U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN-09) doesn’t like Gov. Bill Lee’s plan to expand high school vocational offerings using lottery proceeds.
Lee unveiled his first legislative plan Tuesday. Information on the Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education (GIVE) is available online here.
“We have the opportunity to help students discover quality career paths and gain skills that are needed right now in the workforce by emphasizing career and technical education,” Lee said in a press release.
However, Cohen said in a press release, “Vocational and technical education are areas in which Tennessee lags and they can help open job opportunities. But the people of Tennessee voted in 2002 for a Georgia-like HOPE Scholarship program that rewarded the more meritorious and the more needy. That is what scholarships should do: aim at merit and need. I ‘hope’ someone will recall that and increase HOPE and Aspire Award scholarships.”
Cohen worked in the state Senate to amend the state Constitution and create a Tennessee State Lottery with proceeds to fund scholarships, as well as enabling legislation, his press release said. Voters approved the amendment in November 2002 and the first lottery tickets were sold in 2004.
Communities would have the funding and flexibility to build programs that best reflect local needs and work directly with private industry, according to Lee’s office. The plan would develop work-based learning and apprenticeship opportunities.
Students also would receive four fully-funded dual enrollment credits, double the current number of credits.
Funding would come from GIVE Community Grants and GIVE Student Grants. The former would come from the existing Labor Education Alignment Program (LEAP) and be used for work-based learning, going to partnerships between TCATs, industry, and K-12. The latter would be funded via the Tennessee Lottery and support expanded access to dual enrollment, and that has Cohen worked up.
Jackson Baker of the Memphis Flyer wrote that Cohen also objected when former Gov. Bill Haslam tapped into lottery funds to fuel Tennessee Promise for high school graduates and TNReconnect for older adults attending college.
The congressman’s reaction to Lee was almost one of resignation, as if he realized that, having lost battles regarding the earlier diversions, he was unlikely to prevail on this newest front of the funding war. Hence his concession regarding the value of increasing vo-tech education and his final sentence, expressing a wish for separate measures to increase the HOPE and Aspire scholarships.
Lee declined to say how much the plan would cost, adding it would become public soon, WATE said.
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Jason M. Reynolds has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist at outlets of all sizes.
Photo “Steve Cohen” by Steve Cohen. Photo “Bill Lee” by Bill Lee. Background Photo “Tennessee Capitol” by Chris Connely. CC BY 2.0.