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Tennessee governor allowing our schools to be devalued

by William T. Robinson, Jr
William T. Robinson, Jr.

I would imagine that all citizens (for the most part) are proud of their state and don’t take kindly to undue criticism from outsiders. When it comes to your personal evaluation or opinion about someone or something, it should be based on facts. But often it is based on subjective views. Sometimes when someone is spewing untruths, you have an obligation and responsibility to debunk or disavow their statements—especially when these untruths are being fed to the public. 

Thus was the case when Larry Arnn, president of Hilldale College in Michigan (while attending a reception in Williamson County promoting charter schools), made some disparaging comments directed at teachers and schools in Tennessee. A secretly recorded video at the reception found Arnn berating and disrespecting the schools in Tennessee and the South in general when he said: “The teachers are trained in the dumbest part of the dumbest colleges in the country.” 

Arnn may be entitled to his opinion, but what added insult to injury was that Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, while in his presence, refused to refute his statement. Arnn’s attack on public education schools is irresponsible and unacceptable. It is said that Arnn feels anybody can be a public educator.

Lee literally threw the teachers and schools in Tennessee under the bus when he sat quietly and allowed our schools and teachers to be lambasted. The Hillsdale College president also chided educators who are diversity officers as holding easily attainable degrees where they don’t have to know anything much. Where was Gov. Lee’s outrage and resentment at the belittling statements Hillsdale’s president made toward our teachers and schools?

One can only guess that by kowtowing to this college president by looking the other way, it served to aid Lee’s agenda in having his friend and advisor help sponsor 100 charter schools in the state of Tennessee. It is apparent that Gov. Lee favors charter schools and probably didn’t want to do anything to derail his agenda to increase charter schools in Tennessee.

Lee’s refusal to intercede and allow educators and schools in his state to be degraded and disrespected is unacceptable and leaves residents of Tennessee outraged. There is no amount of collateral damage to cover up his silence when all he had to do was rebuke and denounce the unfair assault on schools and teachers in his state. While refusing to dispute Arnn, Gov. Lee speculated that the negative comments toward him are being spearheaded from activism from the left.

After the fact, in defending his silence Lee lauded his own accomplishments, e.g.: highlighting Tennessee as having the only federally approved teacher apprentice program in the nation attracting students into the teaching field. Lee also took credit for passing legislation creating a charter authorizing commission that now permits charter applications that don’t have to have the approval of local school boards. 

Lee can also boast about the state having 21 chartered organizations and more than 100 chartered schools in the Metro Nashville and Shelby County school districts. This may be hailed as great accomplishment if you are an avid supporter of charter schools. 

But on the other side of the spectrum, you have just as many if not more supporters for public schools. I refer to citizens who feel we should put forth the necessary monies, programs, and resources to make all public schools work instead of hampering them by taking away funds to support charter schools. We realize that all parents want the best quality education for their children.

The money paid to a charter school is on a per pupil basis, which means the money follows the child. It takes away money from public schools. But on a positive note, all 110 charter schools in Tenn. are non-profit (the money goes back into academic programs, not to owners, investors, and stockholders). But there is legislation circulating that would allow for-profit charter schools in Tennessee.  

Our children should be able to go to schools in their own neighborhoods and get a quality education. Public schools should be given some of the flexibility that makes so many charter schools desirable. 

When all is said and done, we may disagree on what we feel is in the best academic interest of our children, but there is no excuse for allowing our teachers and schools to be belittled by outsiders with ulterior motives. Gov. Bill Lee, you do not get a pass. 

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