JC Bowman of Professional Educators Discusses Change of BEP to TISA, Education Funding Creating Even More Bureaucracy

Live from Music Row Wednesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed Executive Director & CEO of Professional Educators of Tennessee JC Bowman to explain the change of the Basic Education Program to the new TISA (Tennessee Investment and Student Achievement) and how it will create another level of bureaucracy.

Leahy: We welcome to our newsmaker line right now, the founder and president of Professional Educators of Tennessee, our very good friend, JC Bowman. Good morning, JC.

Bowman: Good morning, Michael. How are you doing today?

Leahy: I’m glad to have you here to help us unravel this new education funding program. Where are we on it? It’s called TISA. T-I-S-A. It replaces B-E-P – Basic Education Program. What does TISA stand for? Where is it now?

Bowman: Well, it’s the Tennessee Investment and Student Achievement, is what it’s called now, replacing the Basic Education Program, which we used previously. So where is it at now? Now they are soliciting input, the State Department is, on how to implement the law that passed the General Assembly.

And to give you an idea, that would be like … it looks great, getting input. And they’ll get input from, I guarantee, from stakeholders that they want, like SCORE [State Collaborative on Reforming Education] will put in there, here’s what we think it should look like.

Leahy: Who are those folks at SCORE?

Bowman: It’s the group founded by Senator Frist and Governor Bredesen, and they’re the ones who really drive a lot of the education policy in the state. And they’re funded by Bill Gates.

Leahy: Bill Gates, hmmmm … not exactly a friend to what we would call traditional education values.

Bowman: No, but the process is they’ll go in and solicit input. But the average citizen doesn’t know how to implement how you’re going to fund public schools. I mean, they have ideas. Parents may have ideas.

We go with catchphrases – and this is a season of politics, so we’re all used to [hearing] this is a conservative, everybody’s “a conservative” in the primary.

But what’s going to end up happening, or if you’re a Democrat, you’ll be progressive. They’re going to do their labels. Whether they really are or not depends on the beholder. But basically, at the end of the day, they’re soliciting input.

The average citizen doesn’t understand, and quite frankly, the average legislator doesn’t understand how the implementation is going to become. And my fear, and it’s been the fear from the onset, it’s going to become a bureaucratic nightmare.

Leahy: Let me add to that, JC. The average radio host does not understand how TISA will be implemented. Could you give us just a little brief snapshot of how it differs from the Basic Education Program, or BEP? And I’m going to try to keep my eyes open and hope that they won’t glaze over as you go into the details here.

Bowman: What they’re saying is its child-centered funding. Well, the truth is BDP was also child-centered funding. And in essence, if the child wasn’t enrolled in the school, the school did not get the money. So that’s not changing.

But what they’re going to start doing now is going to pay, they’re going to get additional dollars if a child is in poverty. You’re going to get additional money if the child is in special education, you’re going to get additional money if the child is in this category or that category.

And if you go to take CTE courses, you’re going to get additional money for these various items. So money will come in based upon certain indicators. Sounds good, in theory.

The implication, though, of that, it’s going to become a, this is going to mean the Tennessee Department of Education probably will dictate the curriculum choices, the programs, they’re going to control the money, even more, create a bureaucracy.

I mean, if you’re in a school and you’re having to enroll a child, the very first thing is, for example, if Michael Leahy enrolls in Westside Elementary School. You come in, and the thing we’re going to do is go, okay, let’s see, Michael, you need to take some courses.

Daddy needs money. Mama needs a new car, or whatever. You’re going to take some CTE courses. We’re going to be enrolling you. You may be special ed, you may not be special ed.

We’re going to start classifying you. You’re in the poverty area. We can get you into that. But then you’re going to be … again, here’s how you grow the bureaucracy, because now every school is going to have to have these enrollment people at every school level.

And then if you don’t do it and you don’t check those boxes, you don’t get the money. This means if you don’t get the money, then you can’t have the program. I don’t know if that makes sense, but that is in a nutshell how it works.

Leahy: It kind of confuses me. (Chuckles) But tell me if I’m wrong on this: I thought when the law was passed, everything was settled, and yet now there’s this feedback period that’s involved. What will change based upon the feedback?

Bowman: Hopefully, like, for example, dyslexia. There’s going to be some issues with the dyslexia thing. The dyslexia advocates, which are fierce – I helped write the dyslexia law in Tennessee.

By the way, The Tennessee Star was a champion of that, and people don’t know that, but you are probably the first newspaper outlet in the state to carry a lot of the material, because what was happening in that area was these kids literally were told, you don’t get any help. You get no dollars, you don’t get anything.

And sorry, you don’t get to do well, and your test scores count even if the kid doesn’t get the time to take the test. We’ve been working on how to fix it, and now you’re going to get additional money.

So these advocates for the dyslexia community were fierce advocates thinking that they would get additional dollars for their children, and now they’re finding out that they actually may end up getting less money for their kids.

And so they’re pretty upset. I’ve talked to some members of the dyslexia community who feel like they were led astray by the Department of Education, and I’m shocked that they are shocked.

Leahy: Shocked that somebody was led astray by the Department of Education?

Bowman: Yes, shocked.

Leahy: And in other news, there’s gambling in Casablanca. (Laughter)

To learn more about Professional Educators of Tennessee, visit them on the web at proedtn.org

Listen to the interview:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Reporwith Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “JC Bowman” by JC Bowman






























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