A whole lot of talk and a lot less actionLast night's State of the State Address showed us that either Governor Phil Bredesen is completely divorced from the realities of the world and well-intentioned, or completely divorced from the realities of the world and simply wants to burden Tennesseans with his social experimentation. I agree with the Governor about the importance of education, but I believe his emphasis is wrong. First off, he said:
Were you as taken aback as I was to read that 75 percent of [lottery HOPE] scholarship recipients will lose their scholarships before graduating?
Just what planet did you live on, Governor, that you did not know in advance that such would be the reality? The standard for a HOPE scholarship is a 3.0 cumulative average-I think that is fair and if you are going to get that much of your school paid for, your grades should reflect a high average. Most students, however, balance school, work, (perhaps to much of a) social life, and even church activities. Keeping your GPA at 3.0 is not an easy task, so it should not be surprising that so many kids lose the scholarship.
I'm glad the Governor says he wants to address the important issue of at-risk students, and I am also glad that he wants to use surplus lottery money to fund school construction and other school needs. However, I believe very strongly that he is overemphasizing funding for pre-Kindergarten. I don't argue that pre-K is important for some kids in terms of preparing them to learn, but for many kids and parents it is nothing more than glorified daycare-so let's call this what it is: Governor Bredesen wants a universal daycare program. Many kids can suffer serious drawbacks and even develop learning disabilities from entering anything remotely resembling a classroom environment too early.
Where would I get a nutty idea like that?
Well, my aunt feels very strongly that many children fall behind as a result of entering a school environment, even pre-K, too early, because at too early an age kids begin to develop a sense that Johnny or Susie is smarter or better than they are, and it isn't because teachers are sending that message-some kids really have intellectual abilities that others do not share. It doesn't make the other kids stupid, less worthy to learn, or even less likely to be successful, but it can make a child feel inferior to others and that can have an impact on their ability to learn or be successful. For this reason, my aunt feels that kids need to be at home when they are young for as long as the parents are able to keep them there, in a nurturing environment where their self-worth is reaffirmed, and when the kids are ready to begin school, they are confident and sure of themselves.
My aunt recently retired. What did she do for a living? She was a teacher-and not just any teacher, but one who dealt specifically with kids who had learning disabilities. I daresay that she knows something about kids and their development from years of experience.
Last night, we heard a lot from the Governor about funding for school construction, pre-K, and even revamping the lottery scholarship program. I believe that with the money the Governor wants to spend on a pre-K program that is of questionable need for our State, we could instead use the same money that he wants to spend on that program to increase teacher pay-a topic left untouched by Governor Bredesen. Tennessee ranks among the lowest in the nation in teacher pay, yet the Governor wants to spend tens of millions of dollars on education, some of it on questionable programs (like the lottery scholarship program), and he won't even mention teacher pay.
If the Governor were serious about improving education, perhaps he would listen to the House Republican proposal for a separate education budget that is distinct from the rest of the budget-no mention of that idea.
This was the State of the State Address, yet many issues facing Tennessee were left unmentioned by the Governor.
There was no mention of finding a way to eliminate the grocery tax, a tax that hurts untold millions of working Tennesseans, even though the State has the money to give working Tennesseans that tax relief right now and still fund many of the initiatives the Governor spoke of-especially with his proposed tobacco tax hike which will almost certainly pass. There seemed to be an indication of the opposite-that Bredesen won't consider it.
There was no mention of the State confronting illegal immigration with a reform of the driver's license laws-in fact the only mention of the problem at all was a passing mention by the Governor honoring Tennessee troops who are or have been deployed or are under orders-the Governor rightly honored a soldier deployed to the Mexican border who had served previously in Iraq, among other military honorees.
There was little or no mention of how to control health care costs to the State, including broaching the idea of tort or legal reform.
Indeed, there was little mention of anything of substance outside of education. I am not demeaning education, I even agree with the Governor that it is the most important issue facing Tennesseans today...but it isn't the only issue, and on so many other issues, the Governor left us high and dry.
Sadly, it was a typical Bredesen speech, which leads me to believe that we will see typical Bredesen conduct-a whole lot of talk and a lot less action. It is even more disheatening that Tennesseans as a whole seem to prefer it.
Labels: Tennessee politics