Governor’s Remarks on Legislative Package

Statement from Governor Bill Haslam, Feb. 17, 2011:

“Today I am submitting our first legislative package that focuses on two core messages: educating a highly trained workforce that will attract high quality jobs and identifying the best teachers and creating an environment that keeps them in the classrooms across the state.

“Tennessee is poised to lead the way in educational reforms that will bring 21st century approaches into our classrooms. The Race to the Top initiative is the blueprint for us to improve student achievement, to instill strong, innovative leadership skills in our principals and to encourage high performing teachers to share their knowledge with our children.

“Our education approach recognizes the contributions made by teachers and emphasizes our commitment to have the best and brightest teachers available in the classroom.

“To meet the challenges and the opportunities of a quality education for every child requires a focused set of initiatives.

“We have been partnering with educators to craft tools that will assist teachers and principals that will assist in achieving academic success. These tools also will assist school districts in assessing and rewarding teachers that are excelling in the classroom as well as those that fall below expectations.

“An effective teacher should lead every classroom, and we should recognize them. At the same time we should take steps to address those teachers who consistently fail to measure up to the standards we all want for every child. That should be the measure for tenure.

“Reform in education encompasses multiple approaches that embrace new, innovative concepts.

“Charter schools represent one way to improve the learning experience. We are asking for the cap on the number of charter schools to be removed and to allow open enrollment. The bar is high for charter school performance as it should be.

“In our Achievement School District that is part of First-to-the-Top, we support extending to the ASD the ability to authorize charter schools.

“But the learning experience is not complete after a high school education. We need to encourage people to attain an advanced degree from a community college or one of our four-year institutions.

“Our lottery scholarships have retained the best and brightest students in our state.

“With the Complete College Act that recognizes retention and graduation, we are requesting an extension of the lottery scholarship to summer courses and capping the total number of hours based on required degree completion.

“Another step toward making Tennessee competitive within the Southeast, we are requesting revisions to the state’s civil justice system.

“The legislation will provide certainty and predictability for businesses and insure that we are competitive with our neighboring states. The revisions will establish limits on non-economic damages for both health care liability actions and other personal injury actions. Limits will also be placed on punitive damages, and standards will be clarified for assessing such damages. Also the venues in which a legal action can be filed will be clarified.

“Our agenda that is being filed with the Tennessee General Assembly is tightly focused on opportunities to enhance job creation. At the same time we will be using the tools already at our disposal to provide good customer service to our citizens. For example, the Department of Economic and Community Development is focused on a top-to-bottom approach that lays out the return on the financial investment that is made.

“We will aggressively examine rules and regulations to assure this three-part test is met – will they make a difference, are they performance based and what are the expected outcomes.

“These initial steps in transforming state government will lead to more efficiency and effectiveness and deliver excellent customer service.”