Tuesday is Election Day.
Tennessee will elect its next governor, as well as a new legislature in a year of significant turnover. The outcome of these elections are likely to have major implications for education policies, such as testing and teacher accountability, pre-K access, and the availability of public money for charter schools and private vouchers. Chalkbeat has been covering the races from the beginning. Here’s what’s at stake as Tennesseans head to the polls.
Democrat Karl Dean and Republican Bill Lee talked to Chalkbeat about their plans for improving K–12 education and increasing access to early childhood programs, where they stand on charter and voucher programs, and whether they would stay the course with testing and teacher evaluations. Dean and Lee also described their own educational backgrounds, and the schooling choices they made for their children.
Although the gubernatorial debates between Dean and Lee were relatively cordial, sharp differences on hot-button education issues emerged in the race, including on arming educators in schools.
All eyes may be on the governor’s race (in addition to the contest to fill the the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Bob Corker), but lower-profile state legislative races could have major consequences for education policy. That’s because this year, there’s an unusually high number of legislative departures — including the leaders of three of the four House education panels. Here’s why that matters.
Nationwide, more than 150 working teachers are running for state offices. Chalkbeat profiles two such educators from Tennessee: a middle school teacher and mother of a child with autism, and an eighth-grade history teacher, who said he’s running because “I teach my students every day about our country and our government and, if I don’t live what I teach, then I’m a phony.”
When it comes to voter participation, Tennessee has a long way to go. The state reportedly ranks 40th in the nation in voter registration and last in voter turnout. This is why teenagers — too young to vote, but old enough to care — are trying to correct course. Their effort aims to increase voter turnout and to educate young future voters on issues that affect their lives, such as school discipline, sexual assault and harassment policies, and diversity in schools.
In a surprise statement, Dorsey Hopson, superintendent of Shelby County Schools in predominantly Democratic Memphis, threw his support behind the Republican candidate. According to Hopson, Lee would be “open-minded and solutions-oriented” on issues important to him such as “improving testing, raising teacher pay, supporting students’ social and emotional needs, and adopting multiple strategies to improve public education in Tennessee.”
In backing Dean, Tennessee Education Association’s PAC cited the Democrat’s record on school funding and his opposition to vouchers that use taxpayer money to pay tuition for students who attend private or religious schools. “Increasing the state’s per-student investment is a top priority,” they said, “and one of the reasons Dean has earned our endorsement.”
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