By proposing to invest 261 million dollars in additional funding for education in Tennessee, Governor Haslam rightly concludes that the key to Tennessee’s economic prosperity and improved quality of life is through investment in our youth. Conexión Américas applauds the Governor’s increase in teacher salaries; we know that our teachers are central to the improvements we have seen in student performance, and to the continued reduction in disparities in achievement and outcomes. Gov. Haslam’s proposal belies the tremendous urgency to their work, and through his funding priorities he recognizes that great teachers make a big difference in the life trajectory of a child. We are beginning to turn an important corner in Tennessee through our commitment to higher standards, stronger accountability, and an increased focus on equitable outcomes for students of color, and those learning English or living with a disability.

We fully endorse the Governor’s goal that “…all Tennesseans regardless of their circumstances have an opportunity for a high quality education.” That’s why we urge Governor Haslam to support access to college at in-state tuition rates for immigrant students who call Tennessee home and who don’t control the circumstances of where they were born or how they were brought to this country. In-state tuition rates for all Tennesseans, including immigrant students, will help drive our economic growth and support the aggressive Drive to 55 goal that Governor Haslam has set. In our experience working with immigrant students, those who don’t see college as an option are more likely to drop out of high school.

We agree with Governor Haslam that we “can’t back up” now. Tennessee is a national model because of his commitment to making college within reach for so many. We urge him to support tuition equality through House Bill 675 so that his new investments in K-12 benefit all of our students in Tennessee.