Nashville: Education, tort reforms part of Haslam legislative package

Nashville: Education, tort reforms part of Haslam legislative package

February 17th, 2011 by Andy Sher in Local - Breaking News

Gov. Haslam

Gov. Haslam

NASHVILLE - Gov. Bill Haslam unveiled his first legislative package this morning with plans to make it tougher to become and remain a teacher, let charter schools accept children from middle-class and wealthy families and cap jury awards in medical malpractice and injury lawsuits for non-economic damages.

In remarks after meeting with top Republican House and Senate leaders, Haslam said Tennessee has made "great progress" as a result of changes to teacher tenure made last year when the state successfully sought to qualify for $500 million in federal Race to the Top funds.

"But what we want to make certain is we continue to do that and we don't continue to stay in the 40s (rankings) in education," Haslam said. "These are all changes that are focused on making the classroom the best it can be."

His proposals would increase probationary periods for would-be teachers from three to five years and require teachers to achieve the top two of five possible rankings in years four and five.

Even then, tenure won't be what it is today. Teachers would find themselves on probation if they fall into the lower two effectiveness rankings for any two consecutive years, Haslam said.

The governor proposed doing away with the current 90-school limit on charter schools across the state. He is also opening up enrollment beyond students who are on free and reduced lunch programs, which is used as a definition for poverty.

Haslam said his tort reform proposal, which among other things would cap awards for non-economic damages to $750,000, is intended to "make sure there aren't states around us that don't have more welcoming climates around us than we have."

Meanwhile, Haslam said he wants to let lottery scholarships fund college students who attend summer school. Other proposals calls for reducing the number of Tennessee Regulatory Authority members from four to three.

For complete details, see tomorrow's Times Free Press.