NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A state lawmaker plans to call for a “no confidence” vote of Tennessee Commissioner of Education Penny Schwinn.
The call is planned during the education special session that is to begin Jan. 19.
State House Rep. Bruce Griffey (R-Paris) cited multiple reasons for his interest in the vote including a $2.5 million no-bid contract approved by Schwinn with Florida-based school voucher program ClassWallet. Griffy also called into question the hiring of certain staff members and salaries within the Department of Education and the department’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in Tennessee schools.
“Under her leadership, or rather lack thereof, there has been what I would call an excessive turnover rate, which some have estimated to be 19 percent and others have estimated to be 33 percent,” Griffey said. “The Tennessee Department of Education has certainly far exceeded the norms of attrition of employees with 250 resignations within the first year of her appointment, which included individuals with decades of institutional knowledge. This is not normal.
“It left local school leaders uncertain of who to call with questions, and more importantly, and sadly, it harmed Tennessee students.”
“She pressured schools into reopening while keeping the doors to the Tennessee Department of Education closed and allowing employees to work from home. … It is my understanding that she failed to timely provide (personal protective equipment) and cleaning supplies to schools.”
Griffey also was critical of student’s testing scores and approach to educating.
Penny Schwinn was sworn in as Tennessee’s education commissioner on Feb. 1, 2019.