Leahy: We now welcome to our newsmaker line, Mr. AJ Massey, who is running for mayor of Madison County. Good morning, AJ.
Massey: Good morning, everybody. How are y’all?
Leahy: We’re great. We’re delighted to have you on here. So tell us about yourself. What’s your background, AJ?
Massey: Sure. Yeah. I’m a native of West Tennessee, grew up in West Tennessee and went to college here and had a 17-year career in banking. And that ended in January when I elected to run for a local office. You can’t really chase two rabbits, don’t do well with that. So we chose to run for office. So we’ve been doing that since January.
Leahy: People know Jackson as the place you stop to get gas two hours from Nashville sometimes, to the west, about an hour from Memphis. Good restaurants there.
I stop by and take a break there sometimes. But people don’t know that much about Jackson and Madison County. Tell us a little bit about some of the challenges there that you face in Madison County.
Massey: Sure. Madison County is, you’re exactly right. We’re right down in the middle of everything. We’re called the Hub City. Jackson is called the Hub City for a reason. All the West Tennessee, outside of Memphis, looks to Jackson for commerce and for goods and a lot of well-paying jobs.
And so as far as what challenges are, I think we’re a disproportionately high poverty number in the city of Jackson, and really Madison County as a whole. So that’s a challenge that makes education difficult, that makes law enforcement difficult, and that makes a lot of things difficult.
But there’s so much good happening in West Tennessee that, there’s so much good happening in Madison County but also in West Tennessee, bringing on, we’re getting a great Wolf Lodge in Jackson.
If you don’t know what that is, it’s an indoor water park hotel, and nearly 500 rooms have been built in the city of Jackson. We’ll have, of course, the Megasite in Haywood County where Ford Blue Oval City will be in the next few years.
That’s within about 40 miles of our county border. That’s going to be a big shot to Madison County and West Tennessee. So that’s really what we’re trying to do, is trying to get ahead of these things, be paying attention.
I’ve got a young family, and I want the next 20 years. I want them to be around here. I want my boys to choose to locate in West Tennessee and not be too far from Mom and Dad, and hopefully grandkids someday, so we’re trying to make this place as attractive and as safe and, giving them everything they want, where they don’t feel like they need to go anywhere.
Leahy: Crom Carmichael, our original all-star panelist has a question for you, AJ.
Carmichael: AJ, how close is Jackson to that new Ford facility?
Massey: It’s about 40 miles. Between 40 and 50 miles, depending on how you go, between Madison County and Blue Oval City.
And that’s actually a great opportunity. Ford has a requirement that a certain number of suppliers that are going to help that plan out with different needs are required to be within 50 miles of that facility.
So that really puts East Memphis, that puts some of our north, west counties, and then, of course, Madison County is sitting right there ready to accept a lot of the suppliers. And our infrastructure is ready for that.
Carmichael: So, Jackson is inside that 50-mile radius?
Massey: Yes, sir. Correct.
Massey: One of our most, and I don’t know if there was just some foreknowledge there or just some premonition, but the western part of our county nearest to the Megasite has a vast option of industrial sites that are already with wastewater and utilities. And so we’re just waiting for the right businesses to take their claim to those.
Leahy: AJ, what is the main reason why people who live in Madison County should vote for you for mayor of Madison County?
Massey: Absolutely. Well, we’re trying to pay attention. We’re trying to be on our toes. We’ve had similar leadership in Madison County for the last, really, 30 years. And the folks that have chosen to run in this race as well are kind of on the same cloth.
And there are some statistics that came out not long ago that has Madison County ranked 95th out of 95 counties, in nearly every category. And that whole thing is if we do what we’ve always done, we’re going to get what we’ve got.
And I think it’s just time for a change. I think it’s time for somebody with some energy, some renewed focus. I’m not trying to get anybody out of the office. I’m not trying to kick anybody out, but I do think it’s time for people to step aside and allow new leadership with fresh ideas.
As I said, I’ve got an 8-year-old and a 3-year-old boy. And that’s where my focus is, trying to build a community that they can be proud of over the next 20 years.
