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Haslam Releases 2015 Legislative Agenda

Press release from the office of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam; February 10, 2015:

Bills include last-dollar scholarships to community college for adult learners 

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today filed legislation that is reflected in his FY 2015-16 budget proposal. The bills are a result of the governor’s continued focus on more Tennesseans earning a post-secondary credential, supporting teachers across the state and building a more customer-focused, efficient and effective state government.

“These legislative proposals build on the Drive to 55, our effort to raise the percentage of Tennesseans with a degree or certificate beyond high school from 32 to 55 by the year 2025.  We know that just reaching high school graduates won’t be enough to reach our goal, so we’re specifically looking to get adults with some college credit to go back and earn their degree,” Haslam said.

“Along with including $100 million in the budget for teacher salaries, the proposals are also aimed at supporting educators in meaningful ways, and we are always looking for ways to recruit, reward and retain the best and brightest to serve in state government.”

The governor’s legislation, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) and House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga), includes:

  • The Community College Reconnect Grant pilot program would use a one-time payment of $1.5 million in lottery funds in the FY 2015-16 budget proposal to provide last-dollar scholarships to adults with some college credit to attend a community college. In Tennessee there are nearly 1 million adults with some post-secondary credit but no degree, and this is an additional component of the governor’s Drive to 55 initiative.
  • The Educators’ Liability Trust Fund would provide personal liability coverage to teachers free of charge. While many teachers are covered through their school districts’ insurance plans, the governor heard from many in his conversations around the state that they are concerned they’re not adequately covered and teachers end up paying for liability protection at their own expense. This year’s budget proposal includes a one-time appropriation of $5 million to establish the fund to provide coverage.
  • The Revenue Modernization Act would help keep Tennessee a low tax state by leveling the playing field between in-state companies and out-of-state companies doing business in Tennessee. The proposal would also seek to close certain loopholes by adapting to changes in the way products are bought and sold. The proposed legislation includes:
    • Addressing “nexus” in sales and use, franchise and excise, and business taxes;
    • Adopting market-based sourcing of services to determine which state counts the sale of service for tax purposes when a company conducts business in more than one state;
    • Making Tennessee’s tax structure more competitive with surrounding states by changing the way a multi-state company’s income and net worth is taxed for franchise and excise purposes;
    • And allowing the use of software and video games being accessed remotely to be subject to sales tax as if they had been purchased or downloaded.
  • The Compensation Enhancement Act continues the administration’s focus on recruiting, retaining and rewarding a talented state government workforce by adapting longevity payments to help implement the market- and performance-based compensation plan. Since the governor took office, $139.4 million has been allocated in the state budget for salary increases, and the FY 2015-16 budget proposal includes another $47.7 million for salary increases. Under the proposal, executive branch employees would receive a permanent increase to their base salary equal to half of the longevity payment due, effective July 2015. The remaining half of the longevity payment would be reallocated to the state’s General Fund and then used to fund market- and performance-based salary increases.
  • The State Health Insurance Reform legislation aims to address the rising state employee retirement health care costs and give the state flexibility to offer more competitive total compensation packages and to design benefits for state employees. Key changes include:
    • The state would have the flexibility to offer a defined contribution or defined benefit to current employees for pre-65 retiree health insurance, reflecting the practice of most large private sector employers, and state and local education employees hired after July 1, 2015, would not be eligible for pre-65 retiree health insurance;
    • The State Insurance Committee would have the flexibility to change the percent subsidy that is given to the active state employees by offering one basic health plan;
    • After July 1, 2015, no part time state employee may be eligible for any insurance plan while current employees working 1,450 hours or more per year will be grandfathered into the plan;
    • The state would not offer Medicare Supplement Insurance under the state and teacher insurance plans for employees hired after July 1, 2015.

The governor previously filed the following three pieces of legislation in January: the Tennessee Teaching Evaluation Enhancement Act, Protection of Volunteer-Insured Drivers of the Elderly (PROVIDE) Act, and the Tennessee Promise Implementation Adjustments Act.

