Gov. Lee is facing bipartisan backlash after leaked footage shows his education advisor making disparaging remarks about teachers
Post updated at 8:45 p.m.
Gov. Bill Lee is facing backlash for not defending public educators. In a video obtained by NewsChannel 5 last week, Lee’s education advisor Larry Arnn is heard saying teachers are trained in the ‘dumbest parts of dumbest colleges.’ He also mocked diversity and inclusion efforts.
Lee did not refute Arnn’s comments in the video, instead offering praise for Arnn’s vision for the future of education. Now, teachers across Tennessee are demanding an apology from Gov. Lee.
Thomas Thorps, who has been a high school teacher for 12 years, said he wasn’t surprised Lee did not defend educators.
“I felt disrespected. I felt undervalued,” Thorps said. “I felt, also, that that person was not fully aware of the knowledge and expertise that public school teachers have.”
Thorps and others are calling out Lee’s silence during a joint appearance with Larry Arnn, the president of Hillsdale College, a conservative liberal arts institution in Michigan. Lee is partnering with Arnn to open 50 charter schools in Tennessee using state tax dollars.
The backlash has even grown to include members of his own party, such as the senate GOP caucus chair who tweeted in support of public-school teachers.
The vast majority of teachers have huge hearts and are in education because of their commitment to our children.— Rep. Jeremy Faison (@JeremyFaison4TN) July 1, 2022
To argue that they are bottom of the barrel is wrong & ignorant. The guy from Hillsdale doesn’t speak for any Tennessean I know. https://t.co/2aVGhPeGKJ
Amy Frogge, a parent and former Metro school board member says she was appalled by Arnn’s remarks.
“What we’ve been seeing in Tennessee for the last decade or so, is a school privatization movement that has been driven by out-of-state interest by millionaires and billionaires from other places — dark money,” she said. “And, unfortunately, Gov. Lee has taken that direction with schools.”
Lee’s office did not respond to WPLN’s request for comment.
On Tuesday evening, Lee posted remarks he made to a conservative talk radio station earlier in the day, breaking his silence about the controversy. He said Arnn’s speech was about “left-wing problems in public education in this country,” not Tennessee’s teachers.
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