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MONDAY, MARCH 26, 2012 Like never before, teachers under scrutiny (Star Tribune) Sarah Johnson's work begins long before the school bell rings. First up is a meeting with a fellow teacher to talk about how a lesson was paced. Did you finish before the class was over? Did students have a chance to ask questions? Did they seem interested? As one of nine teachers trained to evaluate first-year educators in St. Paul Public Schools, it's her job to identify the teachers who are excelling and those wh
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    MONDAY, MARCH 26, 2012Like never before, teachers under scrutiny (Star Tribune) Sarah Johnson's work begins long before the school bell rings. First up is a meeting with a fellow teacher to talkabout how a lesson was paced. Did you finish before the class was over? Did students have a chance to askquestions? Did they seem interested? As one of nine teachers trained to evaluate first-year educators in St. PaulPublic Schools, it's her job to identify the teachers who are excelling and those who are floundering. It's up to herto help them become better teachers. Never has that job been more crucial. I think all teachers are feeling asense of urgency and a need to improve, Johnson said. How teachers perform in the classroom is underunprecedented and intensifying scrutiny in Minnesota, where all of the state's 52,000 public schoolteachers willsoon be subject to an annual evaluation for the first time. Adding to the pressure, would-be teachers will have topass a basic-skills test before they even set foot in the classroom. Teacher seniority protections also are underfire from lawmakers and parents eager to make educators more accountable.  TN pain pill bill faces opposition (Tennessean/Rau) Critics say measure raises costs, favors some drugmakers Proposed state legislation pitched as a tool to reduceprescription pain pill abuse and overdose deaths in Tennessee has drawn concern from some lawmakers whosay it is really designed to steer more business to major pharmaceutical companies. The House bill would requirepharmacists to dispense tamper-resistant pain pills, which are produced by pharmaceutical companies like Endoand Pfizer. The tamper-resistant pills cannot be crushed in order to be snorted or injected, a practice thatproponents of the bill say increases the chances of overdose. Pointing to a rise in overdose deaths inTennessee, supporters say the bill would reduce prescription pain pill abuse, which is a growing problem in thestate. A 2010 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that Tennessee ranked No. 8nationally in drug overdose deaths. In response to the growing problem in Tennessee, the legislature passed alaw last year creating unprecedented regulations for pain management clinics, where prescriptions for the drugsare most frequently written.|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE  'Risque dressing' measure advances (Associated Press/Johnson) Prohibits inappropriate attire in Tenn. schools Three years ago, state Rep. Joe Towns failed to make Tennesseethe first state to fine teenagers for wearing saggy britches. Now the Memphis Democrat has a morecomprehensive measure that would prohibit risque dressing in schools -- and its chances of passage arelooking good. The proposal is headed for a House floor vote and is moving steadily in the Senate. The bill seeksto prohibit students from exposing underwear or body parts in an indecent manner that disrupts the learningenvironment. It means that in addition to boys not letting their pants sag, female student athletes might berequired to wear shirts over their sports bras if they were deemed inappropriate by school officials. It's raisingthe standard of dress when they're attending public schools, Towns said. It specifically states that they cannotcome to the schools with their buttocks displayed, breast and things displayed -- risque dressing. Currently,Arkansas and Florida are the only states to target schools with a saggy pants ban, according to the NationalConference of State Legislatures. Alabama is considering a similar bill that would ban saggy pants in public inone of its counties. That measure unanimously passed the Alabama House and is currently in the Senate.   Sponsor of ‘pull up   pants’ bill says it’s about decency, not skin color (TFP/Garrett) If you ask 17-year- old Jassiem Robertson when and why he started sagging his pants down low, he’ll tell you hedoesn’t really remember. “I’ve been sagging since the cradle,” Robertson said, sitting outside Howard Scho ol ofAcademics and Technology, waiting for the bell to ring so he can shimmy his shorts a little lower than teachers   2 will allow. He proudly lifts his shirt to show where he is wearing the waistline that day. Only a little underwearshows. Maybe it was the rappers on television or the guys who got out of prison and slung their pants low cause they weren’t allowed to wear belts in the pen. Maybe it was because people in his neighborhoods couldn’t afford belts. Maybe it was just style, a way to stick it to th e man, he says. “Some think that saggin’ is swaggin’,” he said.