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Fire it up on Moccasin Bend

Getting the lead out is taking on a whole new meaning at the Moccasin Bend police firing range.

The 35-acre range is not as attractive to city and county officials as a continuing site for police training if the lead those officers are leaving in the ground is polluting the Tennessee River and is an actionable environmental violation.

On Sept. 29, you read here that the National Park Service's environmental cleanup assessment found that the firing range appears to be contaminating the Tennessee River. According to the assessment, sediment and soil samples found lead concentrations ranging from nearly three times to more than 500 times the so-called "safe" level. And the sediment samples were collected from two drainage ditches that discharge storm water into the nearby Tennessee River. Further, the surface water in those drainage ditches exceeded EPA's drinking water maximum contamination level for lead.

The assessment also found that a fire pit police had used to burn "cardboard targets, ammunition boxes and household trash" contained lead and arsenic, and was potentially leeching naphthalene, selenium and mercury into the groundwater under the Bend.

After a Friday Page 1 story, local officials suddenly are more interested in reviewing their recent decision not to move the gun range off the Bend and donate the land to the National Park Service -- something that had been planned for years.

Now state and federal environmental officials likely will be making further investigations into the pollution, and U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, in the throes of a re-election bid, has said he is picking up the torch to push making the firing range "a beautiful addition to the national park."

With these serious and ongoing water pollution concerns, city and county officials may be finding it more attractive to take up the Friends of Moccasin Bend National Park on the group's offer to help pay the estimated $1.2 million cleanup cost.

Who says pollution's all bad?

The partisan side of education reform

Isn't it odd that politicians always "support education" but rarely like any specific program or funding plan for education?

Take Lamar Alexander, for instance. Here's a lifelong education hugger -- once even the president of the University of Tennessee. Yet this same education reformer who, as George H.W. Bush's education secretary, pushed America 2000's national standards in five core subjects now says he can't get behind Common Core because "Washington got involved."

He said "Washington," but he meant Democrats and Barack Obama.

And he called Bush's effort a "strategy" not a "plan." And he termed it "voluntary," not, in essence, "a national school board."

When he and H.W. outlined education reform, the idea was "they [new standards] would be agreed upon by the governors, and the Congress was to stay out of it. That was the deal," Alexander said. "And we began to develop those with states working together."

The once-moderate Republican Alexander, trying to lean to the right and fan the flames of knee-jerk conservative rhetoric, is conveniently choosing to ignore the fact that the Common Core standards were an initiative of the National Governors Association and top education officials of several states.

Instead, Alexander says the Obama administration is muscling states into accepting Common Core through waivers that will allow them out of George W. Bush's "No Child Left Behind" program.

"No Child Left Behind, passed in 2001, was out of date, [and] is not operable unless you get a waiver from some of its provisions," Alexander told reporters and editors of the Chattanooga Times Free Press last week. "You have to apply to the secretary of education to get a waiver."

Alexander said Education Secretary Arne Duncan is telling governors: "I'll give you one [waiver] -- but only if you'll do the following six things: Adopt this academic standard, Common Core, or one other [standard]. Adopt this test, adopt this way of dealing with failing schools, adopt this way to evaluate teachers. And then I'll give it to you.

Wait: If a state has to get a waiver out of No Child Left Behind, then wasn't No Child Left Behind nationalized?

Yet Alexander has the gall to continue: "So, he's [Obama] nationalizing the decisions that ought to be made by the states."

What better example do we need to understand precisely why states -- and certainly Tennessee -- can't be left to educate in isolation?

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