WCMS teacher Kevin Dunlap was sworn in yesterday as 43rd District state representative, marking the first time in 44 years a Warren County resident has served in the Tennessee House.
Dunlap, 36, was surrounded by a group of his students who made the trip to Nashville to witness the historic event. While a member of the Tennessee House, Dunlap will take the spring semester off from teaching while the General Assembly is in session, but will return to the classroom for the fall semester.
This is an organizational week for state lawmakers. After getting sworn in yesterday, lawmakers officially elected their leadership in the House and Senate. Beth Harwell returned as House speaker, while Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey retained the top post in the Senate.
Now that leadership has been established, committee assignments will be made. After this week is over, there will be a two-week break for lawmakers to move into new offices based on the new pecking order.
The first major order of business will be a special session called by Gov. Bill Haslam set to begin Monday, Feb. 2. The special session will address Haslam’s plan called Insure Tennessee, which he hopes will insure nearly 200,000 more Tennesseans.
“Living in Tennessee, we have paid hundreds of millions in federal tax and our money has been spent on healthcare for people in Kentucky, Ohio, New York and other places,” said Dunlap. “Tennessee hasn’t received any money for Medicaid expansion because the state has opted out and not taken any money. The governor has tried to work out a compromise with Washington, D.C., based on market reforms. A lot of it has to do with personal responsibility and people taking better care of their health and being more responsible for their own health outcomes. This plan has gained support of hospitals and the Chamber of Commerce.”
While exact details of the governor’s Insure Tennessee plan have yet to be released, Dunlap says that information will become available once the special session begins.
As for other measures, education is always a prominent topic in Nashville. As a teacher, Dunlap says one of the things needed is more stability, not constant educational change.
“We need some consistency and lawmakers need to trust our professional teachers to do their job and not try to reinvent the wheel every year,” said Dunlap. “I’m for testing and accountability, but it’s gotten to be too much. Every day we give these standardized tests is a day we can’t teach and instruct.”
Dunlap says he is already working on an education-related bill that pertains to standardized testing.
“I’m calling it the Parent Empowerment Act,” said Dunlap. “Parents deserve the right when their kids take a standardized test to log in online and see what questions their child missed and what questions their child got right. We need to empower parents to take a more active role in their kids’ education and parents need to see the test too so it will hold these standardized testing companies more accountable.”
Dunlap taking office marks the first time a Warren County resident has served in the state House since 1970. Back then, Larry Stanley held the seat in what was the 13th District.
Since that time, Warren County residents Jerry Cooper and Steve Roller have served in the state Senate, but no local residents have been in the House.