Variety in the Valley: House District 89 battle

Kari Keeling – Democrat

• What are three of the most pressing needs of the 89th District, and/or Knoxville metro area, and/or the state, and how are you going to help solve the issues?

“I believe that if you are working, even if your employer doesn’t provide health insurance, you deserve to not have to worry about medical bills driving you into bankruptcy if you or your family are sick. Expanding Medicaid could cover 300,000 working Tennesseans. Nearly 80 percent of states have done it, including Kentucky and Oklahoma, without costing taxpayers extra money. They’ve saved their rural hospitals from closing down, increased the quality of healthcare they are able to provide for everyone, and ensured that their children grow up healthy and happy. Tennesseans deserve what other states have, but our legislators have failed to help our broken healthcare system, leading to closing hospitals and declining quality of care.

“I also understand our public education system is failing our students and teachers. I understand that we cannot fix it by taking taxpayer money away from the system and investing it in private schools who don’t have to follow the same rules.

We need educators in office that can provide perspective on what teachers actually need in order to do better—smaller classroom sizes, resources that make learning more accessible, better pay to ensure we attract the best teachers, less focus on standardized testing, and re-working the broken formula by which funding is determined for schools. Our children deserve the best, and we owe it to them to give them a solid education on which to build a successful future.

“Finally, the state has passed a lot of legislation as of late that takes power from local communities to regulate their own affairs.

Laws that restrict our local government’s ability to make their communities safer and cleaner tie Knoxville’s hands when we’re trying to spur economic growth. Laws that restrict voting rights and free speech create further divisions between the people and their government.

Laws that take away the power of local boards to demand accountability and financial transparency for taxpayer-funded positions enhance power imbalances. We need to emphasize the rights of local government to create laws that work for them because our local representatives are the people who actually live in our community and understand our needs and concerns best.

Background for Keeling: “I’m a lifelong Tennessean and earned my BA and MA in English from Tennessee Tech and ETSU, respectively.

I am also one of the 1/3 of teachers who burn out within their first five years due to overwork and low pay. I know what it’s like to be taught and to teach in our public school system; I know where we are failing our hard-working students and teachers, and therefore I can provide an educator’s perspective in government about what we can do to better support our teachers with the tools they need to provide our students with excellent learning.”