By Sally Absher

Last week The Focus reported on the Knox County Schools Board of Education Retreat. Since then, we have done a little more research. Who is Charles (Chuck) Cagle and why was he invited to speak?

Mr. Cagle is chairman of the education law practice group at Lewis Thomason, King, and Waldrop. He represents over 70 school districts across the state, including Memphis, Rutherford County, and Bradley County.

Last May, ran an article about Chuck Cagle and his 14 year employment with Bradley County Schools.

Bradley County School Board member Chris Turner told board members he has concerns that board attorney Charles Cagle has some conflicts of interest in representing the board.

Mr. Turner said, “In the business world we have things called conflicts of interest. I’m confident that other members of the board who work for business don’t have attorneys who represent their competitors. We are one big team in education, however we do have competing interests. We do have different positions and I want to outline some of those that I believe are conflicts of interest.”

What might some of those conflicts of interest be? In addition to representing over half the school districts in the state, here is a quick list of some of Chuck’s lobbying clients:

(1) Tennessee State Collaborative on Reform of Education (SCORE)

(2) Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents (TOSS)

(3) The Association of Independent and Municipal Schools (AIMS)

(4) Mr. Cagle is also a registered lobbyist for Pearson Education.

Yes THAT Pearson

Pearson is the biggest book publisher in the world, who stands to make millions selling books and materials to the state and to school systems that were forced to buy new books because of Common Core.  SCORE played a huge role in bringing Common Core to Tennessee.

And who plays a major role at the local level in deciding what textbooks get bought with taxpayer money? The School Superintendents. Cagle represents the School Superintendents (TOSS) in Nashville as their personal lobbyist.

Mr. Cagle’s client Pearson Education also landed the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) testing contract without having to contend with any competing bids.

Mr. Turner pointed out that Tennessee state law dictates that competitive bidding is required in the selection of the new assessment test administrators.

He said, “Although several companies inquired about the contract, Pearson was the only bidder. Our board attorney represents as a paid lobbyist, an organization that solely is the only bidder for the single largest consortium in public education.”

This is the same PARCC test that received so much public pushback during the last legislative session that the General Assembly voted to delay the implementation of PARCC until after the 14-15 school year.

Taxpayers would pay millions more for the PARCC test (some estimates predict the PARCC test will eventually cost more than double the current TCAP tests) as well as tens if not hundreds of millions more in unfunded mandates to local schools systems for purchasing the computers required to take the new online PARCC tests.

Gee, thanks, Chuck.

Oh, and by the way, Cagle’s wife Sandra also has a very important job. According to LinkedIn, she is a regional account manager, overseeing Tennessee and several other southeastern states. Among her duties is running the Common Core sales department for the company. What company? Wait for it, wait …. Pearson!

Mr. Cagle certainly brought the views of some of his pro-education reform lobbying clients with him to the KCS Board retreat. He told the Board members that the Tennessee Education Reform Law of 1992 means school boards are “more corporate’” and should give more power to the Superintendent.

This is one of Knox County Law Director Bud Armstrong’s chief arguments against the “Side Agreement.”  Armstrong said, “The contract attempts to delimit the duties and powers of the BOE as set out in statute. It is elementary law that no agreement can constrain the statutory duties and obligation of a BOE member.”

Yet Cagle specifically praised the Side Agreement document, saying he “I cannot ask you with more passion…consider something very much like this as a board.” He said, “If you put together these working agreements and they’re followed, I guarantee you your board meetings will cause you a little less heartburn.”

He said it is a good document, and added, “I think you ought to trademark or copyright it.”

Who is Chuck Cagle representing? Why is he encouraging the KCS BOE to acquiesce more of their powers to the Superintendent? Was he brought in at the request of Karen Carson, who has challenged the County Law Director on numerous occasions? Or Dr. McIntyre, who is seeing his “Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week” stretch into month(s)?