Better education, health care on radar for local Democrats

Jessica Fuller • Jan 29, 2018 at 9:15 PM

Hours ahead of Gov. Bill Haslam’s State of the State address on Monday, members of the Washington County Democratic Party gathered to discuss what they’d like to see moving forward for the state. 

Party leader Sydney Crowder said in her statement that she’d be looking for ways in which the governor will approach improvements to education with funding for public schools and expanding programs for college students. 

While she called the Tennessee Promise program a success, she said it’s time to go further. 

“It’s time for Tennessee to pave the way once more,” she said. “It’s time we expand the program to four-year universities and give these students the best chance they can possibly have in today’s society.

“It’s time for us to make a personal investment in the future of our young people. By doing so, we set ourselves up to a brighter economic future than ever before.” 

Crowder, fellow party leader Kate Craig and retired Johnson City Schools teacher Michelle Treece agreed that Tennessee could do more for its public education systems.

Treece, who has more than 30 years as an educator, said it’s important to look out for all public school system students, and that happens by giving the school systems the resources they need to reach as many kids as possible. 

“If we can continue to support kids to finish their education, to get a degree to allow them to be in a better place and make a true contribution to their community, we need to make sure that happens,” she said. 

Turning toward Haslam’s proposed $30 million plan to combat the opioid epidemic, Craig said that she’d like to see a plan that focuses on rehabilitating people who are addicted to opiates and not incarcerating them, adding that prisons are not equipped to help inmates who are addicted to opiates and going through withdraws. 

“What I’d like to see him do is to make it community-based with all the key stakeholders brought to the table on how these funds will be used and not a law-and-order-type approach,” she said.

“There are all kinds of ways in which this happens, if we can start addressing this in an overlapping, multi-pronged approach, I think we can get a real, viable solution rather than a Band-Aid fix.”

 “Law enforcement is important when there’s an epidemic, but treatment is more important,” Crowder added. “We need to start rehabilitating these people instead of throwing them in jail, because they’re addicted to a substance they have no control over.”

Email Jessica Fuller at [email protected] Follow Jessica on Twitter @fullerjf91. Like her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jfullerJCP.

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