Live from Music Row Friday morning on The 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 Leahy welcomed Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles to the newsmakers line.
During the second hour, Ogles weighed in on the recent press release by the Tennessee Department of Education that will be creating a new state program with “wellness liaisons” to visit kids at their schools, or in the case of homeschoolers at their homes to check up on them. He added this is not in line with Tennessean’s conservative values and that he will not comply suggesting it’s time for Penny Schwinn to go.
Leahy: We are joined now by our good friend Andy Ogles. He is the mayor of Maury County. Welcome, Andy.
Ogles: Well, good morning my friend. How has your day been so far?
Leahy: It’s been great. I just have to say something. You have been a good friend for a long time. And by my account, you may be the most effective and most popular county mayor in the state of Tennessee. I see you communicating on Facebook and radio programs down there all the time in Columbia and the surrounding areas. So congratulations on doing a great job as a county mayor.
Ogles: Well I appreciate that. It’s one of those things when you run for an office like this pandemic and big brother style government checks aren’t in the job description. But I guess I should have read the fine print. (Leahy laughs) But here we are.
Leahy: Here we are.
Ogles: Having to fight the state on going to people’s homes. And again I think the intent here was good. But wow. How did we get here Michael?
Leahy: So let me set the stage on this. I’m so glad you jumped on this and found out the details of it. Tuesday afternoon we get a press release from the Tennessee Department of Education. And here’s the headline. And you know we’re busy.
So I get this press release that says Tennessee Department of Education Releases Toolkit on Child Well Being Checks. And I look at the headline and I say, that’s weird. What’s that about? And then meanwhile we got the work of the day and we get caught up and I’m not paying any attention to it. But you my friend have paid attention to it. Tell us what this is about.
Ogles: Again I think the roads to hell are paved with good intentions. And that’s what this is. We all have a desire to make sure the children across the state of Tennessee that none of them slip through the cracks and are fed, are clothed and getting an education.
That they have housing. that they’re getting an education. But Penny Schwinn has proposed this program that either expands an existing agency or creates a new one. They are creating these “wellness liaisons.” I’ve never seen a problem that the government can’t make worse.
Leahy: So Penny Schwinn is the commissioner of education and came from Texas appointed by Governor Lee. Wellness liaisons? Oh my goodness. Are we in 1984 with George Orwell?
Ogles: Yes. It’s very Orwellian. This is one of those things that’s supposed to be, and again it comes at you like a Trojan Horse. It’s very harmless at first. It’s voluntary. One of the things they are talking about doing is giving school systems money if the school system will opt-in.
If the school system opts-in that opts in parents. That opts-in private schools. That opts-in homeschoolers. I’m going to say that again. Homeschoolers. They may and probably preferably will talk to these kids at school. Or if they need to they’ll talk to these children in your home. And if you are homeschooler they will talk to these children in your home.
Whatever is discovered in these meetings is confidential unless the “wellness liaisons” determines it shouldn’t be. They have a list tracking kids that have been visited but keep in mind it’s supposed to be voluntary. They also have a separate list and will track the children that aren’t visited.
Leahy: So this “wellness liaisons” that may or may not have any qualifications has the legal authority to come into your house. Go through a list of things about your children and tell you whether you are doing it right or wrong. If they determine you are doing it wrong what happens?
Ogles: I’m a nerd. For better or worse. If you go to page 11 at the action plan. It says this wellness liaison will periodically monitor the data. They will determine children who have not received a check and may benefit from a frequent check. So again it’s supposed to be voluntary.
But if this individual, determines that this child needs a check and not just a check but multiple checks then it’s up to that individual to opt that kid in. It starts out harmless but it encroaches on spaces that the government is not supposed to be. And like I said in my daily update. I do one every day at 2:15 and I will not comply as a mayor and I will not comply as a father.
Leahy: So why does Governor Lee think this is a good idea?
Ogles: Bill Lee, I know Bill Lee. He is a good man with a big heart. I think when he heard and I’m just guessing because I’ve reached out to him. He has not returned my call or text. Because he heard this is a way to take care of kids. And that appealed to that kind nature that he has without thinking through that next step of, what is the mechanism by which this is enforced?
And 15 years from now, what does this agency become? As country mayor, I deal with TDOC and TDEC. Those are big agencies. But keep in mind, those agencies set their own rules. They enforce their own rules. And once you prop up an agency to have that power such as this “wellness agency” now they’re making up the rules. What happens if these rules change?
Leahy: What if there is a different governor? Or what if there is somebody that loves The Project 1619 America is terrible curriculum that’s being spread out there.
Leahy: What if they decide that your white privilege is hurting the well being of your child?
Ogles: On page seven it talks about how they are looking for job security, food security, and housing security. They are going to gauge whether or not your child is stressed. Now, this may sound silly but what if the individual, this “wellness liaison” likes Biden and they come into my home and I have a picture of Trump on the wall and they determine that my child is stressed because I’m a fan of Trump?
That may seem silly but this is so broad and it’s so vague and when you have an agency that can make and enforce its own rules that’s what it evolves into. I can tell you from dealing with TDOC and TDEC and we have a lot of great people in those agencies that they get so big and so powerful that they become bigger than the original vision. That’s the problem with this.
Leahy: Why did the Commissioner of Education Penny Schwinn recommend this to Governor Bill Lee?
Ogles: Here’s my problem. I’ve spent a lot of yesterday and today talking to legislators across the state. This program should have never have seen the light of day. I think what it tells us and the problem that we see now is that her values and I’m sure she’s a nice person, her values and vision for education in Tennessee does not align with Tennesseans. And I’m sorry but she’s got to go. We need a conservative commissioner. We need someone who’s looking out for kids the Tennessee way. Not the big government California, Washington, Oregon way. I don’t want you in my home and I don’t want you in my country.
Leahy: Yeah. None of your business, Commissioner Schwinn. That would be my view on it. I’m going to raise my children. Not you.
Ogles: I had a lady who literally called me yesterday at the office she has two kids that one is married and the other one is about to get married. She has a 16-year-old. She says I have three grandchildren, and you are going to have some 22-year-old kid that has their first job and just graduated come into my house and tell me how to raise my 16-year-old and or my grandchildren?
And she just chuckled. She said it’s not happening in this country. My office is in the courthouse and we have deputies there because its a functioning court and stepped outside because I needed a breath of fresh air and showed this to the deputies. And one of them asks, what governor in what state is doing something so ridiculous. And I showed it to him and said look in the top corner where there is a flag of Tennessee. His mouth just about hit the floor.
Because again this is something that you would expect to read of that happening in Oregon. Being driven by Bill Gates and the state of Washington coming out of Seattle but not in Nashville, Tennessee. Not in the great state, the free state, and one of the most conservative states in the country. And you know I think this commissioner might be a great person but her values certainly don’t align with us.
Listen to the full second hour here:
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