I’m not looking at the next election cycle. I’m not looking at the next budget cycle. I’m looking at the next few decades to make sure, because I’m going to be here, I’m going to be around, and I’m going to have to give an account to what we did or didn’t do with this opportunity coming to West Tennessee.
Leahy: AJ, what is the most important fresh new idea you have to improve the status of Madison County from, as you say, 95th out of 95 counties in almost every category?
Massey: Sure. I’ve been on the Jackson Madison County school board since 2018. I’m a public school graduate. My wife is a public school graduate. My oldest son is in public school. My youngest hadn’t gotten quite to that level yet.
But it’s schools. Schools really drive everything around here. I’m sure it is with most communities but that’s going to reduce our crime rate.
That’s going to reduce our jail population. That’s a long-term play, though the further down the line we get we have to make sure those children are educated at grade level when they’re first, second, third grade.
That way they kill that public-school-to-prison pipeline that seems to happen, and that obviously helps with crime, helps with commerce, and the ability to supply the workforce for all these great companies. I’m passionate about schools. I think our schools need to be …
Leahy: Let me ask you a question about that. In the four years you’ve served on the Jackson Madison school board, what have you done to improve the status of schools there? Because it looks like everywhere in the state over that four-year period the performance of students has gone down, down, down.
Massey: Sure. Madison County is a unique county. We have four thriving private schools and so there are lots of options here in town for nontraditional public education.
There’s also a district just north of us that’s just done the right things and they’ve attracted a lot of families to move outside of our county to go to that district.
But the way last four years we’ve had tremendous success with our academics in our classroom. We have some very pointed, data-driven curriculum that’s happening in our classroom that’s showing improvement.
Leahy: In studio mayor of Maury County. Yes, the bastion of freedom in Tennessee. (Laughs)
Leahy: Oh, we got to change that. The mayor of Maury County, the turbocharged bastion of freedom.
Scooter: I see tourism posters now. (Laughter)
Leahy: Yes, the turbocharged. That’s very good.
Ogles: About every two weeks, we’re adding phrases to this. Another month from now, this is going to be like a whole paragraph of descriptors for Maury County,
Leahy: Maury County the turbocharged bastion of freedom. You know, Andy, I am the unofficial ambassador for the state of Tennessee to people who live outside of Tennessee, because every time we have a guest who’s a good conservative-minded, I point out to them that wherever they’re living, if they live outside of Tennessee, that we have no state income tax here. And they all start whining and say, when can I get there?
Ogles: That’s right. Book me a ticket.
Leahy: So I suppose I’m also kind of a subset of that. I may be perhaps not an ambassador, but a promoter of Maury County as well. That turbocharged, bastion of freedom in Tennessee. I wanted to talk to you about this and get your reaction, Andy.
The rally last on Saturday night in Ohio, attended by now it looks like around 30,000 people. The former President began by lambasting the absolute disaster that the five months under Joe Biden have been.
The first thing he listed was the disaster at the border where the current maladministration is refusing to enforce immigration law. By the way, that refusal is probably an impeachable offense, in my view.
But he also mentioned the fact that they’re trying to force Critical Race Theory everywhere in K12 schools as well as in the military of all places, because, you know, nothing says defending the sovereignty of America like having a woke military.
I want to bring this back around to Tennessee. A couple of stories at The Tennessee Startoday on Critical Race Theory. I wanted to get your reaction, Andy. So Corinne Murdock our ace reporter and Hillsdale Graduate has this story.
Part of the Wit and Wisdom Curriculum May Violate Tennessee’s Critical Race Theory Ban, According to Moms for Liberty. The parent coalition is concerned that the Wit and wisdom curriculum approved for use in 33 counties and promoted by Governor Bill Lee’s handpicked Secretary of Education Penny Schwinn, may violate Tennessee’s K-12 Critical Race Theory ban.
My question to you is, why does Governor Lee pick a Secretary of Education who’s promoting a curriculum that looks like it violates the new law banning the teaching of the tenants of Critical Race Theory in K-12?
Ogles: Wow, that’s a loaded question.
Leahy: I’m just asking. inquiring minds want to know what, Andy?
Ogles: But you even go back before that. Why would we have a Commissioner of Education, Penny Schwinn who puts forth this well-being initiative where every child zero to 18 would be interviewed by an agent of the state without their parents’ permission or presence?
