Bill to Rein in Tennessee School Boards Association May Get New Life

Wednesday afternoon, members of a Tennessee House Education Committee may revive a bill designed to rein in the Tennessee School Boards Association and its alleged financial abuses, according to a source.

More than 90 percent of the TSBA’s $2.2 million revenue in 2016 came from Tennessee taxpayers through dues and no-bid contracts from local school districts. Members of the TSBA, however, won’t abide by the state’s open records laws. They have also shown the public little to no transparency in how they spend money.

The most recent information available is three years old.

State Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, sponsors the bill, HB 1276.

According to the Tennessee General Assembly’s website, the bill would require that local school system personnel post their adopted school budget on the school board’s website before the start of each new school year.

That bill failed in an Education Administration Subcommittee last week, according to the General Assembly’s website.

But a source told The Tennessee Star Wednesday morning that efforts are afoot to recall that bill today. Exactly 50 percent of the full committee members must agree to recall it.

If that happens then committee members will hear the bill again for an up or down vote next week.

Subsequently, legislators will try to add an amendment to clamp down on the TSBA, according to our source.

Per the amendment, Holt’s bill, if enacted into law, would mandate that TSBA’s involvement with school boards show openness and transparency to the public without limiting any of its current functions.

HB 1276, with the added amendment, would make four changes:

• It authorizes and empowers TSBA or any other association to accept school boards as members to encourage and foster cooperation among the school boards of this state. Those functions are identified in detail in HB 1276 and are taken directly from the statute that governs the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents.

• Additionally, the TSBA or any other school board membership organizations or for-profit entities may offer as a vendor their other products and services to school boards but will be subject to the state’s existing procurement laws.

• HB 1276 prohibits the TSBA or any other associations that accept school boards as members from receiving any compensation, contributions or any economic benefit from vendors doing business with or seeking to do business with any Tennessee school boards.

• The TSBA or any associations that accept school boards as members shall be subject to the Tennessee open records and open meetings laws.

A State Comptroller’s audit of TSBA in 2006 “found that a million dollars in public money had allegedly been used for personal purposes.”

In 2016 TSBA’s executive director made $309,892, which was 50 percent higher than the salary of the state commissioner of education and 50 percent higher than the governor’s salary.

The following year the TSBA made $390,653 in investment income from an investment portfolio and $708,665 in profit.

At the end of 2017 the TSBA had $3,293,554 in liquid assets comprised of $625,308 in cash, and $2,668,246 in mutual funds.

Additionally, school vendors pay the TSBA thousands of dollars each year for special access to key local school officials. Through its Business Affiliate Program the TSBA receive a percentage of vendor’s actual revenues generated by sales to Tennessee public schools.

Members of the House Education Committee are scheduled to meet at 3 p.m. Central time in House Hearing Room 1 at the Cordell Hull Building in Nashville.

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]





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