To My Fellow Tennessee Chamber Members:

Today is a great day for Tennessee and its business community!!  Tennessee was one of two states selected to receive Race to the Top federal education funds, which could total more than $500 million.  This competitive grant, with more than 15 states as finalists, is designed to recognize education innovators and to provide them funding to create the education systems and models to serve the future.  The U.S. Department of Education has scheduled a press conference for later today to make the official announcement.

The Tennessee Chamber congratulates the Governor who had the vision for education in Tennessee, ranging from expanding pre-K to aligning with and adopting the Tennessee Diploma Project, complete with its more rigorous curriculum, assessments and expectations.  It culminated this year with a special legislative session and key measures to ensure greater accountability and more focused measures of our success.

We also congratulate the General Assembly for its bipartisan support of education and the Tennessee Department of Education.  Both were instrumental in ensuring our victory today by enacting the education policies that made it possible and by submitting a grant application that demonstrated vision and innovation. We congratulate each of the school districts and our members who have worked tirelessly with them to improve education.  We know that our education systems provides our workforce of the future and that the success of our education system defines the future of our state.

The Tennessee Chamber is proud to have had a small part by working with the Department on Education during the grant application process by collecting and providing STEM education input.  We also strongly supported and worked with the Governor and the legislature to pass key legislative changes offered by the Governor in this years special session.  We are also proud of our Tennessee Scholars program which, by voluntarily challenging high school students to challenge themselves with a more rigorous curriculum and more math and science courses, proves that Tennessee students can perform and meet the challenges.

The money is important and will make a major difference in Tennessee education into the future.  This is one of those federal grants we can wear with pride.  It is not about the state that needed it the most or was at the bottom in the rankings.  It is about the state that has done the most and has been the most innovative and is positioned to be a national leader in model policies and education systems for the future.  

We can all take pride in our state, what has been done and what we are committing to do in the future.  It sets Tennessee apart from the rest.  And for all of us, the work is now just beginning.

Gregg F. Morton
Chairman of the Board
Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry