Diane Black Releases Comprehensive Plan to Strengthen Education and Build a Strong Workforce

Nashville, Tenn. – Today, Diane Black released her comprehensive plan to build on Tennessee’s success and make the state’s education system the best in the country. Not all Tennessee students need to go to college, but all Tennesseans should be prepared for a good career. Diane Black’s plan takes Tennessee in the right direction.

“Every Tennessean deserves the right to live their version of the American Dream,” said Diane Black. “That starts with a good education. But not every student’s dream means a 4-year degree. We need to rethink our education system. A top down approach to education doesn’t work. We need to take a bottom up approach that addresses the individual needs of every Tennessee student.” 

Prepare Students for Good Jobs:

Schools should prepare children to follow their dreams.  We want our young people to go to college.  But what about students who want to start a career when they graduate from high school? Students who graduate from Career and Technical Education programs earn more at the outset of their careers and have little or no debt compared to students graduating from four-year universities.

  • We should incorporate aptitude testing in the middle school years to help children think about career paths.
  • We should let students get a license to practice a trade so they can begin their career on the day they graduate from high school.

Promote and Expand CTE: 

School systems across Tennessee are doing great work in this area.  Hamilton, Hardeman and Warren Counties are a few examples of school systems that offer many different credentials/certificates upon graduation.  We should expand our CTE efforts:

  • We should leverage the resources and energy behind the various post-secondary options and TCATS/Community Colleges and make them available to 7-12 graders.  BEP funds should also contribute to this effort.
  • Tennessee should offer Dual Track diplomas like most of the Western world.  However, there are deficiencies in the current dual enrollment program that must be fixed:
    • While dual enrollment credits can be used in TCATS, most dual enrollment options are for general education requirements in four-year universities.  We must greatly expand course offerings that mirror what CTE/TCAT is doing.  Part of the answer is bringing CTE/TCAT instructors into high schools.
    • Remove the limit on how many dual enrollment classes you can take and let sophomores take them (the program is currently limited to Juniors and Seniors).  

Students in CTE programs graduate at a significantly higher rate than their peers not involved with CTE and leave high school with recognized industry credentials.  They can also serve in leadership positions through membership in co-curricular Career and Technical Student Organizations like FFA, DECA and HOSA.

A Promise to Teachers

Half of Tennessee’s teachers will retire or leave the profession in the next decade.  The next Governor will have to play a major role in solving this problem.  I’ve worked with current and former teachers across the state to develop these priorities:

  • Reduce teacher workload:  Teaching is a calling to be in the classroom – not on bus or cafeteria duty.  I will work with Tennessee school systems to make sure they have the support staff they need to handle non-teaching roles. And I will make sure they have adequate time to plan instruction, assist students, engage with parents, and grade student work during the school day. 
  • Dramatically reduce out-of-pocket expenditures: 91% of teachers spend more than $100 a year on out-of-pocket expenditures.  Twenty-one percent spend more than $500 per year.  How can we change that?
    • We can decrease out-of-pocket expenditures by making sure funds earmarked for classroom supplies do not get used for other purposes within a school district.  This happens far too often.
    • We can increase partnerships with local businesses to donate supplies.  Tennessee is filled with businesses of every size that would be willing to help.  I’ll lead that effort.
  • Increase teacher salaries where there is a need: For example, teacher shortages in Pre-K through Grade 6 include Special Education and English Language Learners (ELL).  In grades 7-12, World Language and ELL are two areas of need.  However, shortages are not geographically uniform.  Urban areas need more ELL teachers whereas rural areas need more World Languages teachers. The key is to make sure the dollars we allocate for teacher salaries actually reach those who are doing the hard work of educating our children. 

Keeping Higher Education Affordable: 

If we want more Tennesseans to have a degree, tuition must be affordable and stable.  

  • We should limit tuition growth to increases in the consumer price index (CPI) and lock-in tuition for entering freshmen for four years.  This allows families to budget and incentivizes students to finish their degree in four years.
  • To help meet this goal, I challenge individual university boards to not only include findings of waste and financial mismanagement in annual audits, but search for smarter ways of operating that translate into lower tuition costs.