TOP PHOTO: State Sen. Ken Yager held a town hall meeting at the Campbell County Chamber of Commerce on Thursday evening. 

Campbell County Chamber of Commerce Director Missy Tackett introduced Sen. Ken Yager at Thursday’s town hall meeting held at the chamber of commerce. 

By Charlotte Underwood 

JACKSBORO, TN (WLAF) – Tennessee State Sen. Ken Yager held a town hall meeting Thursday afternoon at the Campbell County Chamber of Commerce. 

The governor’s school voucher bill was a hot button topic, with more questions framed around that than any other issue.

Around 30 citizens attended the meeting, including community leaders from local government, as well as school officials. 

Yager has the largest district in the state with nine counties and said he makes a point of holding these town hall meetings to listen to his constituents.

At the beginning of the town hall, Yager gave a brief update on what was going on at the state level. 

“We are in the final lap of the general assembly; the goal is to adjourn in the third week of April. The most important thing we do is pass a balanced budget,” Yager said.

Around 30 people attended the town hall meeting held by Senator Ken Yager to get legislative updates from the senator and express concerns.

According to Yager, Tennessee is in “great shape” and has the lowest per capita tax in the nation.

“We have no debt, but we are still able to provide for the needs of our state. The governor has proposed a $53 billion dollar budget this year. Social welfare and human services are the largest expenditure,” Yager said.

The second largest expenditure in the state is education, with transportation listed as the next largest expenditure.

“The fourth largest expenditure is corrections; the state spends over $1 billion dollars a year to keep 30,000 inmates in prison or jails,” Yager said.

“The budget is by far the most important thing we do,” Yager said. 

According to Yager, he made a promise to teachers in rural counties that he would vote no on the school voucher issue. Yager also said he thought “it’s going to be a close vote.”

Manuel Mesa, who attended the town hall, said that it “seemed the school voucher bill would hurt rural areas.”

Yager said many of the school teachers in his rural districts were voicing the same concerns and Fentress County “was afraid it would bankrupt” their school district. 

“The state pays Campbell County about $7,000 per student and rural schools are afraid that they will lose that funding as students leave. Rural schools are really concerned about it,” Yager said.

He also said in his opinion, he was concerned it could result in “pop-up private schools” that would “just take students’ money.”

Citizens at the town hall meeting were of a mixed opinion, with some in support of the school voucher bill and others in opposition of it. 

Yager praised the governor for all he had done for Tennessee’s schools and said this was just the one thing he and the governor disagreed on. 

“I made a promise to my rural school teachers, and I stand by my promises,” Yager said.

Some citizens voiced concern about a lack of accountability with private schools, while other citizens asked what accountability public schools were held to.

Campbell County Schools Secondary Supervisor Dr. Jason Horne spoke up and described the many ways in which public schools are held accountable both at the federal and state level.

Campbell County Secondary Schools Supervisor Dr. Jason Horne expressed concerns about the school voucher bill that is soon to be voted on, as well as concerns about the third-grade retention law that was passed.

Horne also spoke to Yager about the education issue with the third-grade retention law and asked the legislature to look at “pushing that retention law down to lower grades such as kindergarten or first grade,” saying that it occurring at the third-grade level was going to cause “dropout issues in nine years.”

Yager also addressed a bill he was carrying for the governor to change the franchise tax. 

“The tax that was passed in 1935 is unconstitutional according to the attorney general, and we’re going to have to refund that,” Yager said.

According to Yager, it’s going to cost a little over a billion dollars to refund that.

“If we don’t, we will be sued, and it would cost a lot more,” Yager said. 

Sen. Ken Yager also spoke about his concerns about the nation’s southern border.

He said Tennessee is the second state in nation with the highest number of Fentanyl overdose deaths. Yager said the drug was being manufactured in China and linked that to supplies of the drug coming across the southern border of the United States.

He was asked by one citizen about the “statistics on how many illegals are in the state.”

“Those statistics are hard to get from the Federal government… Our southern border is out of control and it’s killing us, literally, with the influx of illegal drugs,” Yager said. 

He also said he would do all he could to support law enforcement in the hard job they have dealing with these issues.

“According to a survey, the number one issue in this county is crime and number two is illegal drugs, so I’m doing all I can to support law enforcement do the job they need to the needs of my constituents come first,” Yager said. (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 03/15/2024-6AM)