Democratic Lawmaker Is Upset Tennessee Republicans Won't Discuss Plan To Teach More Black History – WKU Public Radio
State representatives in Tennessee are meeting this week to have a study session on education. It’s a chance for lawmakers to get together and discuss proposed legislation. But one lawmaker is upset after his proposal to expand teaching of Black history didn’t make the agenda.
Republicans promised to hear the bill in summer study. The measure calls for more inclusion of Black Americans in the state’s history standards by the 2025 school year.
The idea was to work out the issues and start debating it in January.
The measure’s sponsor, Rep. Yusuf Hakeem, says the move to leave it off the agenda disrespects him and his constituents.
“We’re talking about over 60,000,” Hakeem said. “And there are other representatives, both Black and White, who I think would concur that if it was said that we’re going to talk about this in summer study, that that should be done.”
The Chattanooga Democrat questions if this is a power move by the Republican supermajority.
Hakeem says he may attempt to add it into the agenda when the study session begins. The likeliness of success is unknown.
Less than a month after Hakeem’s legislation was tabled for summer study, policy limiting what teachers can say about racial inequality in public schools passed.
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COVID hospitalizations are beginning to ease up in parts of Tennessee. But intensive care units remain dangerously full, creating a backup in hospitals across the state.
The critical access hospital in Bolivar usually only has two or three patients at any one time. Right now, the rural West Tennessee facility has a dozen patients, and half of them are sick with COVID, according to CEO Ruby Kirby.
“In normal times, we would be able to get those patients out to a higher level of care,” she says.
Some are on ventilators being cared for in the small emergency department and need to be transferred to an ICU in Jackson, Memphis or Nashville. But there are no openings, Kirby says.
“We’re managing them, but it is putting a strain on the system, trying to hold these patients in these hospitals until we can get them moved,” she says.
Wilson County Schools will be enforcing a temporary mask mandate for students, staff and visitors starting Friday. The district will also begin to follow the state health department’s quarantine guidelines, specifically to send unvaccinated students home if they were exposed to COVID, even if they show no symptoms.
“I can’t sit and be quiet no longer,” superintendent Jeff Luttrell said at a school board meeting on Wednesday. “We got some problems and we need to take stronger measures in our schools.”
The new protocol comes after the district went under a weeklong closure due to a high number of cases. The school board voted unanimously in favor of both health measures despite disagreeing on these issues in weeks prior.
“I don’t love it, but I think we asked both sides for a compromise and I think that this is a compromise,” school board member Jamie Farough said.
Tennessee has reopened a fund to help hospitals fly in temporary nurses as they’re short on staff. But hospitals are finding that there’s not much money left, even though the shortage is more critical than when they needed staffing help during the winter surge.
It’s a competition between hard-hit states where hospitals are overwhelmed and understaffed. Texas has a Texas-sized program. Mississippi has committed $10 million a week to bring in a thousand travel nurses. Meanwhile, Tennessee has $10 million total remaining from what was originally a $100 million fund.
“The money, thus far, that the state has committed to is not putting us into a position where we can compete very well,” says Dr. Wendy Long, the CEO of the Tennessee Hospital Association.
A Shelby County family is asking a federal judge to rescind Gov. Bill Lee’s executive order on masking in schools. The order lets parents opt out of masking, with no need to give a reason. The outcome may have national ramifications.
The Schwaigert family of Collierville argues that Lee’s order puts their teenager at risk. Their child suffers from tuberous sclerosis and is at high risk for severe complications if they were to contract COVID-19, so they say Lee’s order violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.
That’s also the premise of a federal probe by the U.S. Department of Education. They’re looking at the masking policies in Tennessee, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Utah. In the letter, education officials point out that Florida’s masking policy was struck down last week.
Some Tennessee hospitals are already treating more COVID patients than ever. And the statewide total is likely to hit a record this week — surpassing the peak of the winter surge.
ICUs have never been so strained. Nearly a third of the more than 3,000 COVID patients in Tennessee are so sick that they’re being treated in the ICU.
“We have beds. We don’t have the staff to take them. That’s the scary part,” says Taylor Wylie, a charge nurse in the ICU at Centennial Medical Center in Nashville.
Since the surge stretches across the under-vaccinated South, Wylie says they’re getting transfer requests from as far away as Texas and usually having to say no. Alabama, for instance, has a running deficit of ICU beds. Tennessee, at the moment, is at 94% capacity statewide.