Reactions poured in from Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s first State of the State and budget address, which was delivered Monday night.
The responses included statements by three Republican Senate leaders.
Lt. Gov. and Sen. Randy McNally (R-TN-05) said:
“In his first State of the State address, Bill Lee rightly pointed out the successes of the past while charting a new course for the future. His words tonight lived up to the promise of his campaign. Governor Lee laid out a clear, coherent and conservative message which will resonate across all three grand divisions. I appreciated his emphasis on fiscal responsibility noting the importance of keeping debt low, our savings account balance high and our budget balanced. He is committed not just to growing our prosperity but sharing it with those portions of our state most in need. I am committed to working with him to expand educational opportunity, redouble our efforts on mental health and reform our approach to criminal justice. Together with Speaker Casada and the State House, we will help Tennessee lead the nation.”
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Jack Johnson (R-TN-23) said: “I am glad to see Governor Lee’s budget reflects conservative budgeting and adds a record deposit to the rainy day fund, while also following through with campaign promises to focus on vocational education, criminal justice reform, and rural economic development. Now the Senate will begin budget hearings to thoroughly review the proposed budget. We look forward to working with the Lee administration during this review process to pass a robust budget that works for all Tennesseans.”
Republican Caucus Chairman Sen. Ken Yager (R-TN-12) said: “Governor Lee’s budget keeps his promise to rural Tennesseans. His proposal includes needed support for critical rural initiatives such as expanding broadband, helping our rural hospitals and providing additional tools to fight the opioid epidemic.”
A leading teacher representative also shared his thoughts on the implications for Tennessee education.
JC Bowman, executive director of the Professional Educators of Tennessee, issued a statement, which is available here in its entirety. His reaction included:
Governor Bill Lee gave his first state of the state speech on Monday, March 4, 2019, from our state Capitol in Nashville, Tennessee. A highly anticipated address, it focused heavily on education issues including career and technical education initiatives, increased funding for school safety programs, and expansion of various school choice initiatives.
Since the beginning of his campaign, one of Governor Lee’s biggest priorities has been workforce development through expanding and strengthening career and technical education programs. As expected, he spoke more in-depth about his proposed Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education Initiative (GIVE) and how it fits into his administration’s proposed budget. Governor Lee sees this as an opportunity to help students develop the practical skills that help them perform in project-based environments, learn to work with others, and grow the discipline needed for success in a competitive workplace. It facilitates new partnerships between industry and our schools, and a more concrete connection between labor and education, which is a direction that the federal government has taken the past few years. The state will also expand and improve offerings in STEM, and CTE is a major priority. We applaud those investments in education.
There was much to like in Governor Lee’s State of the State. The debate over ESAs will likely be the most contentious and draw the most debate. A fully funded Basic Education Program (BEP), recommending $71 million and a 2.5% pay raise for teachers is much needed. We had hoped he would address other issues like school finance and discuss the possibilities of a school funding formula to reflect changing 21st century needs. However, in general, we think most Tennesseans will react positively to the speech by Governor Lee. Those on the right will certainly love the attention to civics and character formation, as well as on curriculum in which he pledged to “root out” the influence of Common Core in our state. Those on the left will like increased funding for school safety programs going to SROs. He laid out a fairly ambitious agenda; it is now the Tennessee General Assembly’s turn to vote their opinion.
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Jason M. Reynolds has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist at outlets of all sizes.