Bill Lee on Education



We can support choice and public schools at the same time

2024 is the year to make school choice a reality for every Tennessee family. Some are concerned that more choices for families could mean fewer resources for public schools, but that is simply not true. We can give parents choice and support public schools at the same time. You'll hear me say that over and over again--these two ideas are not in conflict.
Source: 2024 State of the State Address to the Tennessee legislature , Jan 10, 2024

Our goal is to train 10,000 new skilled workers a year

For many, a certification from one of our Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology will open the right doors. I propose that we complete Tennessee's TCAT Master Plan. To do that, we'll expand and improve 16 existing TCATs, replace seven outdated facilities, and build six brand new TCATs at strategic locations across our state. Our goal is to train 10,000 new skilled workers a year. We're proposing $1 billion in this budget--the largest investment in our technical colleges in state history.
Source: 2023 State of the State Address to the Tennessee legislature , Feb 6, 2023

Strive for best public schools, provide choices for parents

In just the last six months, hundreds of families living in underserved zip codes have had an opportunity to pick the best school for their child through our Education Savings Account program. Our ESA program is changing lives, and states across the country are following Tennessee's lead. I have always believed that we should strive to have the best public school system in the country and provide choices for parents.
Source: 2023 State of the State Address to the Tennessee legislature , Feb 6, 2023

Set aside money per child for the public school they attend

With the support of thousands of Tennessee parents, I am committing to updating the 30 year-old way we fund our K-12 public schools. I'm proposing an innovative approach that sets aside dollars for each student, based on their individual needs, and these dollars will be used in whatever public school they attend. We have spent months engaging parents, teachers, students and stakeholders in a fully transparent process across the entire state.

The vast majority of parents believe they should be allowed to see books, curriculum and other items used in the classroom. That's how I felt about my own kids, and I stand with those parents today. We are proposing a new law that will ensure parents know what materials are available to students in their libraries. This law will also create greater accountability at the local level so parents are empowered to make sure content is age-appropriate.

Source: 2022 State of the State Address to the Tennessee legislature , Jan 31, 2022

Informed patriotism and American exceptionalism at colleges

Two years ago, I traveled to Hillsdale College to participate in a Presidents Day celebration and spend time with champions of American exceptionalism. For decades, Hillsdale College has been the standard bearer in quality curriculum and the responsibility of preserving American liberty. I believe their efforts are a good fit for Tennessee, and we are formalizing a partnership with Hillsdale to expand their approach to civics education and K-12 education.

I'm proud of the "informed patriots" graduating from our Tennessee schools. Informed patriotism should stretch beyond the K-12 classroom and into higher education. In many states, colleges and universities have become centers of anti-American thought, leaving our students not only ill-equipped but confused. I'm including in my budget $6 million to establish the Institute of American Civics at the University of Tennessee.

Source: 2022 State of the State Address to the Tennessee legislature , Jan 31, 2022

Shut down university group tied to Chinese Communist Party

Last year, we shut down Confucius Institutes at our public Tennessee universities to cut ties with an organization that is working for the Chinese Communist Party. The State of Tennessee has to remain vigilant with regard to countries and foreign entities who don't have our best interests in mind. Our administration has also strengthened our vetting approach to ensure we do not spend state dollars or incentivize any company doing the work of foreign adversaries.
Source: 2022 State of the State Address to the Tennessee legislature , Jan 31, 2022

Expanding civics education with Civics Seal Initiative

Two years ago we created the Governor's Civics Seal to ensure we raise a generation of young people who are knowledgeable in American history and confident in navigating their civic responsibilities. Using federal dollars, we're doubling the number of schools participating in the Civics Seal Initiative. Going forward we are developing a set of instructional materials that will be free to districts, so that ultimately every school can earn the Governor's Civics Seal at no cost.
Source: 2021 State of the State Address to the Tennessee legislature , Feb 8, 2021

4% salary boost for teachers; make $40,000 minimum salary

I'm proposing the largest investment in K-12 teacher salaries in Tennessee history. My budget sets aside $117 million additional dollars for teachers, an amount equal to a 4% increase in the state's contribution to teacher salaries. We must also work harder to make teaching a more attractive profession for young people. Over the next two years, we will recommend moving the minimum salary schedule for teachers from $36,000 to $40,000, so that no teacher is making less than $40,000 per year.
Source: 2020 State of the State Address to the Tennessee legislature , Feb 3, 2020

Focus on new initiatives in teacher training

Our Department of Education will be working with our schools of education, to ensure that our approach to training teachers is the best. The Tennessee Teacher and Leader Institute will solicit proposals to help launch a new initiative that will build the best educator preparation program in the nation. We're investing $4 million to support professional development opportunities for school leaders and innovative career advancement opportunities for our best-performing teachers.
Source: 2020 State of the State Address to the Tennessee legislature , Feb 3, 2020

Fund school choice; competition via charters and ESAs

Parents need more choices and those options should be well-funded and highly accountable. I believe highly accountable public charter schools are a great model for expanding choice without sacrificing quality, and I've seen how they can impact the life and trajectory of a student. We are doubling the amount of public charter school facility funding and I will support legislation this year that makes it easier to open good charter schools and easier to close bad ones.

Education Savings Accounts will enable low-income students from under-performing school districts to attend an independent school of their choice at no cost to their family. I know there's concern that this will take money from public schools, but my plan will invest at least $25 million new dollars in public schools in the first year. Creating competition will provide a new incentive for schools to improve and provide new opportunities for thousands of students.

Source: 2019 State of the State address to the Tennessee legislature , Mar 6, 2019

Schools must focus on acquiring job skills

The job market can change quickly and education must stay in sync with industry. Elementary and middle schools need to begin skills training earlier and, from top to bottom, high school needs to look a lot different. I'm proposing the Governor's Investment in Vocational Education--the GIVE Act--a $25 million investment to increase the number of young adults earning an industry certification and entering a career within one year of high school graduation.

