All Star Panelist Clint Brewer Ponders the Fate of the Republican Party

All Star Panelist Clint Brewer Ponders the Fate of the Republican Party


Live from Music Row Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. –  host Leahy welcomed all-star panelist Clint Brewer to the studio to discuss the replacement of Liz Cheney and the mechanics of a Republican Party destiny.

(Rep. Elise Stefanik clip plays)

Leahy: And that is Elise Stefanik who is the Congresswoman representing the congressional district in far Northern New York, where I used to live as a kid. And now last week, the big news, the political news in Washington, they threw Liz Cheney out of the conference chair position.

The number three position in the House of Representatives and replaced her with Elise Stefanik. Now, I think from a messaging point of view, Stefanik is absolutely on point. And Cheney was absolutely off point. What does this mean for the Republican Party’s future, Clint?

Brewer: Well, I mean, it’s a gamble, right? You could say that about anything in politics. But for this moment in time right now, I think she’s more on message for that House caucus. And I think the move was made because the House members who always have to seek reelection every two years, I think they’re looking to talk more about Democrats going into the midterms than they are a person in their own caucus. It had to do more fundraising in taking the House back than it did anybody’s ideology.

Leahy: Liz Cheney is the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney under George W. Bush. She kind of got handed that seat in Wyoming. She’s not really from Wyoming.

Brewer: I think a lot of people get handed their seats in politics. (Laughs)

Leahy: I don’t disagree.

Brewer: That’s not unusual.

Leahy: We can’t criticize her too much about that. What was her thinking to go so far in attacking President Trump, and do we counter to the leadership, why did she think that was a good idea that would have a good outcome for her?

Brewer: I’m not sure she cared. I don’t think she did it because she thought it was politically savvy or a good idea. I think she did because it was her conviction. I think she believes it, and it’s her honest viewpoint. I know that’s an outlier in politics to actually share your honest viewpoint, but I think she’s just being honest with people about what she thought because it certainly didn’t help her any. So she wasn’t doing some desire to get ahead politically. I think she’s just telling what she felt like to be the truth.

Leahy: I think her duty, though, to me, if you’re going to be the number three person in the House, you should follow the party line. I think she probably should have resigned and then criticized Trump. But then she wouldn’t have got the visibility.

Brewer: That’s the gamble. So you see Cheney on one end of it, you see Stefanik and McCarthy on the other end of it. The gamble is you’re going to double down on your position. And there’s a fight for the party right now and which way it’s going to break. The House is a what have you done for me lately environment. They got to run.

Leahy: They’re running all the time.

Brewer: They are always running. They never start running.

Leahy: My hats off to all of the Republican members of the House of Representatives serving now because it’s a very frustrating job because it’s all being run dictatorially by Nancy Pelosi. They can’t get anything accomplished.

The only thing they can really do is to try to help in a year and a half, turn the House over and get Republicans in control. I think it’s a tough job. A frustrating job.

Brewer: Look, it’s a tough job if you’re in the majority. I mean, you’re always running. I think the standard stat that’s out there is in order to get re-elected to the House, you have to raise about $10,000 a day.

Leahy: That is a miserable existence.

Brewer: Yes it is.

Leahy: It really is.

Brewer: But, I mean, look, to your point about the party, the party right now is fractured. It’s trying to decide what the long-term prospects of the Donald Trump worldview are. And I think there are some people in the party, like Cheney, who disagree with it vehemently.

I think that every day that passes that former President Trump’s out of power and I think that worldview probably has a little less impact.

Leahy: I disagree. I think it’s gotten even more. I look at the polls in terms of Republicans and his support is as high as it’s ever been. Number one. Number two. Did you notice this? He’s going to start doing his rallies again.

Brewer: I did. And it’s going to be interesting to see how they go. I think early on, they’ll go really well, I just don’t believe it’s sustainable. I mean, you saw Reverend Franklin Graham come out and say, I don’t know if he’s going to be well enough health-wise and have the energy and the vigor needed to run again.

Leahy: Really? I missed that part of it. I’ve not heard that there are any health problems.

Brewer: I mean, he’s just his age. He’s reaching into advanced age.

Leahy: He’ll be about Joe Biden’s age in 2024.

Brewer: And look at what everybody says about Biden. I mean, it’s not a dissimilar situation.

Leahy: But they are just so different in terms of energy levels, don’t you think?

Brewer: In a gentleman of that age, a couple of years can make a big difference.

