JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Gov. Bill Lee made a stop in Johnson City Thursday evening to take a tour of the Families Free facility.
Lee made himself available for questions following the hour tour of the buildings.
Although the next regular legislative session is still months away, Lee made it clear what his top priority is going into next year. He said education and investing in youth will be at the top of the list.
“We should continue to invest in education,” Lee said. “The future of Tennessee lies in the next generation, and the next generation will be profoundly impacted by the education that we create for them.”
In this past legislative session, the Tennessee General Assembly voted to raise teacher base salary pay to $50,000 by 2026. This would be a $10,000 increase from the current base pay.
In recent months, threats against schools have caused disruptions at Sulphur Springs Elementary School in Washington County, Tennessee and West Ridge High School in Sullivan County.
Lee, who signed legislation that committed $230 million to school safety, says the state has implemented several measures to keep kids safe in the classroom.
“We have funded a homeland security agent for every county in the state of Tennessee that specifically focuses on school safety and interacting with school districts in every county,” Lee said.
The governor had several comments regarding the success of the Families Free operation. The facility uses evidence and faith-based principles to assist vulnerable families, especially those affected by incarceration.
Lee credited the work of local officials to make this facility possible.
“It’s elevating a conversation,” Lee said. “It’s reminding people in other communities that this is working over here, you should implement something over there.”
Families Free is privately funded, but Lee said that the state is partnering with some state funding.
“When we see a program like this in a local community that is effective and has results and is being funded privately, then we come alongside,” Lee said.