Education a key issue in Tennessee House District 83 general election contest

Updated: Oct. 13, 2020 at 6:29 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - One of the local races political pundits are watching closely Nov. 3 is Tennessee House District 83, which includes parts of east Memphis and Germantown, a key suburban voting block.

Incumbent Republican Mark White is defending his seat against Democratic challenger Jerri Green, and education is a main issue.

After a decade as a state lawmaker, Rep. Mark White said he’s still got work to do in Nashville. The first order of business is getting the state, as well as its students and teachers, through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m very concerned about our children in public schools right now that are all virtual being able to keep up,” said White. “There’s not one right answer right now as you go across our state. We are such a diverse state, east to west, 147 school districts. It’s very challenging for many reasons.”

White chairs the Tennessee House’s Education committee, and his support helped get Gov. Bill Lee’s Educational Savings Account (ESA) or voucher program, passed in 2019.

But the program, which only impacts Shelby County Schools and Metro Nashville Public Schools, has been deemed unconstitutional by two courts.

White said he stands by his vote but thinks now lawmakers tried to rush the program.

“I still believe in the principle that the parent has the right to choose what is best for their child’s education. you’ve got to start there,” he said. “I think we tried to push it too quick.”

Green is challenging White for his House District 83 seat. White’s voucher vote is part of her attack.

“We love our public schools, and anything that is going to take dollars and resources away from them in any year is unacceptable to us,” she said.

The Democratic candidate is a mother of three and a licensed attorney who works full-time for a legal non-profit. She said she believes her voice and the voices of other women like her are missing in Nashville. Her campaign slogan is One Tough Mother.

“We want regular people with families caring about the issues, speaking to them in our community,” she said.

Green said the pandemic has brought issues like education and child care to the forefront as parents and students grapple with virtual schooling.

“Those issues that seemed like mom issues in the past, it turns out those are society issues. And right now we are not under-represented. We are unrepresented,” she said.

Early voting starts Wednesday, Oct. 14 and runs until Oct. 29. Election Day is Nov. 3.

Find polling locations in our voter guide.

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