And why wasn’t she fired then? And so why would we be surprised? And keep in mind, Critical Race Theory is a label that represents an agenda. It’s not necessarily a curriculum. And so we’ve got to be careful with these labels because then they say, well, wait a minute.
Well, this isn’t Critical Race Theory. It’s wit and wisdom. We’re simply trying to educate your child. We’re trying to educate your child on this agenda that totally undermines our country.
And so why she hasn’t been fired by either the governor or by the General Assembly demanding her resignation is a travesty of the values that represent Tennessee?
Leahy: Why would somebody who purports to be conservative hire such a person?
Ogles: He’s not. At the end of the day, the governor is a nice guy, but he’s not a conservative.
Leahy: Well, I think there’s a general consensus that he’s a nice guy. Asterisk, my question to you is if he’s such a nice guy, why does he never respond to The Tennessee Star inquiries?
Why has he not shown up on our radio program? We can get an exclusive interview with the former President of the United States, but we can’t get Governor Bill Lee to return our phone calls.
Leahy: That’s a mystery.
Ogles: I would love to sit in studio across the desk and have this debate. The three of us. It’s an open invitation to talk about some of these substantive issues facing this country in the state of Tennessee.
Tennessee should have been leading the past 18 months the way Florida and Ron DeSantis have led. And when you compare Tennessee to Florida, we have failed across the measure.
Leahy: Yes. Florida is kind of the standard, isn’t it? Isn’t Ron DeSantis, the kind of governor that every state needs? Every state needs a Ron DeSantis pushing against the egregious intrusions upon state sovereignty and the violations of the fundamental concept of federalism that are coming out of the mal-administration of the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Joe Biden. That’s my view. Why can’t every state have a Ron DeSantis?
Ogles: Well, again, I think one it’s a difference in personality and it’s a difference in core values. Ron DeSantis did not back down during COVID when you had the cruise industry trying to mandate and require vaccines.
He stood up to the cruise industry, a multi-billion dollar industry forcing them to change their policies. Meanwhile, in Tennessee, we don’t have the courage, if you will, to take a stand and protect individuals from these mandates.
I just saw in The Tennessee Star that you have a college in Memphis that’s going to require all students to get the vaccine. You have to show proof of vaccination in order to come to the University.
College students aren’t at risk for COVID. Let’s identify the vulnerable and make sure it’s available to them. Then we’ve got to move on and move forward but these mandates are a direct infringement on liberty and medical freedom.
This vaccine now has a warning on heart inflammation. So now we’re a year and a half into this thing, and we know more about this vaccine than we knew just a few months ago and they’re having to put warning labels on it.
And yet the government is requiring and mandating it. Holy crap! This is not acceptable.
Leahy: It’s very interesting how the bureaucrats are playing this Critical Race Theory ban on the tenants of Critical Race Theory. I kind of get the impression that the Educrats who are almost all lefties running the major school systems in Tennessee, the big ones, I think they’re kind of playing us.
It’s my view, anyway, but they say one thing, and then I think they kind of do another. Let me just get your reaction to this story, and we ought to have these guys in if they’ll come in. It’s interesting.
The spokesperson for Metro Nashville Public Schools ideologically, not necessarily what we’re aligned with will talk to The Tennessee Star. Governor Lee will not. I don’t know if I told you, but former President Donald Trump will exclusively talk to The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. Just in case, for a matter of comparison right now, interestingly enough.
Metro Nashville Public School spokesperson Sean Braisted. Do you remember him? He used to be the spokesperson for Megan Barry.
Ogles: There you go.
Leahy: That guy. He responded to The Tennessee Star about remarks from the district’s diversity, equity, and inclusion Executive Officer Astrid Hughes. Did you know that Metro Nashville has a diversity, equity, and inclusion executive officer? (Ogles giggles)
Now you do. We asked whether Hughes would implement any of the banned tenants in Metro Nashville’s forthcoming Equity Roadmap. And if Metro Nashville Public Schools plan to implement Critical Race Theory.
Here’s what Sean Braisted responded. “Mr. Hughes was not suggesting those reading materials be a part of the school curriculum, but rather that those interested in discussing the subject read about what they are discussing.” Really? Really? I’m not quite buying that, Andy. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just too skeptical about Educrats.
