NASHVILLE – Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle wrote this week to state lawmakers urging that they take a jobs-centered approach to discussions regarding lottery reserves and their impact on college scholarships for Tennesseans.
“Our talks so far have been all about money, when they should be about putting Tennesseans back to work,” Kyle said. “The lottery fund was designed to give more Tennesseans the opportunity at a good education and an even better job. That should be our top priority now more than ever.”
As the state’s unemployment rate sits at 9.7 percent and Tennessee ranks near the bottom of the nation in college degrees obtained, lawmakers have considered changes that would exclude nearly 3,000 students who are currently eligible for the HOPE scholarship. Kyle called on lawmakers to focus instead on increasing access for students.
“The Lottery for Education account has more money in reserves than it pays out each year in scholarships, and yet we talk about its looming insolvency,” Kyle wrote. “I don’t know a single person with more money in their savings account than they spend in a year who considers themselves broke.”
On a statewide jobs tour last week, House and Senate Democrats heard employers repeatedly call for more training in the state’s higher education system for high-skill, well-paying manufacturing jobs. At Chattanooga State, a two-year program placed nearly all of its students into clean energy jobs with an average salary of $55,000.
“In this time of economic uncertainty, we must use what resources we have to ensure that people are prepared for what is to come; if we do not, the world will leave us behind,” Kyle wrote. “Rather than saving for a future that may never arrive, why not utilize the resources we have for the betterment of Tennessee now?”
Click here to read the full letter from Sen. Kyle to lawmakers. The first meeting of the Senate Lottery Stabilization Task Force was held Aug. 29. The task force has not indicated when it will hold its next meeting.