Why I am running for office
I want to point out that we have many good things going for us in Tennessee.
Click here for a PDF Copy of a booklet that summarizes some of my main concersns.
- I beleive in the US Constitution and the Constitution of the State of Tennessee. I beleive these documents are clear in what was intended when our country and our state were founded and that there is, built-in within these documents, ways to change our laws and update our constitutions when there is a need. Any change comes from the people and not from a group of judges who see themselves as having some special gift to make the constitution mean what they think it should mean.
- Article 1, Section 1 of the Tennessee Constitution
That all power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority, and instituted for their peace, safety, and happiness; for the advancement of those ends they have at all times, an unalienable and indefeasible right to alter, reform, or abolish the government in such manner as they may think proper.
That government being instituted for the common benefit, the doctrine of nonresistance against arbitrary power and oppression is absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind.
I believe strongly in the Bill of Rights and believe that the Government only gets it power from the people who allow the government to function.
Yes, there are those who would take our freedoms away, but I really don't believe that is an immedeate issue in the state of Tennessee. I don't think it would be allowed and I don't see issues such as right to bear arms, freedom of speech or others as being threatened currently at the state level. I do think we need to be ever vigilant and if we don't protect and defend our liberty, we can't expect anyone else to.
- I think one of the biggest threats to our rights is the decline of education. If citizens are kept in the dark and prevented from learning how to think, then we will see a bleak future. Education in Tennessee is in a tough place, with many schools simply not producing and colleges and universities lowering their standards to accomodate the incomming students. We do have some very bright students, in spite of the bad policies coming out of Nashville. I hope to educate Tennesseans on some of the things that have been happening and some of the politics of money that are driving the decisions in Nashville.
- Click here for a PDF Copy of a booklet that summarizes some of my main concersns.
- We have many good public schools, colleges and universities. I know we have many bright students at all levels and I have been privileged to work with and teach many smart and knowledgeable students. I am thankful for this.
- We have many hard working Americans who work in offices, industry, agriculture, retail, restaurants, the government and elsewhere. Without you, this wouldn't be the great state that it is.
- In East Tennessee we have beautiful rivers, lakes, streams and mountains, and our great outdoors truly are GREAT.
- None of the issues mentioned here can change what we currently have. But these issues can change the futures of what we have and the future of our children and our state.
Issues in Education
The number one problem in our state is education and the number one priority should be fixing education at both the K-12 levels and at our colleges and universities.
- Common Core standards and the associated testing will have no effect if we continue with business as usual in Nashville. Common core should not even be in the discussion at this point. The vast majority (85%) of Tennessee high school graduates DO NOT meet the ACT's college readiness benchmarks and contrary to claims made by the state, the percentage of students with low ACT test scores is increasing. Go to my Education page for more on this, including links to TN.Gov and ACT web site statistics.
- The Complete College Tennessee Act of 2010 - which Rep. Matthew Hill supported, has resulted in lost revenue for East Tennessee State University and Washington County. It has also lowered the quality of develomental classes, hurting students who we have already failed in high school.
- The Tennessee Promise Scholarship Act, which promises free community college to high school graduates, does nothing to increase the performance of college students and actually cuts the amount of money for HOPE (lottery) scholarship recipients who are freshmen and sophomres at 4-year universities such as ETSU.
Dirty secrets of education in Tennessee
As a state, we are failing to educate many of our K-12 and higher education students. Tennessee has one of the highest high school graduation rates in the US, at around 86% and yet we have some of the worst ACT scores and college graduation rates in the country. Bad laws and policies are passed for appearance sake, having no real affect on the progress of education. Nashville is not knowledgeable about the problems. Our politicians have not been down in the trenches and they have no idea of what damage they are doing. Many of the problems in education in Tennessee occur because of K-12 and heigher education institutions trying to survive fiancially after years of dealing with cuts in state funding.
