Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Governor Lee's bold, thoughtful, optimistic agenda for Tennessee.

Today I had the pleasure of listening to Governor Bill Lee address First Tuesday.  He spoke for about 40 minutes followed by about 20 minutes of Q and A. He laid out his agenda for his administration and emphasized the policy proposals he made at last night's State of the State address.

On education, he said there would be a new imitative on vocational programs to provide the training people need to find good jobs. He also pledged to increase STEM education. He proposed $30 million dollars to improve school safety and put school resource officers in those schools without them. I was pleased to hear  him pledge to improve civic and character education in Tennessee. I am not so sure what constitutes "character education" but certainly agree with the need for Civics education. He said there would be an improved civics curriculum and requirements.  With many young people saying they prefer socialism over capitalism, in my view, we have a failure to inculcate proper civic values in young people. There also seems to be a lacking of understanding of American exceptionalism and the basics of how government functions. Civics education is badly needed.

Lee also proposed a new Education Saving Account plan that would allow low-income parents of children in the worst schools to take the funding that would go to educate that child in a public school and allow them to use those funds for tuition at a private school.  If I understand his proposal correctly, an element of the proposal that makes this different from other proposals of this kind is that normally when a child no longer attends the public school he would  otherwise attend, this causes the school they are not attending to lose the state funding that would follow that child.  Under Lee's proposal, the ESA money would be additional money for that purpose and the school would not lose money. This should satisfy one of the primary criticisms of voucher-type proposals.

Lee also spoke about criminal justice reform and the need to emphasis rehabilitation and education and job training for inmates. He said our current criminal justice system is failing and reform would benefit the incarcerated, save money, and make our communities safer. He spoke with real passion on this topic. As a private citizen he has long been involved in the program Men of Valor.

He also emphasized the importance of improving health care for Tennesseans and lowering health care cost. He said with the health care talent in Tennessee that there is no reason Tennessee should not lead the nation in innovation to lower cost and provide better health care. He does not have firm proposals yet but has appointed an advisory board to examine the issue and recommend proposals.

He also spoke about "good government" and said he would keep Tennessee growing and improving without raising taxes or indebtedness. He said he knows boom times come and go and he is committed to  increasing Tennessee's "rainy day fund."

I was really impressed with Governor Lee. He is thoughtful, energetic, and committed to a vision. I think is the right person at the right time to continue the progress Tennessee is making in education and to address other issues facing our state. He is a good man with a strong Christian faith and his enthusiasm and optimism are contagious.

I wish you could have been at First Tuesday today. If you missed his State of the State address, see it below. To skip the ad, click "skip ad."

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