Press Release from Senate Republican Caucus; Aug. 12, 2010:
NASHVILLE, TN), August 12, 2010 — State Senators Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) and Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville) said today they have asked Senate Education Chairman Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville) to schedule a meeting of the Senate Education Committee “as soon as practicable” to hear testimony regarding the appointments of the members of the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR).
The call comes one week after the Board appointed John Morgan, Chancellor, despite a request from the Senate Education Chairman to broaden the search to consider applicants with advanced doctorate degrees and managerial experience in a higher education setting.
Ketron said Tennessee law requires appointed members “shall be subject to confirmation by the Senate.” The Senate has not acted on the appointments in recent years. The law states appointments “shall be effective until adversely acted upon by the Senate.”
“We have a duty under Tennessee law to look at members appointed to the Board of Regents which was obviously put into place to explore their qualifications, education ideas and other relevant matters to that position,” said Senator Ketron, who is a member of the Education Committee. “Therefore, this is something that we have a statutory duty to examine. We have been far too lenient in this regard and need to take a look at these board members who are serving approximately 200,000 students across this state in a position of high authority.”
“I am very concerned about the Board’s action to drastically increase the new chancellor’s salary from $305,000 to $385,000 at a time when our state employees did not receive a raise and when we are looking at increased tuition rates for our students,” added Ketron, who is also Chairman of the legislature’s Fiscal Review Committee. The Fiscal Review Committee serves as the General Assembly’s watchdog on the state’s finances and contracts. “The legislature made many difficult cuts to state government programs this year. The public, rightfully, has a good reason to complain when such action is taken by a state government board or agency, especially when the education requirements for the position were lowered by the Board.”
The Tennessee Board of Regents supervises all public institutions of higher education in Tennessee not governed by the University of Tennessee system, including the state’s four-year institutions, community colleges, and the Tennessee Technology Centers. Unlike most states, the Board of Regent’s component institutions do not have their own board of directors or trustees at the campus level, leaving the TBR with the ability to hire or promote various positions in the state’s colleges and universities. There have been several attempts to combine the TBR with the University system, or replace it with a system under which each component school, or at least each of the universities, would have its own independent board.
“The Tennessee Board of Regents has a huge impact on our higher education system,” added Senator Tracy, who is also a member of the Education Committee. “Although the Senate cannot act as a body until next year on this matter, we are asking the Chairman to begin the process of looking at the members appointed as we are statutorily required.”