Ogles: When you look at this trend that’s taken place over the last 10, 20, 30 years, the Educrats as you say, first got into the universities. Now they’re pushing it into the seminary.
They’re pushing into our high school and now or even our elementary schools. And once you capture the minds of the children, you’re changing the next generation. You’re affecting politics.
Leahy: In studio with us, Metro Nashville Public School Board member Fran Bush. Fran, during the break, we were talking about charter schools. And I want to talk overall about the philosophy, your philosophy with regards to charter schools. Generally speaking, do you favor the idea of having charter schools or do you oppose it?
Bush: So my position has always been and this is always one of those very controversial topics when it comes to public versus charter. And before I ran, I always believed in parents having a choice. It’s all about choice. We understand that our public schools, it takes away our funding because we have to fund charter schools before our public schools.
Leahy: Now, Crom would say, the difference is a government-run public school and a charter, independent-run public school. You’d say they’re both public schools.
Bush: Right. So they’re still our students. So let’s make it very clear these students are still public school students. They have just made a choice, or parents have made a choice to put them in a charter school for whatever reason, they felt their student will be academically served best.
Leahy: And a charter school gets a charter from the Metro National Public School Board or the local school board.
Leahy: That allows them to operate their own public school according to their guidelines, but guided by the Metro Public Schools. But they have their own management team and their own style and their own approach. We have one of the most well-known, I guess, is Nashville Classical, which is a K8. It’s been around for many years. I think, about 10 years maybe.
Bush: A long time.
Leahy: And from everything I can tell, very successful. Polls show that there is huge support among minority groups, Black voters, and Hispanic voters for charter schools and choice. So generally saying you support the concept of choice?
Bush: Yes, I do, because every model is not for every student. So it doesn’t mean that we don’t care and love our community public schools. That’s not what we’re saying. That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying that there are options and there should always be choices because every student is different. They learn differently.
They have different needs. They need different support. And sometimes the public school or that particular school, a parent feels that that is not what they want for their student, and they find some other option. If it’s in a charter school, they can give them the support they definitely need for their students.
Leahy: So that parent, if there is a charter school that they want to attend, they don’t have to pay anything extra. It’s free, if you will, except for direct payments. They can follow that. Here in Nashville and in Tennessee, the way it works is the charter school brings an application to Metro Nashville Public School.
Leahy: And you can vote up or down. And if they vote down in recent years now there’s a special commission they can appeal it to.
Bush: Absolutely. So if a charter school comes before the board, they will submit their application. Once they submit the application and go through an interview process, and then they have to meet certain criteria. If it’s academic, if it’s the finances, location, whatever the case may be, they have to meet pretty much and have an eight star.
Charters are judged a little bit differently? So they have to have a little bit more of a higher standard in order to operate or to get that approval. So they have to meet so many different needs. If it’s English learning students if it’s students with special needs, that kind of thing. So all that is encompassed into this application process.
Now it comes before the board. If the board sees that academically, they still have things that they have to meet they have 30 days to make those corrections or update their application to make sure that it is up to standards coming back before the board making those adjustments for approval.
Leahy: I guess last week there were two charter applications.
Bush: This week.
Leahy: This week?
Leahy: This is breaking news folks. And so it was Nashville Classical, which has been operating a K8 for some time. Did they want to have another K8, or did they want to go with a high school?
Bush: I think it’s more of a K8 in a different location. So I think she was going to start Elementary. I’m sorry. Elementary first element. And then, of course, you add a grade every year.
Leahy: Basically, then you the Metro board consider the application of Nashville Classical for another elementary site. And then was there another application?
Bush: Yes. It was a new one. It’s Ventura and it’s a new never established or new application.
Bush: Startup. Yes.
Leahy: What happened in the discussion and how did the board vote? How did you vote on these two applications?
Bush: So just so everyone can be clear if I deny a charter application the first go-around is because there are some things that needed to be added or adjusted in the application so that it can meet the academic needs of the students. Once that application comes back the next 30 days, nine times out of 10, they make the adjustments. And if parents, once again, if they are supporting the application or the means of the students academically is going to be a success, then my vote is always yes.
