Facing Crises in Schools, Health Care, Tennessee Gov. Focuses on Real Problem: Confucius Institutes

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee today tweeted an article about how his administration is taking action to stop Confucius Institutes at the state’s public colleges and universities. The move comes AFTER colleges in the state previously affiliated with Confucius Institutes cut ties with the organization.

Lee’s aggressive action on the issue of Confucius Institutes suggests he has a strong grasp of exactly how to confront the state’s two largest issues: Education and Health Care.

Tennessee consistently ranks near the bottom in the nation in investment in public schools. The state’s funding formula for schools (BEP) is underfunded by at least $1.7 billion and groups such as the Nashville Public Education Foundation and the League of Women Voters are calling for action. Meanwhile, a lawsuit alleging the state inadequately funds public schools is set to go to trial later this year.

Lee is committed to addressing the education crisis, but not by actually investing money in the schools. No, better to sever all ties with Confucius.

Additionally, when it comes to health care, Tennessee has more rural hospital closures per capita than any other state. In fact, WKRN noted:

“Nationwide, we’re experiencing a rural hospital closure crisis, but this is particularly pronounced in the state of Tennessee,” explained National Rural Health Association CEO Alan Morgan.

About a dozen rural hospitals have closed across the Volunteer State since 2010 and more are at risk.

“When you lose a rural hospital, oftentimes the community follows as a result of that,” added Morgan.

Morgan said rural hospitals are closing in Tennessee for a variety of reasons, including a high percentage of Medicaid recipients or uninsured residents who can’t afford a hospital visit.

The closures have left patients in nearly a quarter of the state’s counties without easy access to an emergency room.

Additionally, Tennessee faces a growing challenge with medical debt. The Sycamore Institute reports that 1 in 4 Tennesseans have medical debt on their credit reports. The state is also a national leader in the number of bankruptcies resulting from medical debt.

According to Sycamore, medical debt has a number of negative impacts on Tennesseans, including:

Reduces Use of Needed Medical Care

Increases Debt-Related Stress

Negatively Impacts Credit History

Reduces Ability to Save and Build Wealth

Poorer Physical and Mental Health Outcomes

Less Financial Stability and Security

Lee is aware of this issue, clearly, and understands that rather than accepting funds to expand Medicaid, closing Confucius Institutes that are already closed will actually improve health outcomes.

For more on health and education policy, follow Andy Spears

Writer and policy advocate living in Nashville, TN

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