Yesterday, The Tennessean reported that Senator Henry has declined my invitation to participate in debates about the challenges facing Tennessee over the next four years. I firmly believe that it is a disservice to the electorate to deprive them of any opportunity to hear directly from the candidates on the issues that matter most.
Sen. Henry has decided to run merely on the votes he has cast in the past. But, voters want to know not just what their elected officials have done, but what they will do if entrusted with a portion of their future. Our challenge in the coming weeks is to force a real conversation about the next four years.
There’s no time to waste, so I want to talk to you about my top priority and what I think must be Tennessee’s top priority for the next four years: education. Read my plan here.
Tennessee has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make real progress in our schools. Winning the federal Race to the Top competition under Governor Bredesen’s leadership means that Tennessee has an additional $500 million to jumpstart education reform.
The challenge for the next Governor and the next legislature is whether they can capitalize on that opportunity. While winning Race to the Top is a key achievement, we should not underestimate the challenge ahead. Tennessee’s still ranked in the bottom ten of almost every education ranking—more than 25% of our students don’t finish high school; fewer than 20% obtain a post-secondary degree. Surely, it’s time to reach higher.
Sen. Henry joined the near-unanimous majority in the Senate passage of an important education reform bill that made our Race to the Top success possible. As a constituent, I was incredibly pleased by his vote, especially considering his misgiving that the “whole [Race to the Top] scheme is patently unconstitutional.” But before electing him to an eleventh four-year term, voters deserve to know what his priorities on education will be now.
You deserve to hear from me as well. Click here to find a more detailed explanation of my plans for improving our schools. As your state senator, I will work every day to make sure that Tennessee is doing everything possible to ensure a great teacher in every classroom, a great leader in every school, high expectations for all of our kids, and no excuses for failure.
I’m reminded every day of the urgency of education reform. My son Jack is just 19 months old. But by the end of this state senate term in 2015, Jack and children his age will be starting school. The decisions made in the next four years will have real consequences for the schools our students attend. Every day, real kids are missing opportunities, falling behind, and dropping out. That’s what makes the legislature’s focus on sideshow issues like guns in bars and blocking health care reform so indescribably irresponsible.
When it comes to fixing our schools, we can’t afford to wait any longer. That’s why I’m running and why I’m asking for your vote.