Leahy: What was the vote on these two proposals on Tuesday?
Bush: Nashville Classical two, only one voted in favor and the rest we voted again…
Leahy: So it was nine zip against Ventura. And then eight to one against Nashville Classical.
Leahy: So you voted against Ventura Academics, and then you voted against Nashville Classical. But there’s an asterisk. Explain your vote and what happens next?
Bush: So Nashville Classical again, a very great school. No problems with the history. And so we can be clear that once they make a new application to go, the application process is very strenuous. It’s not something that’s easy. It’s something that is really a long process. It’s like a checkmark. You have to checkmark, like, 100 things off the list. And if they don’t have so many different things on that checklist and they did not meet the criteria or partially met that kind of grading. They did not partially meet on the academics.
Leahy: I’m just curious what would have done the shortcoming on the academics if they have, like, a dozen years or so of good academic experience? I think they outperform other schools. What in their application led you to believe that their second school would not meet academic standards if their first school has been well above?
Bush: That’s a good question. I’ve looked at these applications before. This is not the first time this has happened. Nashville Classical is not the only school that we’ve seen this happen to. It’s amazing just what you just spoke about. They did so well. They’re doing so well in their current state. But when they submit another application, it’s like it changes. Something changed in the application that does not match exactly what they’ve been doing.
Which they should be doing the exact same thing. But something in the application that spirals into a different direction of what they’ve always done. And that kind of has been a curiosity for me because I’m thinking it should be the same on consistency. And somehow with these applications, it doesn’t match.
Leahy: So there was their curriculum going to be different. Is that what it was?
Bush: It was like more of the curriculum meeting certain standards with their English learner students, or if it was dealing with students with special needs.
Leahy: So you told them to fix it.
Bush: Just fix it.
Leahy: And they’ll come back in 30 days.
Bush: Come back in 30 days.
Leahy: If they fix it, you’re gonna vote Yes.
Leahy: But what will the vote be then? seven two against it?
Leahy: But then they get to appeal it.
Bush: They can appeal it to the state.
Leahy: And then they’ll probably get it approved.
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.
Leahy: We are joined on the newsmaker line by state Representative Randy Fine of Florida. Good morning Representative Fine.
Fine: Good morning. Happy to be here.
Leahy: We are delighted to have you on here. I’m going to give you some news you may not know. As you know, we own and operate several state-based conservative news sites. And two weeks ago, we launched The Florida Capital Star. Floridacapitalstar.com. Right there, based in Tallahassee. We’ve got a crew of three folks here writing about what you guys are doing in the Florida state Legislature and what Governor DeSantis is doing. We are delighted to have you on here.
Fine: Well, we appreciate you getting the good word out on all the good work we’re doing down here.
Leahy: So your legislative session is about to wind up, I guess tomorrow is that right?
Fine: That’s right. We have a 60-day session by Constitution every year, and tomorrow will be the 60th day.
Leahy: So every time I turn around, you guys are passing legislation that should be viewed as a model by other States. What would you say are the top accomplishments of this session of the Florida state legislature?
Fine: I think number one, we will again pass a balanced budget, which we do every year while adding to our reserves. I like to tell people we do more than balance our budget. We actually put money in savings. That’s always our most important priority. But policy-wise, we’ve passed the most aggressive anti rioting, pro-police legislation in the country to make sure Florida never looks like Portland or Seattle. And we are also close to passing legislation to really hold Big Tech accountable for the way that they manipulate our data and the way that they censor and treat Conservatives.
Leahy: I looked at our website, floridacapitalstar.com, and I can see you had a couple of other bills. The Florida House passed a bill banning vaccine passports.
Fine: We did. We did. The governor feels very strongly that people should not have to prove that they have been vaccinated in order to go into particular businesses. And so that bill passed the Florida House overwhelmingly yesterday.
Leahy: The other thing I’ve been hearing about is that Governor DeSantis has said we’re not going to be teaching critical race theory in Florida. And I’ve also seen that apparently there are some bills out there that would provide bonuses to teachers in the Florida public school system that follow and take advanced training on the Constitution and civics. Where does that bill stand?
