New data released by the Tennessee Department of Health show that one-third of child fatalities in the state in 2011 could have been prevented. The list of preventable deaths includes those children that died by abuse, murder, drowning, suicide, and suffocation.
The Volunteer State’s annual report on child mortality comes at a sensitive time, as state lawmakers are scrutinizing the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services for its role in investigating child abuse cases where the child later died.
The Tennessean reports children are more likely to die in the state before they reach their 18th birthday than in most other states, surpassing the national average of 52 deaths for every 100,000 children.
Still, Tennessee health officials also noted the 802 children who died in 2011 represent the lowest number of youth deaths reported in the state in five years.
Bills in the Tennessee legislature that attempt to block the enforcement of federal gun laws in the state are unconstitutional, according to a just-released opinion from the state’s top lawyer.
The Tennessee Attorney General memo says the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause trumps state statutes, making it unlawful to nullify firearms laws made on the national level. He goes on to say the state legislature also can’t take a backdoor route and criminalize the enforcement of gun laws in Tennessee, which is exactly what a bill from Senator Mae Beavers of Mt. Juliet does.
“I think he has an opinion just like the rest of us have an opinion,” says Beavers.
She says she will continue to push her legislation anyway, arguing that the Tenth Amendment gives states the right to govern themselves.
A new retirement system being contemplated by the Tennessee legislature would require new state employees and school teachers to potentially work more years. And their guaranteed money would be cut by roughly a third.
State Treasurer David Lillard says change is necessary because any new hires are adding to the state pension’s unfunded deficit. His plan would move to what’s known as a hybrid pension system, which has been adopted in states like Georgia and Virginia. It shifts more of the responsibility of saving for retirement to individuals in an effort to decrease the state’s exposure to volatility in the stock market.
However, the new retirement plan would include some guaranteed money, which Lillard says is important.
“We do believe that in order to get an employee a much better opportunity to have a truly sufficient benefit, you need a floor, basically,” says the Tennessee Treasurer.
A new report shows Tennessee with the fastest-improving high school graduation rate in the nation. The Tennessean reports Volunteer State education leaders hope to reach the 90 percent diploma threshold by 2020.
The report shows the Tennessee high school graduation rate has improved by 6.5 percentage points since 2001, with an average annual growth rate of 1.25 points between 2006 and 2010. During that time period, Tennessee improved at nearly double the national rate.
The report is the combined effort of the groups Civic Enterprises, the Everyone Graduates Center, America’s Promise Alliance, and the Alliance for Excellent Education.
In Tennessee, 80 percent of high school freshman say in school and graduate as seniors. That’s better than the national average of 78.2 percent.
Nationally, 200,000 more students received high school diplomas than in 2006, a trend driven by big gains in African-American and Hispanic graduation rates.