I recently announced the Future Workforce Initiative, a $4 million effort to increase STEM training in K-12 schools. The Future Workforce Initiative will add 100 new CTE programs, grow the number of teachers qualified to teach work-based learning and computer science classes, and expand access to AP courses and early postsecondary options for high schoolers. We are also investing in agricultural education by allocating new recurring funding for both FFA and 4-H youth programs.

Source: 2019 State of the State address to the Tennessee legislature , Mar 6, 2019

Teach civics, with unapologetic American exceptionalism

It was reported that young people in this country have a more favorable view of socialism than capitalism. How will our children know of our cherished American values if we do not teach them? We cannot expect future generations to build upon the incredible progress our country has made if we fail to teach them the history and values that made it possible. In this state, our children will be taught civics education, character formation, and unapologetic American exceptionalism.
Source: 2019 State of the State address to the Tennessee legislature , Mar 6, 2019

Supports charter schools & vouchers

Q: Increase funding for K-12 education?

Karl Dean (D): Yes. Wants to make public education a top priority as governor.

Bill Lee (R): No. Wants to better use existing dollars. Will appoint an inspector general to "seek out waste & abuse in the system."

Q: Education: Support expansion of charter schools or provide vouchers or tax breaks to parents to send their children to private schools with public money?

Karl Dean (D): Opposes vouchers & for-profit charter schools. Believes nonprofit charter schools have a role to play in large urban districts, though "they're not a silver bullet."

Bill Lee (R): Yes. Supports charter schools. "Vouchers are an opportunity to provide another choice. We should certainly pilot voucher programs to see what positive impact they could have."

Source: 2018 CampusElect.org Issue Guide on Tennessee Governor race , Oct 9, 2018

Education, including vocational, is key to a bright future

Improving our education system is the single most powerful tool for transforming the future. I'll work to improve our workforce development pipeline, increase choice and transparency, and focus on recruiting the best and brightest to lead schools and classrooms. The newfound focus on vocational and technical education is a talking point. It's been my life for 35 years. My company employs 1200, hundreds of which are skilled tradesmen who are in rewarding careers without a college degree.
Source: 2018 Tennessee Gubernatorial website BillLee.com , Jul 4, 2018

Charter schools change lives of at-risk youth

Through a YMCA program aimed at helping at-risk youth, Lee said he met a Nashville high school student, Adam, whom Lee withdrew from a traditional public school and enrolled in a charter school, a decision that he said changed the boy's life. He also cites mentor experiences at Men of Valor, a re-entry program for ex-offenders, as the reasons why he ended up being part of the state's Higher Education Commission and Gov. Bill Haslam's Task Force on Sentencing and Recidivism.

Those experiences helped form his views on education, public safety and correction. He said he developed "a vision for something bigger" and found himself wondering whether he could expand his influence. "What if I could make life better for six and a half million people? That was a compelling thought to me," he said. "That is really what drove me to consider running for governor."

Source: The Tennessean on 2018 Tennessee gubernatorial race , Apr 23, 2017

Other governors on Education: Bill Lee on other issues:
Gubernatorial Debates 2023:
KY: Incumbent Andy Beshear(D)
vs.State A.G. Daniel Cameron(R)

vs.Ambassador Kelly Craft(R)
vs.State Auditor Mike Harmon(R)
LA: Incumbent John Bel Edwards(D,term-limited)
vs.Jeff Landry(R)
vs.Shawn Wilson(D)
vs.John Schroder(R)
vs.Sharon Hewitt(R)
MS: Incumbent Tate Reeves(R)
vs.Bill Waller(R,withdrew)
vs.Brandon Presley(D)

Gubernatorial Debates 2024:
DE: Gov. John Carney (D, term-limited);
Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long (D)
vs. Matt Meyer (D)
IN: Gov. Eric Holcomb (R, term-limited);
Sen. Mike Braun (R)
vs. Suzanne Crouch (R)
vs. Jennifer McCormick (D)
MO: Gov. Mike Parson (R, term-limited):
Jay Ashcroft (R)
vs. Bill Eigel (R)
vs. Mike Kehoe (R)
vs. Crystal Quade (D)
MT: Gov. Greg Gianforte (R)
vs. Tanner Smith (R)
vs. Ryan Busse (D)
Gubernatorial Debates 2024 (continued):
NC: Gov. Roy Cooper (D, term-limited);
Dale Folwell (R)
vs. Michael Morgan (D)
vs. Mark Robinson (R)
vs. Josh Stein (D)
vs. Andy Wells (R)
ND: Gov. Doug Burgum (R)
vs. State Rep. Rick Becker (R)
NH: Gov. Chris Sununu (R, retiring)
vs. Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R)
vs. Joyce Craig (D)
vs. Chuck Morse (R)
vs. Cinde Warmington (D)
UT: Gov. Spencer Cox (R)
vs. State Rep. Phil Lyman (R)
VT: Gov. Phil Scott (R) unopposed
WA: Gov. Jay Inslee (D, retiring);
Hilary Franz (D, withdrew)
vs. State Sen. Mark Mullet (D)
vs. County Chair Semi Bird (R)
vs. WA Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D)
WV: Gov. Jim Justice (R, term-limited);
vs. WV State Auditor JB McCuskey (R, withdrew)
vs. WV Secretary of State Mac Warner (R)
vs. State Del. Moore Capito (R)
vs. WV Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R)
vs. Huntington Mayor Steve Williams (D)
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Page last updated: Feb 16, 2024; copyright 1999-2022 Jesse Gordon and OnTheIssues.org