“It makes you feel like you got money in your pockets,” said Dameion Reynolds, 18, a friend sitting nearby. But no matter the reason, the style is on the hit list of many teachers, parents, police officers and politicians — blackand white — who want the younger generation of men, and some women, to pull their pants up and have tried just about everything to get that to happen.  Ed Arnold, former state representative, dies at 77 (Knoxville News-Sentinel) Edwin Ed Arnold, a former state representative and assistant district for Blount, Roane and Loudon counties,has died. He was 77. Mr. Arnold was killed Saturday morning when he stepped into traffic on Interstate 40 to helphis grandson, who had just been in a wreck, according to the Tennessee Highway Patrol. Mr. Arnold received hisundergraduate degree from the University of Tennessee and his law degree from Cumberland University inLebanon, Tenn. Arnold was active in the Loudon community as a member of the Jaycees, Lions Club and FirstBaptist Church in Loudon. He served in the Legislature from 1963 to 1967 and became assistant attorneygeneral for Blount, Loudon and Roane counties. Family will receive friends 12-1:30 p.m. and 5-7 p.m. today atFirst Baptist Church, 413 Wharf Street, Loudon. Services will follow at 7:30 p.m., with Rev. Richard Everettofficiating.   Hamilton County facing tight budget for the 2013 fiscal year (TFP/Haman) Hamilton County’s budget season is cranking up, and Mayor Jim Coppinger says he’s asking elected officials and department heads to keep their be lts cinched tight. Coppinger said he’s not sure what the numbers will look like for the 2013 fiscal year that starts July 1, but he predicts it will be another lean one — though not likely onerequiring another round of layoffs. Last year the county cut more than 50 positions and laid off 36 workers,though about 10 were rehired in different positions. This year, he said he hopes there will be enough money to boost compensation for county employees, who have gone without a raise since fiscal 2009. “The goal of thisbudget is to be able to present a budget without a tax increase, and also to be able to look at some type of compensation for employees,” Coppinger said. Proposed budgets will be submitted to Coppinger in the next few weeks, and serious talks about priorities will take place in May, the mayor said.  What to do about officers' pension? Knox County officials split (NS/Donila) Knox County Sheriff Jimmy J.J. Jones wants the Knox County Commission to analyze his department'smultimillion-dollar pension program and decide whether voters have a say in its future. County Mayor TimBurchett wants it left in the hands of the Charter Review Committee. Jones says it's too complicated an issue forthat. He says the commission is already well-versed and wouldn't need much time to figure out what changes areneeded to save money. Burchett disagrees and says a committee could be brought up to speed in 15 minutes.He doesn't want it changed. He wants it closed. The two have been advocating and opposing the retirementprogram for months now, and a Charter Review Committee that meets Wednesday could provide more clarityinto which board tackles the issue. At this point, however, it's still somewhat foggy, but committee membersappear to lean toward debating the issue themselves and not forwarding it on to the commission.   3 epic days: Health care law reaches high court (USA Today) Health coverage for more than 30 million people. The power of Congress to regulate interstate commerce.President Obama's re-election. The reputation of the Supreme Court and the legacy of its chief justice. And tohear some tell it: liberty. All that and more could be at stake today when the Supreme Court begins three days ofhistoric oral arguments on a 2010 health care law that has become a symbol of the nation's deep political divide.Not since the court confirmed George W. Bush's election in December 2000 — before 9/11, Afghanistan andIraq, Wall Street's dive and Obama's rise — has one case carried such sweeping implications for nearly everyAmerican. There's never been anything this big that the federal government has require d … to which the states were not given an opt-out, says former Florida attorney general Bill McCollum, a Republican who filed the first lawsuit against thePatient Protection and Affordable Care Act on March 23, 2010, the day it became law. It's the totality of this, the enormity   3 of it. You've got just unbelievable repercussions here. The stakes couldn't be any higher, says Tom Daschle,the former Senate Democratic leader who helped lead the previous effort to change the health care system in1993-94.  