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King Responds to Gov. Lee's Push for Vouchers

King Responds to Gov. Lee’s Push for Vouchers

PUTNAM COUNTY, TENN. - I listened to Governor Lee’s State of the State address Monday evening. I am concerned about the governor's push for vouchers in his address. Governor Lee stated during his address that parents know what is best for their children. Regarding public education, we agree and encourage parental engagement and partnership in their child’s education. Parents and educators mostly agree on most issues. Here are a few areas where we all find common ground:

Parents and educators want safe, clean, and well-maintained schools for students to learn. Recent safety grants help us add features to our buildings that make them safer. Our SROs ensure every school is safe, but we can only do some things due to a lack of funds. Before giving money to private entities, let's work together to continue making our schools safer.

We're adding window film to entryways and piloting a comprehensive Driftnet security system on one campus. To roll out the program to all schools, we need $165,000 annually. We also need $590,000 to complete the school window film installation. The window film has an 8-10-year lifespan. To maintain the film, we will need $60,000 annually.

Contracted cleaning services need help to staff our buildings adequately. To provide the necessary cleaning services requires an increase over our current contract. We also need an additional 1.8 million dollars to meet increased demand and improve our annual maintenance budget.

Parents and educators agree that we must have the best teachers in our classrooms. However, recruiting and retaining teachers who hold four-year degrees has become more challenging than ever before.

Fortunately, our CTE programs are proud to announce that students who earn industry credentials while still in high school can go on to work after graduating and earn annual salaries ranging from $45,000 to $60,000. We are determined to offer starting salaries of $50,000 annually to teachers with four-year degrees, which often come with significant student loans. However, to achieve this goal in Putnam County, we require an additional $3,800,000.

Parents and educators want fully supported extracurricular activities that don't require constant fundraising. Upgrading facilities and annual maintenance are expensive, and costs for uniforms, camps, and officials increase annually. Our support organizations raise over $1,000,000 annually to cover these expenses.

Parents and educators agree that local decisions, not state tests, should determine student promotion and retention. Test scores shouldn't affect third- and fourth-graders future school placement. All parents should have the right to make informed decisions about their children's education, whether the choice is homeschooling, private school, or public education.

Our public schools have come a long way in offering students a wide range of opportunities. Increasing funding for public schools does not imply that we are pouring money into a failing system. In fact, we are thriving and have more students than ever meeting ACT college and career readiness benchmarks. Additionally, a growing number of students are participating in robust CTE programs, which prepare them for the workforce. Our extracurricular programs are also expanding and providing more opportunities for students to get involved in school activities outside the classroom. By allocating more funds to public schools, we can further enhance and support programs that benefit all students instead of dispersing funds to private entities that only benefit a few.