Capitol Comments

Many policymakers and education officials are watching closely as Tennessee rolls out an ambitious plan to provide free postsecondary tuition to the state's high school graduates.  As part of Gov. Bill Haslam's "Drive to 55" initiative, the newly signed Tennessee Promise bill will provide two years of community college or a college of applied technology at no cost to students.  The overall goal is to increase the number of Tennesseans earning a degree or certificate to 55 percent from the current rate of 32 percent.

In 2013, the rate of unemployment among U.S. military veterans lowered but remains much higher than the national data for civilians.   Those veterans who joined the military after September 11, 2001 had an average unemployment rate of 9.0 percent which was down from 9.9 percent in 2012.  However, the U.S. Labor Department reported this was 1.6 percentage points higher than the rate for civilians.

The U.S. Department of Labor is using $100 million dollars of current funds to increase the use of apprenticeships in the workforce.  As part of President Obama's charge to Vice President Biden to build a stronger middle class, these competitive grants will allow state partnerships to develop and increase the use of internships that lead to employment.

On April 16, 2014, President Obama asked Vice President Biden to take the lead on investments necessary to assist individuals get trained with the skills needed to land a job. Following training the initiative strives to help hard-working Americans get placed in a good, middle class job.  The first effort offers competitive grants to partnerships of community colleges, employers and industry so they can create job-driven training programs.

As part of Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris' initiative as CSG Chairman, the Tennessee Nutrition Caucus was launched during Ag Day on the Hill late last month.  “This is a bi-partisan team of state legislators who understand that one’s quality of life depends on the necessities of life,” said Norris.  Part of the impetus to create the caucus is the current status of Tennessee's children and overall population.  According to Feeding America, 25.1% of Tennessee's children and 17.6% of the state's general population are unaware of where they will find their next meal.

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