Leahy: That’s absolutely true.

Brewer: From 74 on every year, you’re looking for diminished capacity. We’re witnessing it with Joe Biden. And I think the party has to decide if that’s really the direction it wants to go. I mean, you’ve got a lot of people stepping up.

We talked about it in the studio during the Georgia run-offs. You had a host of characters headed down there. (Leahy laughs)

Leahy: A host of characters. I like that. The usual suspects.

Brewer: The usual traditional displaying of plumage and ceremonial dances (Leahy laughs) that go along with sidling up to running for a major political office.

Leahy: That’s very good.

Brewer: And that’s what you saw. So I think you’ve got a number of U.S. senators interested in running. I think you’ve got members of his former cabinet who are interested in running.

Leahy: Mike Pompeo.

Brewer: Pompeo. Nikki Haley.

Leahy: She kind of self-destructed back there a little bit. Didn’t she?

Brewer: I think she’s probably more attuned to Liz Cheney than she is to Donald Trump in terms of her values. I think Stefanik and McCarthy. I mean, look at McCarthy before Trump, he was just kind of a templated neocon.

Leahy: A templated neocon. That’s very good.

Brewer: He was not a Trump populist, but he got on the bandwagon, and that’s what it is. It’s a bandwagon and bandwagons run out of steam and they run out of gas. They stop eventually.

Leahy: Now you talked about governors and we have some governors coming to Nashville in a couple of weeks. The Republican Governors Association.

Brewer: Big event.

Leahy: That we’re trying to get a ticket to for interviews. The leadership now in the Republican Party of action is at the level of governors. And, of course, the number one guy people think of Ron DeSantis in Florida.

Brewer: Well, I agree. And I think DeSantis is an interesting position. A lot of the knocks on Republicans have been how we’ve comported ourselves during the pandemic, and Florida has done really well. He’s made all the right moves. He managed it very well at the state level.

Leahy: By the way, the legacy media in Florida hate his guts.

Brewer: Oh yeah.

Leahy: Totally hate him. That’s one of the reasons why we started as our seventh title at the Star News Network. We started The Florida Capital Star and getting great stories out of there. A big story today, Jeb “low energy” Bush former governor there, that guy. He has come out and criticized Governor DeSantis for his support of online gambling for the Seminole Nation.

That’s become a bill down there, sports betting. And Jeb Bush has come out vigorously opposing that. I don’t think that helps. I don’t know why Jeb is doing that. But I think it’s popular, frankly, down there. DeSantis is doing a lot of popular things.

Brewer: Well, it’s popular everywhere. Human beings like to gamble. I think that’s something you can say pretty affirmatively no matter where you are, people find a way to gamble. Is it the best thing for society? I don’t know. But not entirely. But is it something we really have a right to tell people no on? Not really. Can the government regulate it and tax it so it’s not completely destructive. I mean, there’s a role there.

Leahy: And it’s online all kinds of gambling, not just sports doing down there. Well, it’s very interesting. We’re going to try to get Governor DeSantis in studio here in the next couple of weeks. Maybe Kristi Noem and a few others.

Listen to the full third hour here:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio











Clint Brewer: Masks Are the Left Wing’s New MAGA Hat as People Forget the Science Behind Mandates

Clint Brewer: Masks Are the Left Wing’s New MAGA Hat as People Forget the Science Behind Mandates


Live from Music Row Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. –  host Leahy welcomed all-star panelist Clint Brewer to the studio to discuss the mask mandate confusion and why people are still wearing masks even after vaccination and changing guidelines.

Leahy: We are in for a treat this morning. In studio with us, all-star panelist, recovering journalist, and public relations expert Clint Brewer is in studio. Good morning, Clint.

Brewer: Hey, good morning, Mike. How are you?

Leahy: Confused about the mask mandates. Am I alone in that?

Brewer: No, you’re not. I saw something on social media. I thought it was really interesting. Somebody said that masks have become the left-wing of politics in this country’s equivalent of the MAGA hat. Which is like a declaration of your beliefs. (Leahy laughs) Except that the mask actually has medical significance in the MAGA hat is just a hat.

So it’s become an extension of people’s beliefs. And I got to say that the hype of the pandemic I wore a mask, I follow the rules. But now I’m not really sure what the rules are. I know that we’re not supposed to have to wear masks s if you’re vaccinated. But I sure get a lot of dirty looks for not wearing them.

