It’s about to get real in Tennessee politics with the official launch of the gubernatorial election season. Tonight, candidates will participate in the first of many forums and it happens to be devoted to education in Tennessee. Kudos to the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) for recognizing the importance of kickstarting the new year and the road to November with education as the North Star.
I’m excited to attend the forum and crazy enough to believe that, after tonight, at least one of these candidates will move me enough to throw my support behind them. In my eyes, education is a non-partisan issue. I remember attending an education-focused gubernatorial forum eight years ago where the then-mayor of Knoxville made a huge impression on me. His view on education was in total agreement with my own, so I was surprised to learn later that Bill Haslam was a big-time Republican. This lifelong Democrat voted for him anyway.
Our children, particularly the extremely poor in urban and rural Tennesse, cannot afford for the rest of us to play politics with their futures. We must expect candidates to put children before politics and require the same of ourselves.
So, here’s what I need to hear:
We have a literacy crisis in Tennessee
Recognize that tens of thousands of students across Tennessee are falling through the cracks and we’re moving on without them as we focus on five to ten-year goals. Listen to the current commissioner of education Candice McQueen when she says literacy is the civil rights issues of our time.
Poor and Children of Color Also Deserve an Excellent Education
If a candidate is not afraid to say this under the lights on a statewide stage such as this, I’m happy to throw my support behind him or her.
Offering more choice is not optional
In a state with a literacy crisis and the academic performances of poor and children of color are criminally lower than white and middle-class students, we are morally obligated to add options that blast the status quo and flip the narrative.
That’s it. I’m pretty low maintenance.
Good luck to each of the candidates and may all Tennesseans practice kindness in the months ahead.