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Tennesseans lists how Governor Bill Lee can ‘make the most of the next four years’ on education

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee has promised education will be the centerpiece of his second term.

In its final re-election campaign announcement, he told parents and teachers “you have my word that we will make the most of the next four years.”

But what should it look like?

During the campaign trail, the Republican governor offered few details beyond a promise to build on his first-term education program, which included more educational choices for parents, more professional training options for students, and more money to pay teachers.

So we asked our readers, as well as some education policymakers and advocates, for their thoughts on what Tennessee should prioritize as Lee ramps up for another four years in power.

Here is what they told us.

“Instead of funneling money into voucher projects, Governor Lee and the Tennessee Legislature should fully fund our public schools so students have the technology, resources, and services they need to succeed. This means paying teachers, counsellors, nurses and school staff fair wages and arming our teachers with the teaching materials and supplies they need to teach, not arming them with guns. — Rev. Aaron Marble, pastor, Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church in Nashville

“Teachers need to be at the table giving their recommendations and feedback as our state continues to reinvent education. We can leverage our experiences to transform and shape teacher working conditions, learning opportunities, and retention practices while prioritizing the academic growth and success of our students. » – Melissa Collins, second-grade teacher at Memphis and Tennessee 2022-23 teacher of the year

“Making the most of the next four years looks like 100% of students reading at grade level or above, true (funding) equity for Nashville, and a state mandate that requires districts to provide an exit ramp with better options for families whose children attend priority (low-performing) schools. — Sonya Thomas, Executive Director, Nashville Propel Parent Group

“Making the most of the next four years looks like teachers will be paid at competitive rates, smaller classrooms, meaningful student mental health support from counselors and social workers, and the strengthening of our efforts to boost literacy and academic performance. This will require a concerted effort for students who face multiple risk factors, such as poverty, lack of parental involvement, or behavioral issues. Ideally, schools that serve disadvantaged communities would be designated as community schools and would have the resources to provide multigenerational social and educational support to students and their families. – Senator Raumesh Akbari, D-Memphis, Vice Chairman of the Tennessee Senate Education Committee

“By the end of third grade, the vast majority of our students should be able to read at grade level. We need to reinforce basic math for all levels. There should be virtually no need for remedial courses on entry to a two- or four-year institution. — Senator Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, Vice-Chair

“We must do everything we can to recruit, retain and develop highly effective teachers because they are the key to student success. Salary is an important aspect, and we need to raise teacher compensation closer to the national average. We should promote teaching as a desirable career choice by trusting teachers to do their job and giving them the autonomy to do their job. Provisions for comprehensive student services, including behavior management and mental health, should be an integral part of the budget to reduce barriers to teaching and barriers that negatively affect teaching and learning. —Mike Winstead, Principal, Maryville City Schools

“Success in education over the next four years means expanding educational options so that every family has access to quality education that meets their individual needs.” — Justin Owen, Executive Director, Beacon Center of Tennessee

“Educators have not felt supported by state policymakers in recent years, particularly through a lack of engagement and communication. If we continue down this path, we will continue to see a revolving door of educators , frustrated parents, and the emergence of a two-tier education system that no longer serves all students. I would love to be part of the solution that restores hope for public education for all children with heads of state. —JC Bowman, Executive Director, Professional Educators of Tennessee

“Making the most of the next four years means working to ensure that all students in Tennessee have access to a comprehensive, evidence-based public education, regardless of their ZIP code. To do this, the state must fund our public schools at a higher level. Our students need up-to-date textbooks, access to technology, and most importantly, a qualified and committed educator in every classroom. —Tanya Coats, President, Tennessee Education Association

“We need to support the whole child through social-emotional programs, expanded course offerings and increased literacy efforts. Taxpayer funds should be kept in public schools so that no student is left behind. And we need a more collaborative spirit that listens to the people on the ground doing the work. — Althea Greene, Board Chair, Memphis-Shelby County Schools

“The next four years are critical to overcoming the learning loss that has been documented recently by the results of the first national tests since the pandemic hit. At the same time, Tennessee faces unprecedented economic growth, so our adults of tomorrow must be ready to seize this opportunity. Together, we must build a sustainable and stronger pool of teachers for high-quality teaching; emphasize quality literacy instruction, especially in the early grades; and improve Tennessee’s college attendance rate. – Representative Mark White, R-Memphis, Chairman, House Education Committee

“We should invest three times the current amount in traditional public education by paying teachers more and ensuring that public schools have the necessary resources such as reading/math specialists, nurses, counselors, etc. We need to put more emphasis on learning and supporting children from birth through kindergarten to ensure children are better prepared to succeed when they start school. – Rep. Vincent Dixie, D-Nashville, Chairman, House Democratic Caucus

“Our education program must be rooted in the idea of ​​opportunity for all, which should include a greater focus on supporting public education needs at the local level, financial support for the improvement of mental health in public schools and elevating the teaching profession to not only attract the best, but retain the best. —Keys Fillauer, president, Tennessee School Boards Association; School Board Chair, Oak Ridge Schools

“Tennessee can make the most of the next four years by solving the college enrollment and completion crisis. Only half of Tennessee’s high school graduates enrolled in college last year, the lowest rate since 2011, when that data was first released. The numbers are even more alarming for students of color and those in low-income communities. In order to end generational poverty and ensure economic mobility for every family in Tennessee, we must have a sustained and serious focus on eliminating inequity across our education continuum, including increasing the number of places for early childhood; increasing student achievement and closing skill gaps; strengthen the pool of strong, diverse and supported teachers; and removing financial and other barriers to post-secondary institutions. Debates about censoring teachers, banning books and punishing librarians are dividing our communities and distracting us from the work at hand. — Gini Pupo-Walker, State Director, The Education Trust in Tennessee

“To make the most of the next four years, we will need to rethink and transform the student journey from education to work. Today in Tennessee, nearly 400,000 jobs are open, and at least 60 percent of jobs in our state require some type of training or education beyond high school. But less than 40 percent of students leave high school prepared for post-secondary education, and only 48 percent complete any type of education beyond a high school diploma. Transforming our workforce will require setting a renewed state education focus aligned with the needs of the workforce; integrate post-secondary education and training into secondary school; support students in their transition to college; make better use of education and labor data to inform policy and practice; and creating stronger accountability systems for higher education. — David Mansouri, President and CEO, State Collaborative on Reforming Education

“The way we improve education is to have the best teachers in front of our children every day, and we need to support our teachers by valuing what they do and giving them the best salaries in the Southeast. Moreover, it is important that public money stays in public schools, not in private schools. — Dale Lynch, Executive Director, Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents

“We need to make sure our students get a solid foundation to learn from. In future years, I would like to strengthen tools and programs focused on student readiness, such as the Rising-K summer camp and improving third-grade literacy rates. We must build on our efforts to take a student-centered approach to education and empower parents to make educational decisions based on the specific needs of their child. Quality teachers are the cornerstone of a strong education system, and we need to find ways to attract and retain good teachers in our schools. — Senator Ferrell Haile, R-Gallatin

“We have the ability to be more flexible with schedules and programming to provide more opportunities for students at all levels. I hope we will be able to raise the level of trust and respect for all educators. – Danny Weeks, Dickson County Schools Superintendent and 2022-23 Tennessee Superintendent of the Year

Have a suggestion that hasn’t been covered here? Email us at [email protected]

Marta W. Aldrich is senior correspondent and covers the Chalkbeat Tennessee State House. Contact her at [email protected]

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