Tennessee Democratic lawmakers are calling on the state’s Commissioner of Education Lizette Reynolds to resign her post, stating she lacks the qualifications for the job as described in state law.
“If she doesn’t resign, I call on the Lee administration to make another choice,” Tennessee Black Caucus Chairman Sam McKenzie (D-Knoxville) said. “There are plenty of qualified people out there to lead this great education system we have.”
The legislators said the state code is not ambiguous – that Reynolds (or any Education Commissioner) should have classroom experience and meet the qualifications to teach in a Tennessee public school.
Reynolds has no classroom teaching experience and does not have an active Tennessee teaching license or a license to teach in any other state.
“The commissioner shall be a person of literary and scientific attainments and of skill and experience in school administration,” according to the law. “The commissioner shall also be qualified to teach in the school of the highest standing over which the commissioner has authority.”
Lee’s press secretary, Elizabeth L. Johnson, said in a statement to The Tennessee Journal that “Commissioner Reynold’s credentials and professional experience qualify her to serve as TDOE commissioner.”
The problem is that Reynolds doesn’t have a teaching degree and has never taught in a public or other school. She doesn’t have an active teaching license in Tennessee or any other state.
In other words, she could only teach in a Tennessee public school under a waiver or emergency certificate.
Previous Commissioners with backgrounds in politics and policy also had at least some teaching experience and an active teaching license. Penny Schwinn, the Commissioner just before Reynolds, taught high school in Maryland before her career in policy.
Kevin Huffman, an appointee of Bill Haslam’s, had experience in the classroom as a Teach for America teacher.