MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Governor Bill Lee delivered a “state of West Tennessee” address at the University of Memphis Thursday, the first governor to make such a speech directed just toward the western part of the state.
Lee often mentions his deep roots in the Memphis area as a reason for his affinity for West Tennessee; his mother is from Memphis and he spent most of his life visiting family in the area. He also spoke Thursday about recent economic development announcements in the Mid-South.
“I know how important this region and this part of the country is,” he said.
Governor Lee’s West Tennessee address focused on many statewide initiatives from his State of the State address, including education.
Lee proposed establishing more charter schools in the state, which compete for students with traditional public schools. It’s something that’s already happening in Shelby County.
“We’re looking to create a state authorization that would make it easier to open good charter schools and easier to close those not performing,” Lee said.
He also proposed the state use $25 million to help traditional public schools get back on track when they lose students.
“For every dollar that goes with a child who leaves a school or district, that district will get a fill in gap amount of equal amount,” he said.
Rep. London Lamar (D- Memphis) said she wanted to know more about some of Lee’s proposals but she was encouraged by the governor’s overall education plan.
“What I’m most excited about is more funding for our schools, and to me, that’s what’s most important to my district,” Lamar said.
But teachers told WREG that funding only hurts the end goal of educating every child.
“I’d rather see him take the funds he’s allocating for the charter schools and the vouchers, which are called ESA now. I would like to see him divert those funds to public education,” Tikeila Rucker, Larose Elementary teacher, said.
Governor Lee also spoke about job training for the 40 percent of students who do not go on to college and promised to have a new statewide test to replace TN Ready by next school year.