Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:


Jan. 18

The Johnson City Press on honoring Tennessee icon Dolly Parton with a statue at the state Capitol:

A Tennessee lawmaker has filed a bill in the state General Assembly that we can all support — adding a statue of Dolly Parton to the grounds of the state Capitol in Nashville.

State Rep. John Mark Windle, D-Livingston, has introduced the bill “for all that (Parton) has contributed to this state,” according to the Associated Press.

The bill states Parton’s statue would “be located on the capitol grounds facing in the direction of the Ryman Auditorium,” where she has performed throughout her career.

If approved, Parton’s likeness would join the statues of Presidents Andrew Johnson, James Polk and Andrew Jackson, as well as Sgt. Alvin York and other notable Tennesseans on Capitol Hill. Certainly, Parton’s remarkable musical career, humanitarian work and celebrity notoriety worldwide has earned her the right to join their ranks.

And who doesn’t love Dolly? Her music has brought joy to generations of Americans.

Parton’s contributions to the public good are simply undeniable, from providing more than 150 million books to more than 1.7 million children over 30 years through her Imagination Library, to her donation last year of $1 million to Vanderbilt University to help fund research for the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

As specified by Windle’s bill, no taxpayer dollars would be used for the project. Instead, a fund would be created for private donations and grants to pay for the statue.

The state Capitol Commission would get input and develop a plan for the statue’s design.

As we noted earlier, Parton, a native of Sevier County, has done much to promote Tennessee, improve childhood literacy around the world and to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, she deserves to be honored by her home state with a statue on Capitol Hill.



Jan. 15

The Kingsport Times-News on local school capacity:

The toughest job for a local politician is not passing an annual budget or voting on an expensive new project. It’s closing a school. The mere suggestion brings whole neighborhoods to a boardroom, committed to save what they see as their children’s future.

Politicians might love nothing more than to gather in the dead of night to make such a call, followed by extended vacations. But when they raised their right hand they swore to act on the public’s behalf in the light of day and face the consequences. So sensitive are they to closing a school that they will worry whether the public has enough time to chew them up and spit them out over it.

Sullivan County Board of Education member Mark Ireson wasted no time reacting to a recent suggestion from Director of Schools David Cox to close Blountville Elementary, right along with Blountville Middle. Ireson said it’s unfair that Blountville Elementary parents, students and community members of the county seat of government won’t get a chance to offer much input on the proposed closure or have time to let it soak in, as with other schools previously scheduled for closing.

“This community has never had a chance to come and talk with us,” Ireson said. “I don’t like just to drop this on people.”

But it’s Cox’s responsibility to make such a determination and to so inform the board, and he replied that that was what he was doing. The director pointed out that if Blountville Elementary stays open, it and the Holston Middle School complex would operate at less than 50% capacity.

The board toured the elementary and middle schools last month and saw various issues in both buildings.

Blountville Middle’s original section was built in 1934 as Blountville High School with the elementary school added in the late 1940s. The high school became a middle school when Sullivan Central High opened in 1968.

Board Vice Chairman Matthew Spivey said the poor condition of the Blountville schools is clear. However, member Paul Robinson said the elementary portion is “in pretty good shape.”

Cox said the board would address zoning later, but noted that closing Blountville Elementary would send most of the students to Holston, where there will be room for them due to Holston Middle School and Innovation Academy being emptied when those students move to the new middle school at the Sullivan Central High School complex. Some students could be shifted to Central Heights Elementary, which also has unused capacity.

Board member Mary Rouse, who has faced school closures as a parent and principal, said the issue needed to be decided with logic: “You have to separate your heart and head.” She’s also correct that if closing a school is justified, it’s better to do it sooner rather than later.

But a weak-kneed board couldn’t bring itself to do what’s practical and save money. Cox’s recommendation to close a half-empty school and move students to another half-empty school that has room for them makes economic sense. But the board voted 4-3 to close the school in 2022 rather than this year.

Why wait? Why extend the community pain? Those board members have a fiscal responsibility to every taxpayer to manage dollars and facilities as efficiently as possible while continuing to offer our children a quality education. They skipped out on the fiscal duties when they could have stayed true to their complete commitment.