The Tri-Star State: Gov. Bill Lee Talks About His Priorities | Nashville Public Radio

The Tri-Star State: Gov. Bill Lee Talks About His Priorities

Jan 20, 2019

Gov. Bill Lee says he plans to focus on education and criminal justice reform throughout his tenure.

Although he still hasn’t gone into details, he says partnerships with the private sector and nonprofits will be key in tackling those issues. 

The following are excerpts from that interview:

On education as top priority:

"My vision is that every kid in this state ought to have access to a high quality education ... and the vast majority of our kids, by the way, are educated in our traditional public schools, so I want to make certain that, no matter what we do, we strengthen our public school system."

On school choice:

"When parents have choice, their opportunity for their kids outcome is improved and the system itself is improved. So, our education commisioner will be someone who believes in strengthening public education, who believes that choice is a key component to that improvement and that every kid deserves to have a good school."

On reentry programs as part of criminal justice reform: 

"I worked in a re-entry program for many years that developed within me a belief and an understanding that the way we re-enter folks in society from incarceration is really impactful to public safety. 

"Ninety-five percent of everybody sitting in a prison cell today is going to get out in the state of Tennessee. And currently about half of those will recommit a crime and go back.

"When we can re-enter people more succesfully, we lower that recommit rate, which means we lower the crime rate, which means we produce safer neighborhoods for everybody. I also want to look more broadly and deeply into training programs, educational programs, vocational training in particular inside the prison that would give folks skills for when they re-enter.

"And then another thing we need to look at, and we can support right away, is the intake side of incarceration — non-violent offenders who need rehabilitation but who don't need to be incarcerated."

Do you think CoreCivic is delivering on what they were hired to do?

"I don't know the unique challenges. I certainly have heard a lot just in the past few weeks.

"So, not having been in office, not having been engaged with the corrections department, I can't speak to the particulars of that. But certainly we'll look at it. I mean, we know there are alleged challenges and problems, and we want to look at that."

Our ongoing conversations about Tennessee politics are available in The Tri-Star State podast. You can listen by visiting or subscribe using your favorite podcasting app.