- Special prgrams occupy the time of many low-performing public school students and provide rational for getting them through the system. These students don't have the skills they need and the justification is that they won't attend college anyway, so it's okay.
- Students graduate from high school with real diplomas, even though they have less than half of the credits the law requires.
- Institutions of higher education admit students with high school GPAs barely over 1.0 (on a 4 point scale) along with math and English ACT scores on junior high levels.
- There is pressure at some public colleges and universities coming from the "top" to graduate college seniors who have not completed all of their program requirements. It's amazing what reaction a $1 million cut to funding can provide.
- Nashville passes education reform on a regular basis and creates funding policies that encourage some public K - 12 schools, colleges and universities to act in a manner that is incompatible with sound education goals.
Spending and Revenue:
Our economy is stagnant and funding for higher education is at it's lowest since the year 2000 - in both dollars and percent of the cost of education. During the same time, enrollment in public institutions is at an all-time high. Other projects that can benefit all Tennesseans need to be fully funded and we need to use our limited funds wisely. Funding for projects that will increase our state as a destination for industry and tourism should be placed at the highest level and this includes making sure that our high school and college graduates have actual knowledge and skills that will be an asset that attracts business to our state.
- Opportunities to bring business into our state must be aggressively pursued and tax subsidies and other tax-payer funded methods can be used to bring more business into the state. However, the state must protect taxpayers when companies like Hemlock Semiconductors back out of taxpayer subsidized funding. Over $100 million was lost with the Hemlock deal (http://www.knoxviews.com/node/19635). Tennessee makes as many poor finacial decisions as the Federal government. We just have less money, so we waste less, but the bad pollicies are widespread and costly.
Other examples of wasteful spending include:
- $600,000 to the National Civil Rights Museum for economic damage from natural disasters (a flood). The Museum sits on a bluff well above floodwaters and received no phisical damage and could not even produce data to show that the 2011 flood ever affected it's revenue. (This according to http://www.beacontn.org/wp-content/uploads/2013-Tennessee-Pork-Report.pdf also known as the Tennessee Pork Report)
- TNInvestco: A program to encourage business investment and job growth in Tennessee which has cost the state at least $111 million and created 577 new jobs "the majority in Tennessee" (http://www.tennessean.com/story/money/2014/04/13/tninvestco-shows-signs-success-amid-controversy/7621261/). So at over $192,000 per job (or only a mere $140,000 per job depending on the source) not even all the jobs stayed in state.
- $8.5 million towards the production of ABC's Nashville TV show and $22 milion more for other filmakers from 2008 to 2012. State investment in the film industry has been proven to be a money losing proposition having an impact of only a fraction ofthe state's investment. (Tennessee Pork Report)
- $200,000 for facility maintenance at Watkins College of Art, Design, & Film - a private college. (Tennessee Pork Report)
- $73 million in overpayments of unemployment benefits that included payments to currently working state employees and several dead citizens. (Tennessee Pork Report)
- And much much more waste. More information provided on my Other Issues page.
Incarceration rates in Tennessee and the associated costs: Incarceration Data below is from http://nicic.gov/statestats/?st=tn.
- Incarceration is about 7% higher than other states.
- Violent crimes 67% higher than other states
- Property crimes 33% higher than the national average.
- Drug Offenders make up over 25% of incarcerated felons in Tennessee and spend an average of almost 10 years incarcerated.
- Tennessee spends an average of $64.72 a day for each prisoner in state custody (not including death row) and $9,123 a year, or $50.68 a day for each student in public school. Another way of puttig this is we spend 22% more on our prisoners than we do our children's education.
- We need alternative sentencing for non-violent drug offenders and others in our jails and prisons. We can create programs for these offenders to earn their keep while participating in work and rehabilitation programs.
The Tennessee General Assembly web site is confusing and limits the ability of most citizens to understand what is actually going on in Nashville. Simply put: We need to fix this! This system can and should be improved to give our state the most transparent government in the nation.
- More to come...