Fine: I’m actually the chair of K through 12 appropriations, so I set the budget. We’re very very aggressive on that front. Number one, minimizing the teaching of the hatred of America and that America is bad and everything that we do is bad. And that’s really what critical race theory says. Basically, let’s be critical of America and view everything through a racist lens.
We’re focused on celebrating America. We’ve passed multiple bills this year that focus on increasing civics as well as reminding people about what makes America great through creating new content to show folks portraits in patriotism, and to remind folks about the evil that’s involved in socialism and communism.
Leahy: So is there an incentive program for teachers that get special training on civics and related projects? Is that in the works? Has that been passed or about to be passed or under consideration?
Fine: We haven’t passed anything to provide incentives for it. But we’re doing one thing better. We’re going to require the teaching of this stuff in schools. So you’re not going to get paid extra to do the right thing. We’re going to expect you to do it as a condition of your job.
Leahy: How will that be monitored? Because one of the problems, we interview members of the Tennessee General Assembly all the time, and they have an idea about what’s being taught in the schools and often their idea of what should be taught and what is being taught is very different from what’s actually being taught.
Fine: Well, that’s a great question. So we passed other legislation this session that increases the availability of classroom materials to parents so the parents can see what’s going on. And we have very active parents in our state. But one other thing that we’ve done is that is sort of related to keep the schools honest is we have passed the largest expansion of school choice in the United States this year.
So we’re creating opportunities for all of our Florida families if they so choose to take their child if they’re not happy for any reason out of a government-run school and to put them into a different school.
Leahy: Tell us how that school choice program expansion will work. Here in Tennessee, this is something that we’re very interested in. We have had a few fits and starts in that Arena. And we look to Florida, as many States do, as a model.
Fine: We have hundreds of thousands of students already taking advantage of private school choice here in Florida. We’ve expanded that this year to say any family of four making $100,000 a year or less can get a voucher equivalent to what the state is paying the school to teach your child. You can get a voucher and take that to a private school. That’s what you want to do.
But in addition, we have a very expensive program for families of children with special needs. Whether they can get their money not only to go to a private school but if that child would be better off at home with specialized therapies and other kinds of products and services they can use it for that. So that is for special needs programs and middle-class programs.
Leahy: For a middle-class parent there, what’s that work out to be? About $7,000 a child?
Fine: That’s exactly right. It’s right around $7,000. And it changes from year to year. We’re talking about the income-based scholarship.
Leahy: Right. The income-based scholarship. But any parent down there with $100,000 or less can qualify for those voucher payments. Is that right?
Fine: So to make it simple, you make $99,000 a year. You’re a family of four with two kids in school, you can get $14,000. to send your child to a private school.
Leahy: Wow! And so I’m guessing that there are a lot of parents that are likely to line up to take advantage of that.
Fine: There are. But the fact of the matter is by having this accountability, our public schools and our charter schools have gotten better. So some parents go, well, hey, we appreciate that we have this option. It makes my government-run school have to do a lot better to keep me from leaving. So everybody wins.
Whether you’re going to a private school or whether you’re going to a charter school, which is a public school, or whether you’re going to a government-run public school. That increased competition benefits everybody.
Leahy: So how are teachers in Florida responding to all this? I know the teachers’ unions, particularly up here in Tennessee, are pretty hostile to these kinds of policy changes. What’s the case down in Florida?
Fine: Well, teachers’ unions hate them, but teachers don’t necessarily because whether you’re teaching in a private school or a government-run school or charter school, they is still a job for you. But I don’t do this job for teachers unions. I do this job for children. I do this job for parents. And those folks overwhelmingly like these programs.
But if you are a teacher in a government-run school, Florida has raised our minimum teacher salaries to among the highest in the country at $47,500 which is a pretty good salary for a job where you get 14 weeks a year off.
Leahy: So you are likely to wrap up tomorrow. Do you think you’ll be there until midnight? How long will it take to get all the business done?
Fine: We can’t vote under our Constitution until 12:06 tomorrow on our budget. We have to actually give 72 hours after we print the budget before we vote on it. So I think sometime mid-afternoon. And by the way, I’m in my fifth year in the legislature and this will be the first time in those five years that we actually end on time.