Leahy: Well, you think it’s because you’re not wearing them, you get the dirty looks, but it might be something else. I don’t know.

Brewer: It could be.

Leahy: I know. In my case, it’s not just the mass sometimes. I don’t know where all this stuff is. My view has been that the science, it doesn’t support the masks. In fact, I think there was one study Tucker Carlson said that they might be more harmful than not. But again, I’m not not a scientist and I don’t play on on TV.

Brewer: I subscribe to the theory of call on God, but roll away from the rocks. (Leahy laughs) So my attitude is, well, I’m not a scientist. I’m not really sure. But if wearing one gives me a little bit better chance of making out of the pandemic unscathed that I’ll just wear one.

Leahy: And clearly, the polling shows that the public has supported the wearing of masks. It’s like 60% to 40 percent.

Brewer: It’s not fun.

Leahy: It’s symbolic. At least you are doing something.

Brewer: The problem is, is it’s become a symbol and that’s the issue. It’s supposed to be a functional medical necessity during a very difficult time in American and world history. But now it’s become a thing where people are continuing to wear them and continuing to use them even when they don’t have to.

And businesses are enforcing the use of them, even when Joe Biden himself is telling you that you don’t have to wear one if you’ve been vaccinated.

Leahy: The Center for Disease Control has said they’re lifting the mask mandate if you’ve been vaccinated.

Brewer: Even indoors and in crowds.

Leahy: Okay. But, they also said that you must wear masks in schools. So again, for the balance of this year and then this academic here. Schools have been inconsistent. And, by the way, the science is kids are not really at risk.

Brewer: No, not really. I mean, they are, but they aren’t. Like they can get it and it be very symptomatic. There are other cases where it hasn’t been.

Leahy: So in Williamson County, they said, well, we’re going to wear masks for the rest of the school year.

Brewer: It’s most of the school systems in this area.

Leahy: Except for the balance of the year, it’s almost over. It’s Friday. But in Metro Nashville, kids will continue to wear masks for this school year and indefinitely thereafter. At least that’s what we’ve been able to, ascertain in a story by Corrine Murdock. They’re interpreting it differently in Metro Nashville.

Brewer: Well, I think you’re probably going to see some pushback from members of the school board. I wouldn’t be surprised if our colleague and friend Fran Bush has something to say about it.

Leahy: The one member of the Metro Nashville Public School board who will come in studio and talk with us.

Brewer: I understand the abundance of caution, but at some point…here’s the thing that I don’t get. If during the height of the pandemic, we were all asked to believe the science, which I will freely admit I did. I bought into it and I’m glad I did.

I can’t say 100 percent who was right and who was wrong. I just know it worked for me. Okay. I wore a mask. I stayed home when I was supposed to and socially distant. I did everything I was supposed to do. And I didn’t get it. My family didn’t get it.

And everybody’s okay. So all I can say is whether it was overkill or not, it worked for me. But we were told to believe the science then so why don’t we believe the science now?

Leahy: Gee.

Brewer: I don’t get it. I don’t get it because I’m sick a wearing a mask, and I’ve been vaccinated. And I’m going to the grocery store on Saturdays, and it’s still full of people wearing masks. And now I’m getting the side-eye from people.

I’m like, look, I’m doing what I’m supposed to. If you want to keep wearing that thing, go ahead. But that period is over. And so Biden said, look, he said that you got two options, wear a mask or get vaccinated. Of course, the third eye options not to do either.

And there are plenty of people doing that. But guess what? We’ve now entered a period with the pandemic where we’re back to personal responsibility. It’s on you because let me tell you, in Tennessee, it is easy to get a vaccine.

I’ll say this about our state government and about our hospital system and about our health care system in this state. It’s very easy to get a vaccination.  There is no barrier unless you have a transportation problem. And I think even then…

Leahy: You can call up the Health Department and somebody will probably come and get you.

Brewer: You can get a Lyft or an Uber paid for in many cases by the government.

Leahy: I think you nailed. The whole mask thing is a symbol of what your political ideology is right now.

Brewer: Which is ridiculous and that obscures the whole point of the thing to begin with.

Listen to the full third hour here:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio











The Christian Left: Author Lucas Miles Highlights New Book and Exposes the Continued Progressive Drift of the Church

The Christian Left: Author Lucas Miles Highlights New Book and Exposes the Continued Progressive Drift of the Church


Live from Music Row Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. –host Leahy welcomed author Lucas Miles to the show to discuss his new book The Christian Left and the progressive far-left Christian movement that continues to drift further.

