Education in TN – part I

Education is the People’s Business – Part 1 in a series of 4

This past Thursday night, the Candidates for Governor of Tennessee met at Belmont University in Nashville to answer questions about their vision for Education. It is clear that many issues need resolution including dropout and graduation rates, college preparation, teacher evaluation, importance of principals, resources, testing, Pre-K, business partnerships, etc. The State Legislature was in special session crafting legislation to allow Tennessee to receive available Federal money. Tennessee’s state budget deficit makes this money vital. It seems shameful that we conduct a special legislative session to discuss improving education only when money is at risk. I believe that there were some questions that were not asked.

First, where is this money Washington will send coming from? The short answer is that it OUR money. It’s been filtered through the Federal bureaucracy and generously sent back to us, minus the useless expense generated by people we do not know, doing jobs we cannot evaluate, working in far-off offices we pay for. Here’s the real kicker: When you “take” money (remember, it’s our money first) from the Federal Government, it assumes the right to tell you what you can do with it. So, right off the bat, think about what we could be doing with 100% of our money rather than what we get back.

Second, how can the people in Washington know what is best for students in rural Tennessee? Why do we cede authority to people who will never ever even visit Tennessee? There is no “one size fits all” approach to education. I feel very confident in that assessment, for it is the assessment of our Signers and Framers. They fashioned a Constitution that did not even mention Federal involvement in education. They never imagined that their individual states would give up control of educating their own children.

Third, which programs has Washington been involved in during the past 100 years that bear any marks of success? You can’t count the military! The American people have demanded that the Federal bureaucrats keep their unsuccessful programs out of the armed forces. Bureaucrats tried to manage a war from Washington in the 1960’s. How well did that work out for us?

Reform demands a new approach. Tell the Federal Government, “Thanks, but no thanks. Just send us our money back and we’ll manage it from here.” Let’s combine our best in education with our business community and craft a system that will serve our needs just fine. I trust Governor Bredesen and the good people of our legislature, some of whom I know and all of whom are immediately accountable to the people of Tennessee, much more than the Washington Crowd. That would be true education reform.


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