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Education Featured NewsTracker

Governor Selling Free College to High School Seniors

With summer winding down and school kicking off, Gov. Bill Haslam is on a statewide tour promoting the benefits of higher education to seniors who’ll graduate high school this year.

This week Haslam is traveling the Volunteer State  pitching his “Tennessee Promise,” a new program offering two years of community college or technical school free to any student interested. The governor says the initiative, which the state Legislature overwhelmingly OK’d last spring, is unique to Tennessee.

“Every Tennessean, if you graduate from high school, we will ensure that you can go to community college for two years — or to technology school — absolutely free of tuition and fees,” Haslam told a gymnasium packed with students at Red Bank High School near Chattanooga Tuesday.

This year’s deadline for sign-up is Nov. 1, Haslam said. The governor told reporters after the event that he’s still running into high school seniors who’re unaware the program exists, which is one of the reasons he’s out talking it up.

The Tennessee Promise is part of Haslam’s “Drive t0 55” initiative, which aims to increase the number of high school grads in the state with some form of higher education certificate to 55 percent — the percentage of jobs in the state that will require some sort of degree in about 10 years. Currently the number of degree-holding Tennesseans is at 32 percent, Haslam said.

“We’re trying to increase the whole spectrum of qualified candidates in the workforce in Tennessee,” he said.

The governor said big companies like Volkswagen and mom-and-pop shops alike have shared similar concerns with him about Tennessee — namely, that the Volunteer State needs to do a better job prepping skilled laborers for the job market.

Haslam noted to the students, though, that even though the two years of school they’re being offered is “free” to them financially, they’re going to be expected to produce results.

“Your obligation is to complete high school, fill out the financial aid forms, work with a mentor — which we will provide you, who will help you with all of that — and then perform eight hours of community service,” Haslam said.

According to the program’s website, Tennessee Promise is a “last-dollar scholarship, meaning it will cover college costs not met from Pell, HOPE, or TSAA.”

The money to fund the “last-dollar” program came from reserve funds from the Tennessee Lottery, initially created for the HOPE Scholarship, which was aimed at high-achieving students.

“It was helping some students, but not enough to where we could get to a larger percentage of Tennesseans having a degree,” Haslam said after the event. “So, we took some reserve money that had built up in the lottery fund, and used that to form an endowment. So, this is a promise, the money’s not going to go away, we’re only spending the interest off of that endowment.”

When the free tuition plan was announced earlier this year, there were some concerns that it could hurt four-year higher education institutions. However, Haslam said he’s confident the program will “increasing the size of the funnel opening” for kids to go to school.

More young adults headed to post-secondary institutes means more graduates, which translates to a better-skilled and better-educated workforce that’ll be more attractive to companies thinking about moving here, he said.

Haslam added that the trend he expected to see is students going to a community college for two years, and then continuing on to a four-year school.

Tennessee House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, a Chattanooga Republican and the sponsor of the legislation in the General Assembly’s lower chamber, told reporters after the event that the Tennessee Promise “is going to be the highlight of the governor’s first term,” and that he hopes to see it built-on over the next four years.

“It was the most important bill I believe I’ve ever moved,” McCormick said.

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Business and Economy Education Featured NewsTracker

Haslam: Improving Higher Ed Access a 2014 Priority

Gov. Bill Haslam said Tuesday that while he hasn’t finalized the particulars of his legislative agenda for 2014, higher education will clearly be a focus.

Haslam spent Tuesday in Murfreesboro talking up his administration’s efforts to encourage more Tennesseans to pursue an education beyond high school, emphasizing the importance of “higher ed” to economic development for the state.

“Government has a real role. One of the roles is to prepare the workers for the workforce,” Haslam told reporters after his announcement of an equipment grant of $625,007 to the Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Murfreesboro.

The grant is a portion of the $16.5 million in equipment and technology grants approved by the General Assembly last session for “workforce development programs” at Tennessee higher education institutions, a part of the governor’s “Drive to 55” initiative to “increase the number of Tennesseans with post-secondary credentials,” according to a press release.

