Senator Kerry Roberts Explains the Educational Focus Benefiting Teachers and Students During Tennessee’s State of the State


On Wednesday’s Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – Host Michael Patrick Leahy spoke to Tennessee state Senator Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield) about the State of the State.

Leahy: We are joined in studio by our good friend and all-star panelist state Senator Kerry Roberts. Kerry, good morning.

Roberts: Good morning.

Leahy: So you were there.

Roberts: I was there.

Leahy: You were there. You were in the room.

Roberts: State of the state. Not State of the Union.

Leahy: Thank you. State of the State.

Roberts: I would love to have been at the State of the Union though. And I was struck as we looked at the State of the Union, In God We Trust was enshrined above the Speakers podium. And I was struck by that when I watched it. But we were talking about the State of the State prior to the address.

So the governor makes his grand entrance, and he goes to the front to begin his delivery. You asked about where people sit. There are 99 House members. You’ve got to squeeze in 33 Senators and you basically get stuck with a folding chair unless you get lucky. I got lucky. And I’ve got to laugh when I say this. I’m from Indiana originally.

Leahy: A Hoosier.

Roberts: I’m a Hoosier. And I grew up an Indiana basketball fan. And one of the kids that played for Bob Knight is Kirk Hasten from Lobelville, Tennessee.

Leahy: Isn’t he a state rep?

Roberts: He’s a state rep. I watched him play. He was on the team when Bob Knight got fired. And he became a state rep. I had a seat beside him. So we sat there and we talked about…

Leahy: Basketball! Of course!

Roberts: Basketball. Why didn’t Indiana win at Ohio State? That was our conversation.

Leahy: I want to focus on the policy proposals. It seemed the first half of it was almost all about education.

Roberts: It was about education. But think about that for a minute. So last year, who was mad at the governor? Teachers were upset about the governor with his ESA bill.

Leahy: The voucher type program.

Roberts: The voucher program. And everywhere you went, people could not wrap their brain around the fact that this was a bill that was addressing the failing schools in Shelby County and Davidson County. You go to rural Tennessee and people would be upset about it.

And we’d say, you do realize this doesn’t affect your county. Haslam couldn’t do this for eight years. It took nine years to get this passed. Do you really think the general assembly is going to turn around and increase it? Unless…it’ works. And it’s clear that it works. So he’s got all these teachers upset with him last year.

Leahy: Last year.

Roberts: So he kicks off with the largest investment in public education that has ever been made in Tennessee. When you add it all up it’s about $600 million. And the point that he makes is, we want to have the best students and we want to have the best teachers in Tennessee.

Leahy: So, let me play devil’s advocate. I like a lot of what he was proposing. But devil’s advocate.K-12 system isn’t working that well. And, is it a good idea to spend more money on a system that isn’t working that well? That’s the broader question. He had some interesting proposals.

Roberts: He had some very interesting proposals. But probably the one that resonated so much was putting 117 million in to increasing teachers’ salaries and raising the minimum from 36,000 to 40,000. I would say probably if you’re in the teaching profession, those are the two things that you picked up first.

Leahy: They’re going to get paid more money. Which is a plus. I think it’s a primary interest in teachers to get paid more. There may be other interests as well. But that’s one of the interests. My general concern is that that’s good for the teachers. Teachers are in a system though that is very difficult for them, I think, to do their jobs because of the way the system is structured.

They’re teaching to the test and the pressures involved etc. The requirements do more for their students than just teach because of some of the families that have some difficulties. You know, I remain, it’s not a bad thing, but I remain a little bit skeptical about that myself.

Roberts: It’s certainly very worthy of skepticism because the whole notion of teaching to the test begs the question of, why do we do that? We do it because we want to see Tennessee on a list compared to other states. And I dare say, that’s not a reason to do something.

Listen to the full third hour:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 am to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.

Photo “Kerry Roberts” by Kerry Roberts. Background Photo “Tennessee Senate Floor” by Terrancee. CC BY-SA 3.0.












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