Leahy: Ah. Do you give Governor DeSantis credit for that or the leadership?
Fine: I give everybody credit. I give credit to Governor DeSantis. I give credit to President Wilton Simpson, who’s the President of our Senate, and Speaker Chris Sprowls, my Speaker. I think they’ve all worked really well together to get the job done.
Leahy: So Saturday morning, you’re going to wake up and the session will be over. Is your job as a state representative over, or do you just turn the page to some other sorts of activities?
Fine: Well, it won’t be over, unfortunately, because we have to come back in two weeks to do a special session on casinos in Florida, which really isn’t a basic function of our regular session. But beyond that, I’ll go home, and I’ll start to talk to folks about the work that we did up here. And I’ll also get to know my family again. I’ve hardly seen them for the last two months.
Leahy: So do you stay up in Tallahassee during most of this time or do you go back and forth?
Fine: It’s a Monday to Friday job, and I live a six-hour drive away. So I’m lucky to get home for 24 to 48 hours every weekend. Especially when session gets busier.
Leahy: That’s a big personal sacrifice. What’s the toll on your family life?
Fine: It’s a lot. You get to a point of week six or seven of session where you think of home as more Tallahassee, and then you’re visiting your family. And then it’s sort of like re-entry as people have described it. And I’m not trying to compare this to being in the military, but people describe it as you sort of have been deployed for 60 days and then you go through the reentry process when you get home.
But I’ve now been through it four times, and I’ll get through it again. It takes a big big toll on your family because you’re just gone and it’s very busy when we’re up here.
Leahy: Well, thanks for all the hard work that you’re doing for the folks in Florida State Rep. Randy Fine.
Listen to the full first 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. Background Photo “Florida Capitol” by DXR. CC BY-SA 4.0.
Leahy: That’s Congressman Andy Biggs from Arizona talking about the Biden mal-administration’s failure to enforce our immigration laws. What’s happening at the border is illegal aliens are crossing in record numbers. They’re not being tested for COVID. They’re not being detained. They are being put on buses and planes and sent all around the country, including to places like Tennessee it appears.
In studio with us State Representative Jerry Sexton. Jerry, when you hear Congressman Biggs describe the reality on the border of that, you look here at Tennessee apparently, some of these illegal aliens, many of them not tested for COVID. Many of them carrying COVID are headed to Tennessee. What’s your response to that, Jerry?
Sexton: Well, it’s obvious we have certain values and certain laws and those laws are being skirted with immigration. We are a country of immigrants, and it’s called the melting pot. The problem is we’re not melting anymore. We’re trying to change the values of this country.
Leahy: Balkanizing the country.
Sexton: Yes, that’s exactly right. And when you’ve got immigrants, we could make them a way for people to come legally. But what they’re doing is they’re getting these people to beholden to them as if they’re giving them something. And unfortunately, it’s happening in Tennessee. And we’re not making our politicians pay for their votes and their policies.
It’s time that we, as Tennesseeans, decide whether we’re going to continue to put up with these types of policies, or do we know exactly what the voting record is of our state Senator, of our governor, of any politician? Do we know what their voting record is? We better stop listening to the rhetoric and see what actually they’re doing now.
Leahy: I have not seen any confirmed reports that these illegal aliens have surged across the border and have been placed in Tennessee. I have seen many confirmed reports that illegal aliens at the border are not being detained and are being sent around the country. It would stand a reason that there are 50 States and they’re probably being sent to Tennessee is one of those States.
There was an unconfirmed report down in Chattanooga. I don’t know if you saw that which said that said, apparently an organization called the Baptiste Group, there was a report, unconfirmed, was housing illegal aliens who had just crossed the border. And then there was, I think, a local Chattanooga message from their school board saying, just a reminder that by law, we are required to educate everybody that comes here.
And there’s a Supreme Court ruling on this that illegal alien children must be educated in K12 public schools. And so I don’t know. There have been no confirmed reports, but it would very much surprise me if there aren’t right now today in Tennessee, illegal aliens who have crossed the border illegally since the inauguration of Joe Biden, who are sitting here right now, many of them poised to go to public schools.