Haslam said he views these grants as a “great investment” for the state that “will mean even more jobs coming to Tennessee in the future.”

Although the general unemployment in the state is still fairly high, the governor said “we have an impending shortage of skilled laborers in Middle Tennessee.”

In order to address that, and entice more businesses to relocate to the state, Haslam said that one of his administration’s top legislative priorities in the upcoming session will be improving access to higher education. “I think you’ll see a real focus on higher ed; both making certain that we have the job preparation programs, as well as we have to have a way that we can encourage more Tennesseans to attend school after high school, and so I think you’ll see some things around making that more affordable as well,” Haslam said after the grant announcement.

The governor also touted the importance of an increased number of degree-holding Tennesseans as necessary to continue job creation and economic development across the state at a luncheon event with the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce later that day.

The governor went down the list of programs enacted and laws passed in the name of enhancing the state’s economic status, and praised efforts to improve education – both K-12 and post-secondary – along with recently passed tax cuts, workers comp and civil service reform and his administration’s push for more exports.

Although the state’s business climate is one generally approved of by companies looking to relocate, a common complaint has been that Tennessee lacks in workforce development and has consistently ranked somewhere in the “40s” in education nationwide, Haslam said.

But the state has been working to improve that statistic, and with the release of the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress scores last month showing Tennessee as the “fastest growing state in the country,” it appears that the educational improvement efforts have been paying off, the governor said at the luncheon.

“It’s a really big deal when the commissioner of education in New York says, ‘If we work really hard we can be like Tennessee,’” Haslam said. “That’s a big deal, and that hasn’t been said a lot.”

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Press Releases

Haslam Awards TCAT-Murfreesboro $625K Equipment Grant

Press release from the Office of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam; December 3, 2013:

MURFREESBORO – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced a grant of $625,007 to fund equipment needed at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Murfreesboro.

The governor proposed and the General Assembly approved $16.5 million in this year’s budget for equipment and technology related to workforce development programs at Tennessee colleges of applied technology and community colleges, part of Haslam’s “Drive to 55” effort to increase the number of Tennesseans with post-secondary credentials.

“The purchase of this equipment for TCAT-Murfreesboro will allow the school to provide high-tech training to meet workforce needs in the Murfreesboro area,” Haslam said. “This will not only help train Tennesseans for skilled jobs but minimize the necessity for area employers to seek skilled workers from out of state.”

The grant for TCAT-Murfreesboro at the school’s Old Fort Campus will address needs for equipment for instruction in mechanical systems, electronics, industrial motor controls, hydraulics, pneumatics and wiring. The school will be able to purchase several pieces of high-tech training equipment.

The purchase will help align the school’s advanced manufacturing training programs with area industry. Graduation from the industrial maintenance program as well as the machine tool and HVAC programs prepare students for the workforce and provide up to 30 credit hours to transfer to a community college toward an Applied Associate Degree in General Technology.

“Currently only 32 percent of Tennesseans have certificates or degrees beyond high school, and studies show that by 2025, that number must be 55 percent to meet workforce demands,” Haslam said. “These workforce development grants help us directly meet workforce training needs.”

These strategic investments resulted from the governor meeting with businesses and education officials across the state last fall to better understand workforce development needs. One of the most common themes Haslam heard was the lack of capacity and equipment at Tennessee colleges of applied technology and community colleges to meet job demand, so these grants are aimed at addressing those gaps.

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Press Releases

Northeast State Receives $843K Grant for Advanced Technology Programs

Press release from the office of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam; October 22, 2013:

BLOUNTVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced a grant award of $843,000 for Northeast State Community College to fund needed equipment for advanced technology programs at the school.

The governor proposed and the General Assembly approved $16.5 million in this year’s budget for equipment and technology related to workforce development programs at Tennessee colleges of applied technology and community colleges, part of Haslam’s “Drive to 55” effort to increase the number of Tennesseans with post-secondary credentials.

These strategic investments resulted from the governor meeting with businesses and education officials across the state last fall to better understand workforce development needs. One of the most common themes he heard was the lack of capacity and equipment at Tennessee colleges of applied technology and community colleges to meet job demand, so these grants are aimed at addressing those gaps.

