country, I was struck by the similarity of the language used by critics of school choice. An unnamed advisor warned Bukele that wiping out the deadly MS-13 gang would also destroy 70,000 jobs and leave the families that depended on those "jobs" in the lurch.
It's an admittedly dramatic comparison to make, but the resistance to his efforts has parallels with the resistance put up against the broader school choice movement by teacher's unions and elected officials sympathetic to the public school system.
In the same way that El Salvador was mired in gang activity, preventing it from moving forward on any other initiative, the education system in the United States is forced, time and again, to contend with and bend to the lowest common denominator, its public school system, which drags the broader education ecosystem down with it.
There will be no education renaissance in the United States until parents and children are free of its monopolistic hold on their minds. I look forward to the day when that is no longer the case.
✹ BLACKBURN BASHES BOND-FREE RELEASE
Yesterday, Senator Marsha Blackburn issued a press release drawing attention to a brutal murder in Memphis. On Monday, 18-year-old Edio White, one of two men charged with murdering a 15-year-old boy on Thanksgiving Day, appeared in the court before leaving bond-free. The murder is allegedly linked to a firearm robbery gone wrong after the men targeted the victim at his residence.
“After fatally shooting a 15-year-old in the head, the Memphis man responsible for his death has been released from custody,” Blackburn posted on X. “He wasn’t even required to pay bond. Criminals belong behind bars. Not out on the streets.”
NASHVILLE HAS A REPEAT OFFENDER PROBLEM
Various “catch and release” policies have also cropped up in Music City. Though normally reserved for discussions about immigration, lately the term has been used to describe the cities’ inept way of dealing with repeat offenders. Just yesterday, MNPD booked Corye Stone, 18, for carjacking a 66-year-old woman at gunpoint in the Charlotte Pike Kroger parking lot. Prior to this incident, according to criminal records, Stone had been arrested for firearm theft on three separate occasions since June.
The tragic murder of Jillian Ludwig by Shaquille Taylor earlier this month has also raised new questions concerning “catch and release” and mental health. Taylor was out on $20,000 bail for a carjacking offense at the time of the Belmont shooting. A repeat violent offender, he was not in jail because he was deemed too incompetent to stand trial by Davidson County for a previous aggravated assault conviction, but did not meet the threshold for involuntary commitment.
Taylor is currently in jail with a $280,000 bond “on charges of aggravated assault and evidence tampering.”
HAGERTY WANTS ANSWERS
In a press release this morning, Hagerty attached the letter he and 22 other Republican senators sent to the president yesterday regarding the administration’s executive order on “promoting access to voting.”
“We are concerned by your failure to respond to our previous inquiry on May 10, 2023,” reads the first line. “...we write to reiterate our request for information regarding the implementation of this executive order, including copies of the plans submitted to the White House.”
The administration’s EO “directs more than 600 federal agencies to engage in voter registration and mobilization efforts, despite a lack of congressional appropriation or authorization for these agencies to engage in such activity.”
❏ CHRISTMAS TREE LIGHTING
Last week, David and Sherry Caldwell donated a 30-foot Norway Spruce “which has lived in their yard for the past two decades” for the city's 24th annual Christmas tree lighting. Mayor O’Connell has invited Nashvillians to join in the festivities at Public Square Park this Friday at 5:30 p.m.
There will be performances by both the Andrew Jackson Elementary School choir and local singer and actress Grace Leer (from Hallmark’s Time for Her to Come Home for Christmas). Local mascots Gnash, T-Rac, Booster, SheRuff and Socket will be on hand to help light up the tree.
We recommend you bring an unwrapped toy for the Metro Nashville Police Department’s Christmas Basket Program, an annual tradition that’s been running since 1961 and inspired by the numerous disadvantaged families officers encountered on the job.
Tennessee could face electricity challenges during extreme winter weather (WSMV) The big takeaways, according to NERC, are that generator fuel supplies remain at risk during extreme, long-duration cold weather events, and underestimating demand is a reliability risk in extreme cold temperatures.
BNA introduces short-term parking at a reduced rate in the terminal garages amid congestion issues (Channel 5) The parking is being introduced to reduce curbside congestion with the plans beginning December 1. The reduced rates will apply to the Terminal Garage 1 and Terminal Garage 2 lots. In addition to the reduced rates, TDOT is working to expedite the realignment of Donelson Pike, which will help the roadway expansion speed up as well.
Tennessee House Resolution Joins Other States In Call For Congressional Term Limits (TCN) According to PEW research center, 87%, an overwhelming majority of Americans, favor term limits for members of Congress.
- Rock Harbor Marina Moves Forward, Unveils Public Survey Results In Nashville (Now Next)
- West Harpeth Partners unveils plans for 600-acre luxury community in Franklin (NBJ)
- Unique boutique hotel opens its doors in downtown historic building (NBJ)
- Yazoo Brewing announces partnership (NBJ)
- Indian restaurant planned for Hillsboro Village (Post)
THINGS TO DO
📅 Visit our On The Radar list to find upcoming events around Nashville.
📰 Check out the full newsletter archive here.
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