Live from Music Row Monday 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 former National Constitution Bee winner and sophomore at the University of Alabama Jackson Carter to the newsmaker line to describe his platform and why he’s running for Maury County school board.
Leahy: Welcome to our newsmaker line, Jackson Carter. Jackson is running for the school board in Maury County in the 11th district. He’s also the 2020 National Constitution Bee champion – that’s the group that we put together at the Star News Education Foundation – and a rising sophomore at the University of Alabama. Welcome, Jackson. Thanks for joining us this morning.
Carter: Thank you so much for having me on, Michael. It means a lot.
Leahy: Well, last time I saw you, I was giving you a scholarship check for $10,000 that you got as the winner of the National Constitution Bee. Looks like you’ve put that to good purpose at the University of Alabama, where you’re a rising sophomore.
Carter: Yes, sir. I just finished my freshman year. I’m a major in public relations with a minor in political science. Let’s just say that check has gone a long way and is doing a lot of good.
Leahy: Yeah, that’s the whole idea. And we are delighted to have you, not only as the well-deserved winner of the 2020 National Constitution Bee. And for our listeners, the 2022 National Constitution Bee will be held in October here in Brentwood.
And I think we’re going to get more and more people from around the country. Similar prizes will be given away, or will be earned, at that National Constitution Bee. So you want to be engaged in politics? Are you 19 years old or 20 years old now, Jackson?
Carter: I’m 19, Michael.
Leahy: You’re 19. When do you turn 20?
Carter: In October.
Leahy: So the election is August 4th, is that right?
Carter: Yes, sir, that is correct.
Leahy: Now you’re running for school board in Maury County. The 11th district. How many candidates are in the race?
Carter: So right now there are two candidates in the race, myself and an Independent.
Leahy: Did you get the GOP nomination?
Carter: Yes, I did. As I’m sure you’re well aware, and so are your listeners, this year is the first year in Tennessee, at least in recent memory, that we are doing partisan elections for the school board.
The Maury County Republicans caucused in January. We didn’t have a primary, we had a caucus. And I was fortunate enough to win the Republican nomination for the seat. So I do have the GOP backing and I will have the R next to my name in August.
Leahy: Well, congratulations. That’s a big deal on this. But you still have an Independent competitor and they’ll be on the ballot along with you. What, Jackson, is your platform?
Carter: I think the biggest reason that I’m wanting to run for the school board as someone who just graduated from high school in 2021, is seeing the issues that our school has, versus the issues that our school board is trying to solve sometimes.
I think a lot of times having this perspective as a student gets overlooked. I think we see the board, despite their best intentions, trying to address issues that are microcosms of bigger issues in school.
Perfect example at Spring Hill High School, where I went to school, we’ve had issues with a leaky roof. We’ve had problems with mice in the building.
We’ve had all these little issues that just make the learning environment so distracting. And they’re little things that can be fixed, Michael.
They’re little issues that can be fixed relatively easily. They just seem to be overlooked and passed on so we can argue about bigger issues that never really saw the little issues that make life in the classroom so difficult.
I think that I’ve seen, too, if you look at the data, you know as well as everyone else that Maury County is usually at the bottom of the state in test scores. That is not acceptable.
You live in Thompson’s Station. You see it just on your back doorstep. We have so much potential here in Maury County. We have so much growth, and so much potential to be the best. And I want to see that potential realized.
Leahy: I also see that there was a recent county commission action to approve, what, $75 million for a new high school in Spring Hill. But that number is up. Do you favor that? Do you oppose that?
Carter: That’s really where a lot of my desire to run for the school board started. I was all over the county commissioners, right around this time last year, against this new school.
Now, if you look at the growth projections, Spring Hill needs a new high school. We need more seats at the high school level. That is an indisputable fact.
The growth that we have received in the last year and a half, going back farther than that, even, really dictates that we need a new high school.
But there were smarter ways to do it than building a $75 million school, or at least trying to get that approved, even, in the middle of probably the most uncertain economy of the century.
We had all the warning signs this was going to happen when we were actively looking to take that bond out. But did anyone listen? No, they didn’t. And look where that got us. As you said, it was $104 million, I think.
Leahy: It started out as $75 million. Now it’s up to $104 million?
Carter: I want to say it was 104 or 106.
Carter: The last time we got an update. And that’s just the problem. And another reason I want to run is there is no foresight in this planning process, it feels like sometimes. We waited until the issue got out of hand.
We waited until the situation pretty much forced our hand. And now instead of being proactive about making sure we have enough seats at the high school level, we’re having to play catch-up, and now we’re either going to have to put portables on Spring Hill High School’s campus. We’re going to have to go through with a project that’s already $30 million over budget.
We’re going to take out another bond, probably, Michael, if we want to even build that school. They still haven’t broken ground on it.
Leahy: We’re talking with Jackson Carter, who is 19 years old, who has the GOP nomination in the 11th district school board race in Maury County, and has an Independent opponent. Crom Carmichael, the original all-star panelist, is in the studio. Crom has a question for you. Crom, go ahead.
Carmichael: Yes. If you all didn’t bond and build a new, I would assume very large, high school, what would the approach be that you would like to take to increase the number of seats?
Carter: I think that we should explore the option, we already have an existing structure at Spring Hill. It’s a building that originally started, to my knowledge, as a portable, but they just went and made it a permanent structure and they built something permanent there.
It’s called the G-building, right outside of our campus where we have a handful of extra classrooms. I think, unfortunately, that the problem has superseded that. So I think that really, because there was no foresight, we really have forced our hand into building a new school.
And unfortunately, unless we find alternative ways to fund this, it is going to cost taxpayers the tune of $70 to $100 million dollars, and I absolutely hate that we let ourselves get to that point.
Listen to the interview:
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