Leahy: And on the line now by the author of a new book, hot off the press. Was published on Tuesday of this week. His name is Lucas Miles, and the book title, it’s been a book that should have been out there a long time ago is, The Christian Left: How Liberal Thought Has Hijacked the Church. Welcome, Lucas Miles.

Miles: Gentlemen, thanks for having me.

Leahy: Why did you decide to write this book? It’s been much needed. But why did you decide it was time to write the book?

Miles: You wouldn’t believe the number of thank yous I’ve already received. And this is only the first week of release, just people feeling the same way. Like many, I have seen this growing constituency with The New York Times called the Ascendant Liberal Christianity that has been on the rise of believers and oftentimes Bino believers in name only who are embracing Liberal theology, progressive ideology, and at times Marxist theory that is drawing them further and further away from the teachings of Jesus and really more into this sort of socialist sort of amalgamation of Christianity. And it’s concerning. And I wanted to really provide a roadmap for believers and Conservatives, to how they find their way back to Orthodox Christianity.

Leahy: Have you just coined a new phrase, Bino believers in name only?

Miles: Perhaps I have. You’ve headed here first.

Leahy: You heard it here first. Broad Street Publishing. That’s a pretty good publishing outfit.

Miles: They’ve been fabulous. They’ve been really just a great partner on this.

Leahy: How did you get the deal with them?

Miles: You know, like a lot of things. I mean, it’s the overnight success, 10 years in the making. I’ve known a couple of their team for a few years now.

I was with another publisher on my last book that was actually based in Nashville. And they kind of started courting me over the last few years. And I originally was going to write an entirely different book. And about two years ago, I just saw this sort of on the rise and just really felt impressed that I needed to deal with this topic of progressive Christianity.

I’m in a red state. I’m in Indiana, but a blue county with Mayor Pete Buttigieg. So with our Mayor here, I watched this sort of pseudo-Christianity talk from his campaign for the last few years developing. And I saw this starting to become an issue across the country. And so we started talking about it at Broad Street and made things work. And they’ve just been a tremendous partner on this project.

Leahy: I became aware of this back in 2012, 2013 when a group called the Evangelical Immigration Table that got some funding through various George Soros groups that came and said, well, we need open borders because that is what Jesus Christ would have prayed. Of course, if you look in the Bible, that’s plenty of scriptures that say, no, you have to have sovereign countries. Are you familiar with Jim Wallace at Sojourners? Is he featured in your book?

Miles: Jim gets a mention or two. He’s not a major focus. I didn’t want to name names when I first wrote this and I shared it with a few people I really trust. And they said, Lucas, the book is so needed but you have to be more specific. And I went in and I added another chapter called The Christian Cabal. And I talked about in many ways guys that are just Christian elite, like Wallace and Jonathan Merit and others that have really been behind the scenes pushing Christianity more and more towards these progressive beliefs.

And I think that people need to be aware of this and really be on their guard against some of this. Even a lot of our Christian publishers, a lot of our Christian universities have given themselves over to critical race theory.

Leahy: Do you talk about the former aide to a Democratic congressman who now heads up the Ethics and Public Policy Committee of the Southern Baptist Commission Russell Moore? Do you talk about him?

Miles: Russell is mentioned as well. Yes. And I mean other individuals. Beth Moore, I think if somebody that people have a growing concern about is moving further left. And Hey, look, this is not about my brand of Christianity is the perfect doctrine. There is a thing called orthodoxy that it’s a pretty wide pool that we all get to play in. But the moment we start disconnecting ourselves from scripture, disconnecting ourselves from the infallibility of the word God, Christian beliefs have been held for 2,000 years.

And we’re seeing people like Moore and really Beth Moore as well. Matthew Paul Turner, who is the editor, I believe, for CCM magazine for years. A lot of these guys are just drifting further and further left, and it’s really beginning to share a message that is completely antithetical to Christianity.

Leahy: Certainly not Orthodox. What has happened to Beth Moore? She’s been around for 20 or 30 years. She was very popular. She did a lot of women’s Bible studies groups. But she’s gotten off into, I don’t know, it seems to me sort of like and we’ll probably hear from some Beth Moore fans about this and probably try to have her on some time. I don’t think she would come on, but she seems now to have become totally woke in and filled with left-wing ideology, conflating it to the Christian gospel.

