Gubernatorial candidates asked about top education priorities

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (NEXSTAR) – More local control, better teacher pay, and expanded pre-K. These are just some the top education priorities of the candidates for governor.

During Tuesday’s forum before the Tennessee Business Roundtable where six of the seven major candidates attended, the top priorities was the first question asked of each contender.

More vocation, technical, and agriculture training is how Republican businessman Bill Lee responded.

“We need to demonstrate commitment as a department of education going forward,” Lee said during the forum’s question and answer period. “We need career counselors for seventh and eighth graders instead of college counselors.”

House Democrat leader Craig Fitzhugh says his top education priority begins early.

“Start young. Pre-K. Its important,” Fitzhugh responded. “It should be continued. It should be enlarged.”

Former Republican state senator Mae Beavers wants decentralization.

“I am for returning more control to the county level, the school boards,” said Beavers who just resigned her seat to concentrate full time on the governor’s race.

Former state economic development commissioner Randy Boyd spoke of an approach called “community school” to help under-achievers.

“They get an extra hour of reading and extra hour of math and extra hour of phys ed.” he said. “And a hot dinner their parents can join them in.”

Republican House Speaker Beth Harwell says her education committee is the place where reforms begin after she started appointing “the best and brightest” to the committee.

“Now when you go into the education committee, you see the business community there.” she added. We have changed the dialogue. The business community now knows how important it is to have a trained workforce.”

Former Nashville mayor and Democrat Karl Dean called teacher pay a priority.

“I don’t think Tennessee is competitive with other states that we have fallen behind,” said Dean. ” I believe teachers are the essential element to good schools.”

Congressional member Diane Black was not there for questions after making a pre-taped statement to the group from Washington.

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