“This grant will provide equipment that will assist in Northeast State’s mission of training workers for the modern workplace,” Haslam said. “We will need qualified Tennesseans to fill skilled positions, and Northeast State is playing a significant role in meeting that goal.”

Currently, only 32 percent of Tennesseans have certificates or degrees beyond high school, and studies show that by 2025 that number must be 55 percent to meet workforce demands. Haslam’s Drive to 55 initiative is designed to address that workforce need on several fronts, including the funds for the state’s colleges of applied technology and community colleges.

The new equipment for Northeast State Community College will allow the school to expand its robotics manufacturing training lab, add a mechatronics training lab and upgrade equipment for its welding and machine tool programs. More than 200 advanced technologies students a year will benefit from the enhanced training capabilities provided by this grant.

Haslam and the Tennessee General Assembly included almost $33 million in the state budget this year toward building a technical education complex at Northeast State.

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Vol State Receives Workforce Development Grant

Press release from the Office of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam; October 1, 2013:

GALLATIN – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced a workforce development grant of $259,700 for Volunteer State Community College for establishing a networking laboratory for a new computer information science program.

The governor proposed and the General Assembly approved $16.5 million in this year’s budget for equipment and technology related to workforce development programs at Tennessee colleges of applied technology and community colleges, part of Haslam’s “Drive to 55” effort to increase the number of Tennesseans with post-secondary credentials.

These strategic investments resulted from the governor meeting with businesses and education officials across the state last fall to better understand workforce development needs. One of the most common themes he heard was the lack of capacity and equipment at Tennessee colleges of applied technology and community colleges to meet job demand, so these grants are aimed at addressing those gaps.

“Currently, only 32 percent of Tennesseans have certificates or degrees beyond high school, and studies show that by 2025 that number must be 55 percent to meet workforce demands,” Haslam said. “We must have qualified Tennesseans to fill those positions, and these grants are going to have an immediate impact because these programs have high placement rates in fields that are looking to fill jobs now.”

The equipment at Volunteer State Community College will provide computer science training that includes cyber-security, data analysis, mobile application programming, Voice Over Internet Protocol and virtualization training. Volunteer State will develop a program designed to reduce the cost and time it takes IT students to obtain high-wage professional jobs. The program will provide hands-on skills training as well as critical thinking ability.

According to the University of Tennessee Center for Business and Economic Research, occupations in computer and information systems security are among the state’s most under-supplied career pathways. A Georgetown University study estimated about 7,000 computer and mathematical science jobs in Tennessee will require at least an associate degree by 2018.

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Press Releases

TCAT-Dickson Receives Almost $700K Workforce Development Grant

Press release from the Office of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam; Sept. 23, 2013:

DICKSON – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced a $693,961 workforce development equipment grant for the Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) – Dickson and its new Clarksville expansion site.

The governor proposed and the General Assembly approved $16.5 million in this year’s budget for equipment and technology related to workforce development programs at Tennessee colleges of applied technology and community colleges, part of Haslam’s “Drive to 55” effort to increase the number of Tennesseans with post-secondary credentials.

These strategic investments resulted from the governor meeting with businesses and education officials across the state last fall to better understand workforce development needs. One of the most common themes he heard was the lack of capacity and equipment at Tennessee colleges of applied technology and community colleges to meet job demand, so these grants are aimed at addressing those gaps.

“Currently only 32 percent of Tennesseans have certificates or degrees beyond high school, and studies show that by 2025, that number must be 55 percent to meet workforce demands,” Haslam said. “We must have qualified Tennesseans to fill those positions, and these grants are going to have an immediate impact because these programs have high placement rates in fields that are looking to fill jobs now.”

The majority of the grant, $534,170, will go to both the Dickson and Clarksville locations to address the critical need for equipment in the Industrial Maintenance & Electricity Technology, Mechatronics, and Machine Tool Technology programs. The grant will allow the TCAT-Dickson to purchase training equipment for mechanical systems, electronics, industrial motor controls, hydraulics, pneumatics and wiring. Graduation from any one of these three programs prepares students for the workforce and provides up to 30 credit hours to transfer into a community college toward an Applied Associate Degree in General Technology.