Sexton: Let me ask you something. What if every immigrant that came to America said that they had to listen to your program? And I’m in the furniture manufacturing business and these same people had to buy my product? Now, that would be a pretty good boom for us, would it not?
Leahy: Oh, yeah.
Sexton: So our education system, they get so much money per student. So what we’re doing is we’re filling up the classrooms with money because every head represents so much money for those schools. And it’s time that we tear apart these organizations that are funneling all this money and everything else. We should be teaching our people. We should be giving them an education.
Leahy: You mean on things like the Constitution of America? (Laughs)
Sexton: Oh, my gosh. Isn’t it amazing how we don’t know the Constitution and we don’t teach those things?
Leahy: Well, funny, you bring that up. Have you seen in our book Guide to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights for Secondary School Students? I think maybe this is the first time I’ve shared that with you.
Sexton: I think it is.
Leahy: And I’ll just talk to you a little bit about this. In October, it will be our fifth year of doing the National Constitution Bee here in Tennessee. And it is for students grades eight through 12. They get a copy of this book. And then we do a Constitution Bee like a Spelling Bee or Geography Bee. And we end up with three winners and the first place winner gets a $10,000. educational scholarship, second place, $5,000, and third place $2,500. It’s a lot of fun.
Leahy: I will tell you this, though, and we make this book available as a supplementary text to K12 public schools in Tennessee. Really, only one school system in the state has even expressed any interest in it. We’ve got one school system using it as a supplementary text in one course. But most of the other K12 public schools have no interest in learning about this particular supplementary text on the Constitution. Nor do they have much interest in sending their kids to have this opportunity for educational scholarships. That’s our experience with the K12 public schools in Tennessee.
Sexton: What they are teaching them is completely different from the values of America. I was in a public school and I attend some schools occasionally and in one of the classrooms I took some pictures and I’ve tried to take videos of it, but there was on the board they were teaching about Christmas in Mexico, not Christmas in America.
Leahy: Christmas in Mexico.
Sexton: Christmas in Mexico.
Leahy: Because that’s what young kids in Tennessee need to learn about. Christmas in Mexico.
Sexton: I tell organizations all the time when they talk about these diversity and inclusion programs. First of all, say it should be done away with because I say it’s not real. If I want to bring my Bible and I want to come into your organization, am I welcome? Can I have Bible study? Can I have Sunday school? No, just on the face itself it’s not real. The first book that was approved by Congress, and I’m sorry, they don’t have the year 17 something but it was the Aitken Bible. It was the first Bible printed in America and approved by Congress.
Leahy: I think that was actually like 1784 during the Confederation Congress.
Sexton: I think so. Yes. And we are when I say we, the American Bible Society, is going to put Bibles in every school to be taught. From this historical standpoint, it has all of the documents. I’ve seen the Bible’s already being printed. And we’re excited that we can put those in schools because we do have a policy, a law, state law that says that you can have these.
But as you said, Michael, people are afraid. They’re afraid to stand up for what is our right in America. And until we start standing for those rights that we have and those values like the Second Amendment, like freedom of speech, like the right to keep and bare arms, until we start standing up for those, we’re going to continue to lose them. I, for one, will not bow to the left and their tactics.
Leahy: Yeah, that’s, I think, very important. But I want to follow up with this. Isn’t it the state legislature that plays a critical role in establishing the curriculum?
Sexton: Of course it is.
Leahy: That is taught in K12 public schools?
Sexton: Of course it is. Now let me give a high five to some of my colleagues in the Education Department. I know several of them that are fighting extremely hard to try to get these policies in our schools. Believe me, you’ve got a lot of Tennessee legislators that believe in the values that made this country great. They’re wanting to get those things taught in our school rooms. They’re fighting for it all the time.
We have to push back against these big unions. And I don’t want my Republican friends that don’t understand that every time we give in to these public schools and this leftist idea that they’re taking that money and trying to defeat Republicans and conservative values. Why do we continue to do that? I tell my friends all the time in the legislature that I am a rural representative and the school systems in my area are the largest employers.
And we cannot be afraid of them. We have to embrace them. I support our teachers. They have to teach what they’re mandated. But our parents also want to have a diversity of education. I support that. And I get elected every time because I support our parents, our teachers and the public school system is failing us as it is.