published Saturday, July 28th, 2012

District 30: Sandy Norris Smith

Tennessee's Legislature's has become so saturated with Republicans that November's elections may well give the GOP a super-majority in both the state House and Senate. That would further diminish the Legislature's function as a legitimate marketplace of ideas and debate on the policies that affect our lives. In this circumstance, it takes a hardy Democrat to run against a sitting Republican. Fortunately, that is exactly what is happening in state House District 30, home to incumbent Vince Dean.

Three Democrats are vying for their party's nomination in the Democratic primary Thursday: Sandy Norris Smith, L. Brock Bennington and Brian D. White. Of these, Sandy Smith is a shining standout.

Smith, a teacher for 40 years, retired in June. Now, she's determined to improve the education reform bill passed last session that wrongly ended collaborative bargaining, whacked teacher tenure and badly mangled teacher evaluations. Restricting tenure mistakenly ended reasonable due process rights for teachers to defend their jobs. The new teacher evaluation policy imposed vague rules that have spawned wildly inconsistent evaluation processes, creating poor morale and prompting resignations among veteran teachers.

The evaluation process, Smith notes, pre-supposes that every child comes to school from a nurturing background with parental support and motivation to learn -- never mind the vast gulf between kids from privileged environments and those from impoverished neighborhoods.

Smith's other goals are to advocate for improved vocational options, and to pare student debt by fostering work-study and co-op programs. She also aims to support solicitation of businesses with better paying jobs and benefits, environmental rules that protect vital resources, alternative energy programs that lessen dependence on oil, a higher minimum wage, and non-discriminatory public policies.

Hers is a constructive and needed agenda. Smith merits support from voters.

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