State rep rips AG, education commissioner, the Haslam administration and more on TCAP, calls administration 'laughable,' 'treasonous' and 'Clintonesque'

State Rep. Rick Womick wrote a letter Thursday to Gov. Bill Haslam Chief of Staff Mark Cate, responding, basically, to the administration's decision (and the subsequent imprimatur put on the move by the AG) to allow school districts to seek waivers to the requirement TCAP scores be incorporated into final grades. You'll remember there was a clutch of legislators who thought maybe the state was breaking the law. The AG disagreed.

Womick, to put it mildly, vociferously disagrees with the AG, with Mark Cate, with the governor, with Kevin Huffman and the whole shebang.

The letter in full:

 
Mr. Cate:

Your recent letter dated July 9, 2014, excoriating me and the other fourteen State Representatives for having the audacity to uphold state law, and the Legislative intent behind those laws, is laughable.  But then so is this Administration’s integrity as it pertains to the manipulation of TCAP scores and the treasonous targeting, in this month’s primary, of Republicans who oppose your flawed and failing education policies.

The blatant disregard for state law and the Clintonesque “it all depends on what your definition of the word is, is” spin exhibited by Commissioner Huffman and Attorney General Cooper as it pertains to TCA 49-1-617 is nothing more than an orchestrated cover-up designed to conceal the disastrous TCAP scores and the fraudulent “post equating” process that was used to artificially inflate those final TCAP scores.

Given the Attorney General’s (AG) opinion, it is clear that he has colluded with Commissioner Huffman and the Department of Education (DOE), compromising the integrity of his office, by adopting earlier “talking points” issued by the DOE.  His “opinion” claims that TCAP does not play a role in the State’s student assessment or school accountability efforts, and that the inclusion of TCAP scores required by TCA 49-1-617, “is not required by federal education law…”  The AG goes on to explain that “While final course grades certainly determine a student’s academic performance within his or her school, they appear not to determine student or school performance at the state level.  The requirement of TCA 49-1-617, therefore, can be waived.”  The AG further declares that the statutory requirements of TCA 49-1-617 (d) (1) (J) are not related; in essence he declared that TCA 49-1-201 does not apply to the enforcement of TCA 49-1-617.

What the AG fails to address, and conveniently avoids, is the fact that TCA 49-1-617 is a statute that governs LEA’s and it does determine a student’s performance as it relates to that student’s final spring semester grade.  That is the whole purpose of the law!  It has nothing to do with federal law or the DOE’s performance at the state level!  In TCA 49-1-617 the Tennessee General Assembly has required, by law, that LEA’s will, in the grades 3-8, count at least 15% to 25% of a student’s TCAP score as a part of their final spring semester grade.

Additionally, the recent revision and unanimous passage of TCA 49-1-201 by both houses of the TGA, has specifically denied the commissioner of Education the power to waive any and all state student assessments.  However, in an attempt to conceal the disastrous results of this years TCAP scores and to buy more time to perform “post equating” and the altering of those TCAP scores, Commissioner Huffman’s unauthorized waiving of TCA 49-1-617 has put many LEA’s directly in violation of TCA 49-1-617, since they were unable to acquire TCAP scores and thus ascertain actual final semester grades, that were inclusive of TCAP scores, for their students in grades 3-8.

Furthermore, for the AG to declare that TCA 49-1-201 (d) (1) is not related to certain parts of the TCA as it pertains to public education, renders his entire opinion indefensible.  TCA 49-1-201 specifically defines and limits the Commissioner of Education’s power and jurisdiction, as it pertains to regulatory and statutory requirements governing LEA’s!  Again, we call upon Governor Haslam, to remove Commissioner Huffman as Tennessee’s Education Commissioner on the grounds that he violated, and continues to violate state law, as it is written and intended by the TGA.  Additionally, we request the Governor abandon all Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and return our schools to the Tennessee Diploma Project Standards, which is the will of over 80 State Representatives who voted to repeal CCSS this past spring.

One last item, as it pertains to your claim that “The Administration reached out to every member of the General Assembly…” and the Governor’s publicly professed desire to maintain an “open dialogue” with all Representatives in the Tennessee House; we simply do not see such an attempt.  We have tried to set up multiple appointments with the Governor, we have tried calling the Governor, and we have tried sending letters directly to the Governor, but the best we ever get is a response from one of his unelected minions; case in point, your letter.  His insincerity is on full display, and his direct, personal involvement, in collaboration with you, Jeremy Harrell, Jamie Woodson, SCORE, its Board of Directors, and other Administration officials, in targeting and opposing Republican representatives who don’t agree with his policies, in the recent August 7th primaries, has been fully exposed and will not be tolerated.

In summary, the purpose of this letter is twofold.  First, is the necessity to respond to the untruthful spin you profess regarding the success of Commissioner Huffman and CCSS.  Secondly, this letter is the result of multiple requests by my fellow representatives who want to express their dissatisfaction with Commissioner Huffman, the Administration’s implementation of Common Core State Standards, and the political retribution imposed by the governor upon representatives of the TGA who openly oppose his education policies.  Because of the latter, the names and signatures of other State Senators and State Representatives will not be placed upon this letter.  As duly elected representatives we serve and answer only to those citizens who elected us.  Rest assured, we will continue to represent and listen to them!

Allow me to close with a bit of advice for the future; be careful with whom you choose to pick a fight.  For those of us who are military officers, our Oath of office is for life; it has no statute of limitations.  We are loyal, we are dedicated, we are unwavering, and we are willing to die upholding that oath.  But more specifically, as an old Air Force fighter pilot, we may live in fame, or we may go down in flames, but we will always stand firm and fight!  There are always consequences for decisions we make in life; but woe to those are the repercussions for betrayal and disloyalty.

 
Respectfully,

Rick Womick
State Representative
34th Legislative District