Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn’s Leadership Polarizing Many, According to Some Educators


Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn may have lost the confidence of some influential people in Tennessee, at least according to a new editorial that the Professional Educators of Tennessee (PET) published this week.

The Nashville-based PET is a statewide professional association of educators, according to its website.

PET cited, among other things, a high turnover rate within the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) under Schwinn’s leadership. Members of the group also cited a growing number of assistant commissioners making six-figure salaries and the way Schwinn has managed state education during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The PET editorial said members of the Tennessee General Assembly might consider submitting a letter to Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee expressing no confidence in Schwinn’s leadership.

No one in either Lee’s office or the TDOE returned The Tennessee Star’s requests for comment Thursday.

“Legislators, especially those that champion limited government, are likely to question the number of chiefs or assistant commissioners at the Department of Education, which has increased from the 13 under Commissioner McQueen to roughly 23 chiefs or assistant commissioners under Commissioner Schwinn,” according to PET’s editorial.

“Our estimate is that the average salary of these chiefs and assistants exceeds $135,000 yearly. There were several lower-salaried employee positions eliminated and many of those were not replaced. However, the savings were not realized by taxpayers, but merely shifted into higher salaries for other staff with new job titles. What Legislators should look at is simple: Has service to districts, parents, and educators improved under Schwinn or not? Ultimately, that is the question for lawmakers and the Governor to decide.”

As reported last year, the TDOE had experienced a 19 percent turnover rate under Schwinn after nine months. Previous commissioners had rates between 9 percent and 14 percent.

PET, in its editorial, said its criticism of Schwinn has focused on how she’s handled COVID-19.

“Should Commissioner Schwinn be given a no-confidence vote? That is not our decision to make, nor are we advocating it,” PET wrote.

“We want her, or anyone in that office, to simply make Tennessee educators and students their only priority. And we will never apologize for speaking up for our educators and students.”

As The Star reported this week, the organization Tennessee Stands called Schwinn a leftist and a statist who wants the government to have too great of a role developing public school students.

As reported last year, Schwinn, a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, began her career in education working as a teacher for Teach for America.

Teach for America is a controversial non-profit organization that pays new college graduates to teach in urban schools as part of its mission to address “educational inequity” and “help children overcome obstacles like systemic racism and poverty.”

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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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5 Thoughts to “Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn’s Leadership Polarizing Many, According to Some Educators”

  1. Big D

    Not only do we see that she is left of center by far…But now they are pushing policies that want the state (TN) to do welness checks on every child and take away parental rights https://www.naturalnews.com/2020-08-31-tennessee-to-interrogate-every-child-without-parents.html#

    We’re is the outrage! They literally wanted a Soviet style check system and the governor was OK with this. Then when they got caught It was like “we missed that”. This is politics! Everything is intentional and this is a move directly out of the communist playbook! None of this program should see the light of day period. By the way if you research it they are talking about changing the language and the program it NOT ending or getting rid of the program. That should tell everyone what many of your “Republican” legislature and Governor truly believe and there allegiance belong and it’s not to the people, true republicanism, conservatism, Tennessee, or America for which she stands!

  2. Dave

    I strongly urge every Tennessean to make your voice heard on this issue! Here’s the link to e-mail Gov. Lee:


  3. 83ragtop50

    A disaster from the git go. Heck, Tennessee schools were already so left leaning that they were ready to topple. Schwinn is just the last straw. Thanks, Governor Lee. You really blew it. Probably going to make you a one term governor when combined with all of your other big government actions.

  4. Boyd

    We don`t need Liberal indoctrination in Tennessee schools. Replace her with a true Conservative.

  5. rick

    Send this liberal nutcase packing, Schwinn has to go. The head of the Dept of Education needs to come from Tennessee, end of story. What in the world was Gov Lee thinking when they hired this zero.