Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam says he would like to be remembered as someone who “tried to get to the right answer” without thinking of political consequence or what he originally believed.
“Not to the most politically advantageous answer, not even to our answer that we came in with. We tried to get to the right answer,” he told WKRN this week in a wide-ranging interview about his eight-years in office.
Education gains and a healthcare loss are two of the themes of Haslam’s tenure.
K-12 student test assessment gains that were among the fastest improving nationwide occurred under Haslam, but the Republican governor also says it’s a bipartisan story that began with his Democratic predecessor Phil Bredesen.
“It was not just the money, but part of that was they raised the standards,” said the outgoing governor. “They put an assessment in place, and they tied evaluations to those assessments. Those were key things in moving the ball down the road.”
Haslam said, “We were able to pick that up and the fight the resistance–whenever change there is resistance– and keep it moving it forward.”
Left for incoming Republican Governor Bill Lee are problems with the online student testing mechanism for TNReady and fears it could happen again.
In higher education, Gov. Haslam’s administration launched the first free community college education program in the country.
Surplus Tennessee Lottery funds have funded the program for tens of thousands.
“Then K-12 became even more important,” added the governor. “Because when you graduate from high school that was not the last academic act of your career. Now I am going on to college so that senior year math class is a little more important than it was.”
The Republican governor used a lot of political capital when he proposed healthcare coverage for several hundred low-income Tennesseans using available federal funds from Obamacare, but the Republican-dominated legislature wasn’t buying.
“I still think it was the right thing to do and no regrets about trying to do it,” said Haslam.
The governor also said he hopes to be remembered for making state government “provide great service to Tennesseans.”
Bill Lee takes over as the state’s governor on Jan. 19.