Miles: As a Christian, I look at her Twitter feed and about every four or five posts, I go, hey, I can get on board with that. But in between, there is exactly what you described. It’s a lot of woke doctrine, and woke concepts. and she seems to have just become sort of a mouthpiece for left-wing policies and left-wing progressive ideology. And it’s concerning. I’m not somebody who says you can’t be a Democrat and be a Christian.

But I think it’s hard to be a disciple and be a Democrat. I think that things like pro-choice doctrine and LGBT agenda, these things are antithetical to scripture. We have to really be on guard. It’s one thing to be pro-Union or maybe see some policy. And again, the Democratic Party 20 years ago is not the Democratic Party of today. And that’s the thing about progressivism is it keeps progressing further and further and further.

You know, 20 years from now will probably think that a lot of these people seem like moderates compared to the people that are coming down the pipe. But this is why it’s so important that we tether ourselves to something called truth. And I believe as a Christian, the only place to find that is in the word of God.

Leahy: Many of our listeners have been Church attendees for their whole life. I’ve found trying to find a Church where you’re not going to get social justice ideology preached at you, just incessantly has become increasingly difficult. What advice do you have for people that find themselves in that circumstance?

Miles: Absolutely. At the end of this book, The Christian Left,  I provide sort of a roadmap, a list of questions that you can ask of your Church or your pastor or just kind of assess to really see, is my Church starting to drift that way? Things like, does my Church still teach about Salvation? How do they respond to cultural issues such as same-sex attraction and transgenderism?

Do they still stand for pro-life values or have they given over to this pro-choice mindset? What’s their view of immigration. What’s their view of really the sovereign state. These sort of things that the Bible clearly teaches. And I think that it’s important to really check out a Church and listen to the teaching. Don’t just pick a Church for the Kids Ministry or for how cool the band is. It really comes down to what is the message, and we have to ground ourselves in that to make sure that ourselves as well as our children have not really been led astray in this.

Leahy: Lucas Miles, author of The Christian Left, thanks so much for joining us. And come back again, if you would, please.

Miles: Hey, thanks for having me.

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.







Blue State Blues: All-Star Panelist Clint Brewer Talks About the Consistent Migration to Tennessee

Blue State Blues: All-Star Panelist Clint Brewer Talks About the Consistent Migration to Tennessee


Live from Music Row Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. –  host Leahy welcomed all-star panelist Clint Brewer in studio to weigh in on the growth spurt that continues in Tennessee due to a re-locating caravan of blue state refugees.

Leahy: We are joined in studio by our very good friend all-star panelist, Clint Brewer, recovering journalist, who gives me advice on pitfalls to avoid. And I follow that advice very very often. Thank you for that. But I wanted to talk about for a minute, Clint, what’s happening here in Nashville, despite all of the bad policies of Mayor John Cooper Nashville, for a number of reasons outside of Nashville and some inside of Nashville, it’s growing like crazy. California is going nuts. Illinois is going nuts. New York’s gone nuts. These bad blue states are basically creating refugees who want to run a business where they’re not going to be interfered with.

Brewer: And it’s been that way for a while. I spent five years in Governor Haslam’s administration doing economics.

Leahy: That’s right. You did. You’ve seen this.

Brewer: I’ve witnessed this up close and personal. I mean, New York, Illinois, California have fed more businesses to the state of Tennessee in last 10 years, probably than any other state ever has.

Leahy: We should send a thank you note to Governor Newsom in California.

Brewer: It’s the low tax rate. It’s the low corporate tax rates, the general affordability of land. It’s a willingness of governments to be partners with businesses rather than be in opposition to them. And it’s a lifestyle choice for a lot of people’s families and a lot of employers’ families. You can find really great schools here. And it’s just a more laid-back way to live.

Leahy: You can find houses here in Middle Tennessee that are less expensive than the houses being sold in California. But what a hot market this is?

Brewer: Yeah, it is a hot market. All the people moving here have certainly heated up the real estate market. I mean, it’s hot for this area. The appreciation rate is high, but it’s still cheaper to live in than the vast majority of other places in the country.

Leahy: And by the way, that no state income tax, you can’t beat it.

Brewer: I mean, it’s the best recruiting tool we’ve got.

Leahy: It absolutely is a great recruiting tool. Apparently, Oracle likes it. Now they have a few hurdles to overcome. But I guess on Tuesday night, the Metro Nashville Council unanimously approved the things they had to do to get Oracle in here for the first step.

