Either it’s top priority, or it’s not

Either it’s top priority, or it’s not

By state Sen. Dolores Gresham

Education First is a proposed law that, for the first time in the history of this state, would literally put education first in our budgeting process.

The proposal calls for the General Assembly to pass a budget for education before any other priorities of the state’s budgetary requirements are considered.

It’s about keeping promises.

I cannot count the many times that officials testifying before us have said that most issues challenging our state’s economic and political freedom can be solved by the creation and maintenance of a world-class education system. I agree that education is vitally important to the future of our state.

Many elected officials have also vowed to put education first as they campaign for office.

The Education First legislation is not a complex proposal.

The current budget document clearly shows education appropriations separately. Therefore, the concept is to vote on the education section of our budget separately before moving on to the other budget items.

Once the education budget is approved, then the legislature can move on to the rest of the budget. It is about separating this part of our budget to make sure that education is adequately funded first, before it is swept up in the last minute political maneuverings that too often endanger critical spending measures, like education, in the massive appropriations bill.

In his first inaugural address, Gov. Phil Bredesen likened our state budget to the family budget. I also want to use that model. With limited resources, a family must prioritize to ensure that the most important items are at the top of the list. Then, the family can move on to other essentials before getting to the items that are optional.

Education First works on the same principle. It says we put first things first, and under this legislation — we put education first.

We have promised the people that we have our priorities straight. If education is truly our first priority, our budget should reflect it.

It’s about keeping promises.

Education is either first, or it’s not.

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