Governor takes questions from Claiborne residents

Published 9:48 am Monday, July 22, 2019

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Tennessee Governor Bill Lee visited Claiborne County on July 17 as one of several stops in East Tennessee. The governor took several questions from those in attendance ranging for funding to church-related issues.

Claiborne County Mayor Joe Brooks asked the governor his thoughts on Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) in all 95 counties in the state of Tennessee.

“We are in the process of trying to do that here, but our problem to get those vocational training courses reestablished is obviously one of funding,” said Brooks. “So, I’m kind of curious if the state is looking at something that is going to be a statewide program that would make funding available to establish TCATs in all 95 counties.”

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Lee said they are certainly trying to develop a defined plan for TCATs.

“My commitment to vocational education is through the roof,” said Lee. “How do we do that in an effective way, we are talking about that. How do we reach counties who don’t actually have a TCAT? I don’t need people driving 50 miles to a TCAT. They won’t do it.”

The governor said once the Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education (GIVE) Act is created it will help send more students into vocational and technical education. The initiative is geared toward expanding access to vocational and technical training for Tennessee students.

The GIVE initiative is a two-pronged approach, according to the governor, that utilizes regional partnerships to develop work-based learning and apprenticeship opportunities. It also provides funding for high school juniors and seniors to utilize four, fully-funded dual enrollment credits for trade and technical programs.

Sandra Clark, owner of Sandra Academy of Salon Services in New Tazewell, told the governor that one thing that could help the state move forward with vocational education is for his office to expand Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Connect to include the private sector.

“A lot of people would be on board to help with this program and vocational education,” said Clark. “A lot of private sectors are ready to go forward. If you could just relook at that Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Connect to help us out. It would help a lot of our students who doesn’t get federal funding.”

Lee said they recently moved a post-secondary institution into Tennessee Promise that is a private institution.

“We’ve started down that path recognizing that there are private sector educators across this state that are doing what we need to do,” said Lee. “I have an equal interest in it.”

One of the final questions asked during the event was from Karyn Clark with Claiborne Economic Partnership. She asked the governor if there would a chance that they could get some of the funding from the state to help get the Boys and Girls Club started in Claiborne County.

Lee said one of the things he is hopeful about is the new office of faith based community initiatives. The initiative is a collaboration between state government and faith-based and community organizations working to improve public safety, reduce addiction, strengthen families and communities and overcome poverty in the state.

“What I really believe is most powerful is not when taxpayer money funds something in a county like that, but when the communities around the state partner together and do that,” said Lee. “So, my long answer is I’m hopeful…that, as we encourage this kind of collaboration, challenges like this can be met by the community as a whole.”