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VOL. 132 | NO. 211 | Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Early Differences Surface at Republican Governor’s Forum in Memphis Oct. 20

By Bill Dries

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When the six declared contenders for the Republican nomination for governor met at this weekend’s Tennessee Federation of Republican Women convention in Memphis, there were some early differences certain to grow as the campaign intensifies.

All six Republican contenders for Tennessee governor introduced themselves, and hinted at their differences at the Tennessee Federation of Republican Women convention in Memphis. (Daily News/Bill Dries)

The forum Friday, Oct. 20, was mostly about the contenders introducing themselves.

Former state Economic and Community Development commissioner Randy Boyd of Knoxville touted his workforce development programs for the state. They include post-high school training and certification programs and two years of free state community college for Tennessee high school graduates.

He also touted his business background before that, including pet care products and pet fencing.

“People always ask, ‘Is it hard selling the state of Tennessee?’” Boyd said. “I always remind them that for a living I’ve sold invisible fences. If you can sell an invisible fence, you can sell the state of Tennessee.”

U.S. Rep. Diane Black of Gallatin urged some caution in pushing the state’s low unemployment rate, saying the calculation doesn’t take into account those who have stopped looking for jobs.

Black said the unemployment measure doesn’t account for those “who either don’t have a skill or people who have learned to live off of the government and are trapped in poverty.”

“I’m very concerned about that,” she said. “I’m concerned about that because work is dignity.”

Differences between Boyd and Black had already been surfacing in the last month. Black was critical of a fundraiser for Boyd by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Other differences between candidates centered around testing used to determine academic achievement in Tennessee’ public school system and setting statewide standards.

State House speaker Beth Harwell said there has to be “accountability” and some way of measuring student achievement by rigorous standards.

“We are headed in the right direction. We are not where we need to be. That’s why we can’t let up,” Harwell said, adding that she has called for an examination of the state’s new achievement tests after incorrect scoring of student results in some districts including Shelby County Schools. She also believes there is too much testing.

State Sen. Mae Beavers of Mount Juliet complained about “demands” on teacher’s time other than instruction, and state and federal standards.

“We have to get Washington out of our classrooms,” she said.

Black said Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration deserves credit for moving academic achievement from among the lowest in the nation to about the middle rank of the 50 states.

“We are missing a whole segment of children in there that are not being successful,” she said in a call for aptitude testing of all 7th or 8th graders.

“Is that not shameful that we have children graduating from high school and still not knowing what they want to do?” she asked.

But Boyd said that misses another element.

“The problem with education to me is that we test typically for your aptitude and your preference. This is what you like to do and here’s what you are good at,” he said. “The piece we are missing is ‘And by the way, where can you get a job?’”

Williamson County businessman and cattle farmer Bill Lee, meanwhile, said the state isn’t preparing students who are not bound for college.

“I employ hundreds of these people,” he said. “We have all but removed vocational, technical and agricultural education from our school systems. When I’m governor, it will be an absolute primary focus of K-12 that ends at post secondary.”

Contender Kay White, a Tri-Cities Realtor, argued that there is no difference between Common Core standards and TnReady student achievement standards the state has recently moved to.

PROPERTY SALES 0 133 1,342
MORTGAGES 0 131 1,047