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VOL. 133 | NO. 80 | Friday, April 20, 2018


Bill Dries

Last Word: TNReady Blinks Again, Gov. Debate Thoughts and Mud Island's Museum

By Bill Dries

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There was a point Thursday morning during the troubled TNReady testing at some Tennessee school districts when there was a “brief” slow down in the online testing, according to the Tennessee Education commissioner’s office. By noon that had been resolved and more than 250,000 completed tests had been submitted since testing began Monday. One can only imagine what some of the thoughts were in the office during the slow down and the gap between how long the slow down seemed and how long it actually was.

In the Tennessee Legislature Thursday, the slow down was a factor as the House passed a bill that holds schools, students and teachers harmless because of the earlier problems with TNReady testing – meaning the test results can’t be used to evaluate the performance of schools or teachers including grading schools. And local school boards will determine how much the TNReady scores will count toward a student’s final grade on a rage of 0 to 15 percent.

Chalkbeat tracks the rapid action in the House for the amendment that goes to the Senate Monday and which Gov. Bill Haslam has said he will sign it.

The National Walk Out protest came a day earlier here than in other parts of the country where students will protest gun violence with a walk out. In Memphis, Shelby County Schools estimated about 20 schools had some form of the protest. Most of those protests including some kind of program from balloon releases to speeches before the walk out by students involved in the movement to other forms of expression beyond simply walking out of class.

The Tennessee state House voted Tuesday to strike $250,000 in state funding for the Memphis bicentennial observance next year and by Wednesday morning a GoFundMe page was up and running. By Thursday afternoon, the page had raised more than $56,000.

The state budget minus the $250,000 in funding toward the Memphis bicentennial was approved by the House. The state Senate passed its version of the $37.5 billion state budget Thursday evening without such an amendment leaving some differences to be settled next week on the two different versions.

Three Shelby County House members voted against an unsuccessful attempt to table the cut in funding earlier this week. They are: Democrat John Deberry and Republicans Ron Lollar and Kevin Vaughan. Voting for the motion to table in the Shelby delegation: Democrats Raumesh Akbari, Karen Camper, Barbara Cooper, G.A. Hardaway, Larry Miller, Antonio Parkinson, Dwayne Thompson, Joe Towns Jr and Johnnie Turner along with Republicans Jim Coley and Mark White.

Other notes from Nashville: the work requirement for TennCare is on its way to the governor’s desk where Haslam is expected to sign it. And a bill to ban smoking in a car when a child is present dies in the Senate.

President Donald Trump says he will campaign in Tennessee in behalf of Republican U.S. Senate contender and U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn.

The day after the televised Memphis debate among three of the four major Republican contenders for Tennessee Governor Downtown, a lot of discussion about how much Bill Lee, Diane Black and Randy Boyd were talking to more conservative parts of the state that were a large part of delivering the state’s 11 electoral votes to Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential general election. Away from the spin at the Halloran Centre that came directly from the three campaigns, there was the reaction among business leaders in the audience at the forum sponsored by the Greater Memphis Chamber.

The debate that featured our publisher Eric Barnes on the panel was televised across the state. For that reason some thought Lee, Black and Boyd were burnishing their conservative credentials for the party base in other places in a broadcast from a city carried by Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton with 60 percent of the vote. And if that was the case they were doing it by using Memphis as a very incidental backdrop.

There were local leaders and movers and shakers in the same room for the broadcast deeply involved in the move to expand prekindergarten – Republicans and Democrats -- who heard the trio say without hesitation they oppose universal pre-k. The three also think City Hall shouldn’t have removed the Confederate monuments, which they each equated with being history, but said the Legislature was wrong to cut city funding. And they each support arming school teachers. Some of the spectators weren’t happy with what they heard on all three issues – others on one or two of the three. Others took a ride or die approach -- willing to believe the three were “saying what they have to say” to the base for the primary. And still others were vowing to remember and remind them of what they said if they advance to the general election after the August primary.

From its start last year, the Republican primary for Governor has been about who is closest to Trump ideologically. And it is that competition that was front and center Wednesday.

Mud Island's Mississippi River Museum closes early this season at the river park for a review of the 35-year old institution.

More on changing up the Mud Island Mississippi River Museum from the new president of the Riverfront Development Corporation. Carol Coletta begins her official duties at the RDC effective Friday morning. The museum, as we reported last week, will have a shorter season than the rest of the park. It will close to the public after the Fourth of July weekend to take public input on how to update and freshen up a museum that has had some upgrades over the year but still has a lot of its original features including dioramas.

You can see our full discussion with Coletta about the riverfront in full on “Behind The Headlines” which airs Friday at 7 p.m. on WKNO TV. And stay tuned Friday morning for an announcement about the RDC on this website and our other social media outlets.

Mike Conley is a crucial piece of the disassembled puzzle that is the Memphis Grizzlies between a disastrous season and one still to be played.

In Don Wade’s Press Box column a call to make J.B. Bickerstaff the permanent Grizz head coach.

And more detail on the optimism among the Grizz at the end of a disastrous season about what the new season could bring. Plus some insight into how things could have gone differently especially in the sacking of coach David Fizdale.

The four-way competition to be the Tigers quarterback in the new season is now a three-way competition.

Phil Fulmer’s new deal at UT athletic director comes in at around $900,000 a year.

New chef at The Brass Door.

State budgets cuts in Mississippi two years ago a factor in plans to raise tuition next fall by an average of 4 percent at Mississippi’s eight public universities.

The cover story by Patrick Lantrip in the new issue of our weekly, The Memphis News, sets the scene for next week’s RegionSmart gathering we are a part of along with the Urban Land Institute. The speakers will talk about a different way of looking at economic development that is more about retaining people already here and the economic equity that can happen when that is the case.

The PDF of the new issue is up now on this website. The hard copies hit the streets Friday morning and the online version of the cover story goes up here Friday afternoon.

PROPERTY SALES 69 163 12,921
MORTGAGES 35 85 8,088
BUILDING PERMITS 109 531 30,465
BANKRUPTCIES 18 85 6,149