Disdain for teachers draws reaction, press conference

Sandra ClarkLet's Talk, North Knoxville

State Reps. Gloria Johnson and Sam McKenzie have called a press conference for 11 a.m. today (07/01) at Edgewood Park, 3109 Ocoee Trail, Knoxville, to respond to remarks by Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College, the man Gov. Lee asked to bring 100 of his charter schools to Tennessee.

Teachers and others who support public schools are invited. McKenzie and Johnson are livid. Here are Arnn’s remarks:

  • “The teachers are trained in the dumbest parts of the dumbest colleges in the country.”
  • “They are taught that they are going to go and do something to those kids…. Do they ever talk about anything except what they are going to do to these kids?”
  • “In colleges, what you hire now is administrators…. Now, because they are appointing all these diversity officers, what are their degrees in? Education. It’s easy. You don’t have to know anything.”
  • “You will see how education destroys generations of people. It’s devastating. It’s like the plague.”
  • “Here’s a key thing that we’re going to try to do. We are going to try to demonstrate that you don’t have to be an expert to educate a child because basically anybody can do it.”

And here’s the link to a special Nashville NewsChannel 5 investigative report that publicized the remarks, which were given in a closed meeting, attended by Gov. Lee.

State Rep. Sam McKenzie with U.S. Sen. Corey Booker at Fisk University. (Facebook post)

Reps. McKenzie and Johnson gave these quotes about the interview and about Lee’s proposal to provide state funding to 100 Hillsdale charter schools in Tennessee:

“After coming off two of the toughest years in their career, teachers are denigrated and demeaned by Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College, the man Gov. Lee asked to bring 100 of his charter schools to Tennessee. Lee sat both off-stage and on-stage, even giving his own remarks, and never once refuted any of the heinous things said by Arnn. He never spoke up for a single Tennessee teacher, not even his wife. He also didn’t speak up for the universities and the professors across the state that Arnn attacked.

“Tennessee teachers have risked their lives to teach our kids the last 2-3 years. They brought our kids’ test scores back up to pre-Covid levels. They spend their own money on their classrooms, they are still making less today than they made 10 years ago with the cost of living increase factored in.”

I’m planning to attend today’s press conference. Johnson promises individual teachers will speak. This is not about Republicans and Democrats. It’s about support for public education – people like Roy Mullins, Shirley Underwood, Bob Thomas, Michael Reynolds and others you know. It’s about dark money from privatizers coming into Republican primaries for state representative to trash a former teacher, Patti Bounds, in favor of a candidate who favors vouchers; to defeat an incumbent legislator and teacher, Coach Dennis Roach in Grainger County, in favor of a preacher/furniture maker who happened to support vouchers.

These guys have picked a bad week to disparage teachers – a profession that’s predominately women. Tennessee is starving public schools and teachers to build a hefty surplus to give to private school operators. If this makes you mad, come on out.

Sandra Clark is editor/CEO of Knox TN Today.


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