Sunday, May 07, 2023

Tennessee education will be led by new school choice advocate

Lizzette Gonzalez Reynolds
by Jon Styf, The Center Square, May 4, 2023– As Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee prepares to finalize a decision to sign legislation to expand the state’s educational savings account program, the state is about to have a new educational leader who has been an advocate for school choice.

Lizzette Gonzalez Reynolds, currently the Vice President of Policy for ExcelinEd, will become Tennessee’s commissioner of the Department of Education on July 1.

Her group, co-founded by Jeb Bush in Florida, works on education policy and worked with Tennessee in its recent revamp of its funding system.

“Lizzette’s significant education policy expertise and leadership make her well-suited to continue our work to deliver a high-quality education and expand school choice for Tennessee students,” Lee said in a press release. “I welcome her to Tennessee and appreciate her service to students, families and teachers across the state.”

Lee was given an ESA bill to add Hamilton County to the state’s pilot voucher program April 24 and has until Friday to sign, veto or allow the bill to become law without his signature. A previous version of the bill would have added Knox County too, but that stipulation was removed before the bill was approved by the Legislature.

The press release announcing Gonzalez Reynolds would replace Commissioner Penny Schwinn said Gonzalez Reynolds’ “career reflects a deep commitment to school choice, assessment and accountability, college and career pathways and education policy.”

She was previously deputy legislative director for then-Texas Governor George W. Bush and more recently Chief Deputy Commissioner for the Texas Education Agency.

“A new leader needs to look inward, as well as outward. The TDOE needs to rebuild and fill critical positions in the Department to serve the needs of parents, pupils, educators, and school districts,” said JC Bowman, Executive Director of the Professional Educators of Tennessee. “Outwardly, the TDOE needs to reconnect with the stakeholders here in Tennessee. We look forward to working with the Lee Administration and the new Commissioner Lizzette Gonzalez Reynolds to continue making Tennessee the best place to raise a family and educate all children.”

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