Stakes huge as Supreme Court takes up health care reform law (McClatchy) This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on health care reform — a historic case that will affectmillions of Americans, likely have an impact on the fall presidential election and set the direction of Americanhealth care in the near future. The six hours of oral arguments over three days are the longest set aside to hear acase since 1966 and may have as far- reaching implications as 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education, the decision that integrated public education. Technically, the justices are examining the Florida v. the U.S. Department ofHealth and Human Services case. It comes to the high court from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta and has been joined by 26 other states, including Georgia and Alabama, but not Tennessee. “As I speak to the  justices, I wish them the wisdom of Solomon,” Dr. Clif Cleaveland said last week during a public forum at theUniversity of Tennessee at Chattanooga to discuss the case and its potential political fallout. “They have an enormous challenge on t heir plate. These are tough, tough decisions with moral implications.” Retired Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Mickey Barker; Tony Hullender, general counsel for BlueCrossBlueShield of Tennessee; and UTC economist Bruce Hutchinson also participated in the forum held Wednesday.  In Health Care Case, Lawyers Train for 3-Day Marathon (New York Times) The three days of Supreme Court arguments that start Monday on the constitutionality of President Obama’s health care law will be a legal marathon, and the lawyers involved have been training. Last week, there were somany of the mock arguments that lawyers call moot courts that they threatened to exhaust something that hadnever been thought in short supply: Washington lawyers willing to pretend to be Supreme Court justices. Theproblem, said Paul D. Clement, who represents the 26 states challenging the law, was not just the length of thearguments the court will hear, but the variety of topics to be addressed. The law itself is a sprawling revision ofthe health care system meant to provide coverage to tens of millions of previously uninsured Americans byimposing new requirements on states, employers and insurance companies and, through what has been calledthe individual mandate, by requiring most Americans to obtain insurance or pay a penalty. The decision in thecase will have enormous practical consequences for how health care is delivered in the United States. (SUBSCRIPTION) Supreme Court hears first issue: jurisdiction (Stateline) Seen by supporters as the Obama administration’s signal achievement, the Affordable Care Act was challenged the day it was signed, March 23, 2010. Within months of its passage, 30 separate lawsuits had been filed againstit, several involving states as plaintiffs. One — brought by Florida and joined by 25 other states and the NationalFederation of Independent Businesses — was accepted on appeal by the Supreme Court last November. The process that begins with today’s arguments may lead to a clear decision by the end of June. That is, unl ess thecourt rules that the centerpiece of the law, the so-called individual mandate, is not ripe for a decision until 2015. It is this jurisdictional question that will dominate today’s initial court consideration. Anti -injunction At issue is a19th century anti-injunction statute that bars courts from litigating a tax case until the tax in question has beenlevied. Without that law, experts say, citizens would cry foul every time a new tax law was enacted. If judgesenjoined every tax law upon enactment, the federal government would be unable to raise revenues. So courtsmust wait until the tax is in effect. Shoppers count days to Opry Mills' return (Tennessean/Marsteller) Shuttered since 2010, mall opens Thursday For Kathy Myers, Opry Mills was more than just a mall. Sure, theGoodlettsville woman shopped at the sprawling 1.2 million-square-foot venue for shoes, clothes, home decor andother items. But Opry Mills also was where she entertaine d visiting family and friends. It’s where she caught thelatest movie releases. And it’s where her daughter, now in the U.S. Navy, worked her first job. That seemingly ended when the Cumberland River overflowed its banks in May 2010, swamping Opry Mills with up to 10 feet ofmurky water and forcing its closure. Ever since, Myers has had to shop, entertain and watch movies elsewhere —   grudgingly. “I really missed the mall,” she said. “I haven’t forgotten it. A lot of people haven’t forgotten.” That’s what Opry Mills officials are counting on as they prepare to reopen the venue after making an estimated $200million in repairs. It will reopen at 10 a.m. Thursday after a ribbon-cutting ceremony. When it does, it will be in a changedretail climate. Despite recent gains in consumer spending, shoppers remain price-conscious. They also have grown   4 accustomed to spending their money elsewhere during Opry Mills’ absence.