KATHLEEN VINEHOUT
PEOPLE FIRST

Free 2-Year and Tech College Tuition

“So, what’s the best jobs plan?” The Governor asked his State of the State audience. “Easy answer: education. If we want to have jobs ready for Tennesseans, we have to make sure that Tennesseans are ready for jobs.”

With this introduction, Governor Bill Haslam announced a plan to bring absolutely free tech and community college education to every high school senior regardless of his or her grades or ability to pay.

“We just needed to change the culture of expectations in our state,” Governor Haslam told the New York Times. “College isn’t for everybody, but it has to be for a lot more people than it’s been in the past if we’re going to have a competitive work force…If we can go to people and say, ‘This is totally free,’ that gets their attention.”

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Plan Unveiled to Gradually Privatize Public Schools

“If I was going to write a bill to privatize public schools,” the Senate staffer told our small group, “this is what it would look like.”

We were reviewing a new version of a bill to test students attending private schools using state tax dollars. By this sixth version, the bill morphed into something entirely different.

The latest version of the bill was crafted behind closed doors; unlike three years ago when a wide-ranging group developed a system to test and report the progress of all students attending school with public money. Private school advocates publicly agreed to the same public school accountability standards but privately lobbied for something different.

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Some Cry Foul Over Rapidly Rising Propane Prices

“I’ve been in business for 36 years,” the propane man told me. “I believe this is simply price gouging.” The propane retailer’s wholesale price went from $3.19 to $5.29 a gallon in just a few days. I wanted to know why.

At first, I heard the usual “supply and demand” story: a late planting season meant high moisture grain drew down propane supplies. Indeed, propane use to dry grain was four and one-half times larger this past harvest than a year prior.

January-like weather during the first of December meant increased propane demand earlier in the season. As one industry representative said: “It’s simply a matter of economics 101 – supply and demand.”

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Governor: Let’s First Pay the Bills

Imagine you came into a bit of money. Not a lot - less than $500 on your annual salary of $35,000 - but enough to make you happy.

This is the pleasant situation state government faces: new revenue estimates predict the state will close its books on the current budget with a little less than a billion more on its $70 billion biennial budget.

Lawmakers are falling over themselves to come up with the best tax give-away. But maybe they should check the pile of past due bills first.

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