The remaining $159,791 is for the TCAT-Dickson expansion site in Clarksville and equipping the school’s new welding/pipefitting and millwright programs to meet national accreditation standards. Completion of these programs provides a direct entry to the workforce and the ability to transfer 30 credit hours toward an applied associate degree. The equipment will help qualify program graduates in several different high-skill occupations.

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Press Releases

Haslam Amps Up ‘Drive to 55’ Initiative to Improve TN Higher Ed Numbers

Press release from the Office of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam; September 4, 2013:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today convened key stakeholders including members of the General Assembly and leaders from Tennessee’s four-year colleges and universities, community colleges, colleges of applied technology, chambers of commerce, the business community, and the state board of education to discuss the challenges Tennessee faces in building a strong workforce for today and in the future.

“We want Tennesseans working in Tennessee jobs. We want Tennesseans to have an opportunity to get a good job and for those in the workplace to be able to advance and get an even better job,” Haslam said. “Currently in Tennessee, only 32 percent of us have a certificate or degree beyond high school, and studies show that by the year 2025 that number needs to be at least 55 percent for us to keep up with job demand. We have a lot of work ahead of us.”

The governor outlined Tennessee’s current situation including:

  • Nearly 70 percent of Tennessee students entering community college need remedial classes before they can take college level courses;
  • More than 20,000 Tennessee high school graduates choose not to continue their education each year.
  • There are approximately 940,000 adult Tennesseans who have some college credit but haven’t earned an associate or four-year degree.
  • On the state’s current path, Tennessee is projected to reach 39 percent of citizens with a certificate or degree beyond high school by the year 2025. To reach 55 percent would be 494,000 more people.

Two national experts participated in the event, held at the Music City Center in Nashville, to give global perspectives on workforce trends, the importance of workforce readiness, and innovations in post-secondary education.

Jeff Strohl, the director of research at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, leads a team that researches how education impacts the workforce and focuses on how to quantify skills and better understand competencies in the context of an evolving workplace.

Anant Agarwal serves as president of edX, a worldwide, online learning initiative of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University. He is also a professor in MIT’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Science department.

The governor’s special advisor for Higher Education, Randy Boyd, also gave an update on the progress made to date on the “Drive to 55” initiative including:

  • $16.5 million in this year’s budget for equipment and technology related to workforce development programs at Tennessee colleges of applied technology and community colleges, which institutions will begin receiving in the coming weeks.
  • Launch of WGU Tennessee – an online, competency-based university aimed at the 940,000 adult Tennesseans that have some college credit but didn’t graduate with an associate or four-year degree.
  • Newly created endowment of $47 million using operational reserve funds from the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation (TSAC) to provide nearly $2 million each year to support scholarships for “last dollar” scholarship programs such as tnAchieves. These scholarships fill the gaps between students’ financial aid and the real costs of college including books, supplies, room and board.
  • Launching the SAILS program, Seamless Alignment and Integrated Learning Support, to give students who need extra support in math attention during their senior year in high school so they can avoid remediation when they enter college.
  • Legislation sponsored by Majority Leaders Mark Norris and Gerald McCormick to create the Labor Education Alignment Program – or LEAP – to better coordinate key stakeholders on the state and local level to address workforce readiness.
  • And new online learning innovations in Tennessee through partnerships with edX and Coursera.

Haslam appointed Boyd to the position in January, and he has consulted with a formal working group made up of the governor, executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC), chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR), and president of the University of Tennessee. Although Boyd’s position is full-time, he is working for the state on a voluntary, unpaid basis.

The governor will be traveling the state in the coming weeks making the case for a stronger emphasis on workforce readiness in Tennessee – equipping more Tennesseans with the skills and training they need beyond high school for the jobs of today and tomorrow.

For more information on the ‘Drive to 55’ initiative, visit www.driveto55.org.