TREND Winter 2017/2018 - Page 16

special section: beth harwell Thank you for taking the time to share with our educators today. On behalf of our members, I would like to say we are grateful you are offering yourself for Governor. Please share with educators a little about who you are, and why you are running for Governor. I currently serve as Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives, a position to which my colleagues elected me, and it is a great honor. I’m originally from a small town in rural Pennsylvania, but I came here for college and never left. I truly fell in love with this state. I have the experience to continue the successes we have seen in this state. During my tenure as Speaker of the House, we have enacted policies that are resulting in a more prosperous Tennessee. We currently have the lowest unemployment rate in our state’s history, we’ve cut taxes, we’ve shrunk the size of government and made it more efficient, and we have made strides in education. I can continue and build on this success as governor. We made quite a few changes in public education in Tennessee the last decade - some necessary, some debatable. What are we doing right? The accountability measures we have put in place are working. We have high standards in place. We have asked a lot of our teachers, but they have risen to the challenge. Scores are improving, and we continue to do better in national rankings. In your opinion, what are the top 3 challenges still facing education in Tennessee? We have been evaluating the amount of testing required by state and local governments, because we know too much testing is hard on students. However, we still want to maintain our standards and be able to measure progress, so there is a balance to strike. We also need to ensure our students are reading by the third grade—increasing literacy should be a priority. And finally, we need to continue our efforts to increase the number of students obtaining a certificate or degree from a post-secondary institution. The emphasis on the importance of this can begin in our K-12 schools. What are the steps that the state and local districts need to take to address the challenges you identified? What impact will that have on classroom teachers? On testing, the state and local governments need to have open communication to ensure that there is not too much, but we are still getting the information we need. This will have a big impact on classroom teachers, and hopefully provide more instruction time. Literacy by the third grade will take all hands on deck—state and local governments, educators, communities, and families. And to prepare our students for the workforce, schools need to work with post- secondary institutions and those in the community to ensure we are teaching the skills needed for high-paying jobs. Any final thoughts you’d like to share with our educators? From my years working on education issues in the Tennessee House of Representatives, I know the importance of supporting educators. When our educators have the support and tools they need, our Tennessee students have a better shot at succeeding. As governor, my door will always be open to you, and I hope you will share your thoughts, input, and expertise with me.