TREND Spring 2020 - Page 12

Traveling across the state in my role as Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, I talk with a lot of people interested in public education. One of the most common complaints is a lack of response from Governor Bill Lee or his team on specific education issues. It is problematic, and quite honestly has always been problematic in our state. Better communication is always needed. I should know - I used to work for Governor Jeb Bush years ago, and communication is always a struggle for the executive branch, despite best intentions. It was reasonable to be patient with Governor Lee and his staff in year one. With staff now settled into place, and processes and systems clearly established we should expect better communication in year two. Governor Lee laid out a fairly ambitious education agenda, and while our organization disagreed with some parts of it, he offered more specifics than his opponent in the election last November. He was clear in his support of vouchers from the day he announced his candidacy. It should have been of no surprise to policymakers or stakeholders. When surveyed, our members did not support vouchers. His legislative victory with vouchers has yet to be implemented. This may prove challenging, as the program must be proven successful before any other future voucher program is considered. Members of the Tennessee General Assembly will demand proof of unmitigated success before any expansion or similar program is enacted. Cameron Sexton, a voucher critic, has now ascended to Speaker of the House. His track record would indicate that he is a strong supporter of public schools. This helps the Governor moving forward on education policy changes needed in public education. Other parts of the Lee campaign agenda likely won him most of his statewide support, and gave voters more specifics on which to hold him accountable. Candidate Lee suggested it was time to change the way our high schools operate. It was a bold policy suggestion, and as Governor, Bill Lee should move forward on that front. For the last 50 years, the way high schools have educated students has largely remained unchanged. Many business and community leaders believe the traditional high school is disconnected from the Next Steps for Te