Brewer: Oracle has been in the economic development pipeline for a while, and it’s a big win for the state. Kudos to Nashville for showing so well and winning the deal. It’s good to see the Cooper administration sort of getting back into the ring on economic development. That’s encouraging. And when a company can do business anywhere and they decide to do business in Tennessee, it says a lot about our business environment.

It says a lot about our workforce, and it says a lot about the potential for the state. We’re becoming a hub for tech, which are high-paying jobs, which is what you need now. There are some challenges policy-wise with it. And I think some of the residents of the East Bank are right to be worried that they’re going to be crowded out.

Leahy: I think it’s inevitable.

Brewer: Well, it may be, but, I mean, we can’t just drive people willy nilly out of the county. We’ve got to figure out a way to do both. To allow people to stay in the county and to recruit economically.

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio







State Rep. Scott Cepicky and All Star Panelist Clint Brewer Advocate for Culture Changes Needed in LEA Accountability

State Rep. Scott Cepicky and All Star Panelist Clint Brewer Advocate for Culture Changes Needed in LEA Accountability


Live from Music Row Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. –  host Leahy welcomed all-star panelist Clint Brewer and State Rep. Scott Cepicky to the studio to discuss the needed changes in the cultures that lead the educational systems.

Leahy: We are having too much fun here with recovering journalists and our all-star panelist, Clint Brewer, and state Representative Scott Cepicky from Maury County. So, Scott, you were talking a little bit about accountability in the LEA’s, the local education authorities. And you’ve got one down in Shelby County that is performing very poorly. When you talk to those guys, do they acknowledge the people running the show? Do they acknowledge that they’re not performing well? And are they open to fixing it?

Cepicky: Well, the first thing you have to do is you’ve got to reach out and you’ve got to go visit the situation and try to understand the situation.

Leahy: Well, that makes sense. But you’re up here in Nashville. Have you gone down and talked to them?

Cepicky: Yes sir. Myself, Mark White and Debra Moody, all chairman of education.

Leahy: Mark White’s been on the show. A good friend of the show. He represents that area.

Cepicky: Yes, sir. And Debra Moody is just North.

Leahy: That’s right.

Cepicky: And so we thought it would behoove us after what we just did in the special session with the struggles that Memphis City has. Because when you talk about Shelby County remember you have Bartlett and that very high-performing schools. But Memphis is struggling. And we took a visit down there on a Friday, went down, and talked to the Superintendent of schools, Joris Ray.

I wanted to have a frank conversation with him. We want to do what you need to do. We want to help you, but we’ve got to get results because of the disproportionate way that not only Shelby, Memphis, but Nashville City schools disproportionately affect the rest of Tennessee by churning out “their graduates.” And the reception down there, I could say, was cold.

Leahy: Cold,

Cepicky: Cold.

Leahy: Cold. frigid, icy, unfriendly, unfriendly. But you hold it now. Joris Ray, he’s the superintendent of the public school system down there.

Cepicky: Yes.

Leahy: You are legislators that have the power of the purse.

Cepicky: We are concerned citizens that took the time to come down and talk to them that have the ability to help.

Leahy: You have the ability to help. Okay, I’ll take that framing.

Cepicky: Ability to help.

Leahy: So you would think that if you are in the worst-performing…

Cepicky: One of.

Leahy: One of the three worst-performing of the 147 LEA’s in the state of Tennessee, you would think you would be open to help. But Joris Ray was not that open.

Cepicky: No, he was cold towards us. If you know Representative Moody and Chairman White, they’re very kind and gracious.

Leahy: Well, you’re kind and gracious.

Cepicky: To a point I am.

Leahy: Clint, you are going to know where this comes from because Clint is a native Tennesseean. I am a transplant in Yankee, from upstate New York. You’re a Midwesterner from Missouri.

Cepicky: But remember, we chose Tennessee.

Leahy: We chose Tennessee. Let’s just say native Tennesseeans.

Brewer: Born in Memphis.

Leahy: Okay, there you go. But native Tennesseeans have a certain graciousness about them that well, at least upstate New Yorkers don’t always have.

Cepicky: The conversation was very simple. Our vision of what Memphis could be. What Memphis really could be with an outstanding educational system flowing for its citizens. For children that are born in Memphis, to have the opportunity of knowledge. To be able to take that knowledge and use it in their life to make anything out of themselves they want to be.

Leahy: The American dream.