|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE  Time Not on Side of the Jobless (Wall Street Journal) The job market is improving — but not for everyone. In recent months, employers have stepped up hiring, layoffshave slowed and the unemployment rate has begun to fall more quickly. But the rosier picture hasn't been aboon to everyone without a job. In February, 3.5% of the U.S. work force was unemployed for more than sixmonths, compared with 4.0% in February of 2010, a smaller decline than in the overall jobless rate. The averageunemployed worker has been jobless for 40 weeks, a mark that has barely budged in the past six months. Thediverging fortunes of the long and short-term unemployed worry many economists because it suggests theemergence of deeper, structural problems that could persist long after the rest of the economy recovers. Ratherthan returning to work as the economy recovers, as they have after past U.S. recessions, the long-termunemployed could effectively break off from the normal job market, ultimately forming an underclass of the moreor less permanently unemployed. It's really as though you just take a certain number of workers and just chopthem off, throw them away and the rest of the economy behaves just fine, said Laurence Ball, an economicsprofessor at Johns Hopkins University. I've been surprised that this isn't viewed as more of a crisis. (SUBSCRIPTION) La Vergne computer repair class opens doors to jobs in IT world (Gannett) Frank Cathey has one ground rule for students in his computer repair class at La Vergne High. “I tell them toleave high school at the door,” he said. “When they come in here, it’s job training. In here, they’re myemployees.” Cathey began the school’s computer program in 1988, when La Vergne High first opened. “Backthen, everything we did was writing programming, mostly in DOS,” Cathey said. “Now, mostly what I do is preparing students for a job or pos tsecondary training, mostly job prep.” He stayed at La Vergne until 1994, when he left to work at Nissan. Six years later, Cathey returned to the classroom, spending two years at Blackmanbefore moving back to La Vergne in 2002. About that time, the progra m’s focus shifted from programming to computer repair. Cathey said he realized then that he could teach students just as much as instructors at theTennessee Technology Center without the tuition. Several of his students have gone on to gain industry-levelcertifications, such as CompTIA A+, Network+ and Security+.|newswell|text|News|s  School participation fees likely to rise (Gannett) Participation fees for Murfreesboro City Schools’ Extended School Program are likely to increase when classesstart next fall. Nearly 2,200 students, about a third of the PreK- 6 district’s 7,000 students, participate in the program, commonly known as ESP, said Director Terry Jolley. Students can arrive at their school for additionalenrichment activities before the school day begins or remain there once the day is over. Care is also provided oninclement weather days or during school breaks. The plan calls for increasing the rates by $2 to $5 a weekduring the school year and as much as $10 during times school is out for winter, spring or fall break. The self-sustaining program operates solely on participation fees and grants. City Schools launched the program in themid-1980s in an effort to provide structure for children who were often home alone until their parents or othercaregivers arrived home from work. While students are at ESP, they may participate in art projects or get helpwith homework. Before the start of this school year, Mitchell-Neilson students were visited by health-careprofessionals.|topnews|text|News  Pressing the issue (Commercial Appeal/Patterson) Germantown rally backs separate schools, asks repeal of district ban Dick Vosburg stood on a truck bed with abright yellow sign urging Germantown residents to vote Yes for the creation of a municipal school district --whenever that vote might be. It's a good thing we didn't put dates on the signs, he said, deadpan, before acrowd of about 125 gathered Sunday to rally for local control of schools in place of a large school board that willcome into power when Memphis and Shelby County school systems merge. Given that the Shelby CountyElection Commission denied several suburbs' requests to hold a referendum May 10, members of the grassroots MyGermantown Schools group have turned their focus to the state level, where a bill in the legislature that could repeal a ban
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