The key to a successful life is a sound education. Under my leadership as Lt. Governor, the Senate has funded K-12 education to an extraordinary degree, given the challenges which face our budget.
However, the main problem that plagues government education programs is a failure to realize what every parent knows: every child is special and unique; an individual. While some children thrive in the traditional public school setting, others do not. Many children excel in charter schools, which may or may not be religiously affiliated. Still others reach their potential in the homeschooled environment. I recognize that what is needed is more parental choice when it comes to children's education.
Under my leadership, the legislature has passed an expansion of charter schools and I will continue that work as Governor. Additionally, I have vowed to appoint a homeschooler's advocate to the State Board of Education. Tennessee's state Board of Education should represent the breadth of Tennessee's educational options and as Governor I will ensure we accomplish that.
Perhaps the most important thing a Governor can do to improve the current K-12 landscape is not stand in the way of educational innovation simply because a union or bureaucracy refuses to budge.
If a school or a school system is failing, my Education Department will dive in to share and help implement the best practices and procedures from our best schools. A key function of a State Department of Education should be to act as a clearinghouse for solutions that work -- not just in Tennessee, but across the nation. Tennessee's state government, dominated for most of a century by one perspective, has historically been resistant to reform in education relative to the other states. That must and will change under my Administration.
I believe a key component of educational success is higher standards and the tougher graduation requirements that go with them. Frankly, we have no choice. If we are to attract the jobs and industry to improve our economy, we must educate a workforce that can compete in a knowledge-based economy. This push for higher standards must encompass our entire education approach, including the practice of teacher tenure. When Governor Bredesen and I stood together to announce the education Special Session, tying teacher tenure to student success was a critical part of our message. As Governor, I will be bold in my approach to education reform and will be guided by only one constituency: the students of our state.
If we are to compete in attracting new jobs, Tennessee students must obtain some form of higher learning today to be successful in the workforce tomorrow. All students are unique. Some want a traditional four-year liberal arts degree, others desire to get into the workforce more quickly by attending a two-year institution or by obtaining technical training. One of my ongoing goals is to make credits portable for students attending any Tennessee institution of higher learning.
It is failure of state policy that many students in our state earn credits at a state-run community college only to find that they are not transferable to ETSU, MTSU, UT, etc. I will push for reform of our academic credit system now, and as Governor, until we solve the problem.
I also want to encourage the private sector to partner with our universities. When the concrete industry in Tennessee realized there were not enough trained students coming into the industry, they partnered with MTSU to create curriculum and a new major in concrete industry management. The private sector provides scholarships as well as jobs for graduates. As I do now, I will regularly meet with members of the private sector to tailor our education system to meet the needs of today and tomorrow's highly skilled, high-paying jobs.
As is the case with tax policy, the utility of our higher-education system is inextricably linked to our future economic growth.