Cepicky: Instead I had the superintendent telling me that I don’t understand the people down there.

Leahy: Is that what he said?

Cepicky: Yes. And it was shocking to hear. And my goal, if anybody asked me, Rep. Cepicky, what’s your goal for education in Tennessee? It’s very simple. I can tell you right now is that every child read, write, and do math by third grade, and everything we do is about being number one in the country in education.

Leahy: Okay. Clint, that sounds like a very common-sense goal. Right? Read and write?

Brewer: It’s a very clear-eyed simple goal to understand. The representative makes a great point but this is the same thing that’s been said to our two largest school districts for the better part of the last 30 years. And this problem has been pervasive. It has not been solved. The answer is simply, you need to see a change in the culture for who leads these systems. And that’s the only thing that will do it. You need the community rising up to say this is not enough. To say this isn’t good enough. And that’s what it will take.

Leahy: That’s a very good point. See, change in the culture. What do you think?

Cepicky: Well, we have to. We have no choice. We had one of the first times that I think ever happened. Tony Parker, the commissioner of corrections, came into the education committee last week and talked to us about the direct correlation between education and lack thereof and incarceration. And they have a program where when the inmates come into the penitentiary system, they screen them for their educational levels. Women read on about a third-grade level in penitentiaries. Men read on a first-grade level.

Leahy: First-grade level.

Cepicky: We all can agree that to get to go to a penitentiary, you have done something that you probably deserve to be in there. But is there some responsibility on us and as its legislators that they got through the system at a first-grade level? and to defend the LEAs and I’ll tell you this, to defend them we have a policy in place that in high school if they do what’s right for a student (i.e. retain a student for a year to get them on grade level).

Leahy: Right. Which makes sense. In other words, if they’re not performing at a level and you want to just get them up to the level where they should be, give them a next year back. That makes common sense right?

Cepicky: So they can succeed and get what we want which is Tennessee and is educated, someone who can make informed decisions for themselves…

Leahy: Self-supporting.

Cepicky: And contribute to society. But we penalize them for doing that at the state level by dinging their report card.

Leahy: And it doesn’t make any sense.

Cepicky: And so I’m carrying a bill next week in committee that we’re going to look in to figure out, how can we fix this? How can we let the school systems do what they need to do, which is best for the students without penalizing to do it?

Brewer: I think in Tennessee, it’s no different than anywhere else. When you get into very inner-city environments and you get into very rural environments, you run into many of the same challenges. the families often, there’s not the support structure for the kids. My wife works in the county school system and I know a lot of times just to the point about Memphis, or you could say there’s about a lot of rural counties that, sometimes those kids the only meal they’re getting is the meal they get at school.

And so there are children and families who are up against a lot to take advantage of what otherwise is an adequate school system. Where I think the work is that needs to be done is outside the power structure. I think that conversations with leadership in large school districts at this point are probably not going to be fruitful. And what leaders in Nashville have to do at the state House is to talk directly to folks in the communities about what their expectations are. Which I can assure you are a lot higher than what they’re being delivered.

Leahy: Representative Cepicky, so Clint said something interesting, that conversations with these failing LEA leaderships are not going to be fruitful. I guess your personal experience, at least with one of these failing LEAs, would confirm that?

Cepicky: That is true. We have spoken with them. And as you make yourself available to the public, you’d be surprised how many people reach out to you from those struggling school systems that are wanting help.

Leahy: What do they say from a struggling school? What did they say to you?

Cepicky: Do whatever we have to do to affect the change needed for their kids.

Brewer: And let me make the point here, too, we’re talking about failing school systems. There are plenty of school systems in the state that are just above failing. They’re not statistically at the red flag level of Davidson and Shelby Counties, but they’re still not doing a super great job for the children in their district.

Leahy: Exactly right. On that, state representative Cepicky what’s your schedule today? Are you going to go off and do some business, or you’re gonna be able to stick with us for the rest of the show, or are you going to want to go off? Because I see you checking your clock, you’re gonna head out?

Cepicky: I’m gonna head out. I’ve got a very, very, big bill on the House floor today.

Leahy: Okay, well, State Representative Scott Cepicky, thanks so much for joining us today. What a wonderful conversation. I’m so happy to get to know you.

Cepicky: I appreciate being here.

Leahy: And come back again if you will and tell all your friends in the General Assembly that this is a place to come to get your message out.

Cepicky: Thank you, Michael.

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio