By EMILY R. WEST
With a daughter in third grade, District 63 Democratic candidate Courtenay Rogers said she wanted to ensure more public school funding for Williamson County Schools.
The Tennessean editorial board will continue to ask several of those running for Congress and the Tennessee General Assembly questions over Facebook Live. Rogers is running against incumbent Glen Casada (R-Thompson’s Station) for the seat. Spanning widely, District 63 starts on Brentwood’s east side, encompassing a part of East Franklin, Nolensville and a piece of Spring Hill. It also includes pieces of unincorporated Williamson County.
“My number one priority is keeping the public schools of Williamson County at the top,” Rogers said. “We have to fully fund our public education system. Williamson County has a high level of wealth. And so, our students who are in the public schools aren’t actually getting the highest amount of funds, especially in comparison to other places across the state. Our public schools are the backbone of the economy, and they are why people move to Williamson County. It’s got to remain a priority, and up until this point from the state’s perspective, there’s not a fight to fully fund our public schools. We have to take care of our teachers and students.”
Each year, the state determines what school systems receive based on a formula that takes into account the number of students and other factors, including a district’s ability to pay. That formula has been adjusted several times.
Williamson County Schools almost lost out on millions of dollars in funding this spring while questions linger on the horizon about how the district will sustain 10,000 new students in the next five years.
Rogers said when she knocks on doors, the number one item she hears brought up are roads.
She said the state needed to hold elected officials accountable with fixing traffic congestion, and projects like Mack Hatcher Memorial Parkway and others are taking too long to fix.
The Mack Hatcher Parkway extension for the northwest corridor currently hasn’t landed on the three-year list of projects for the Tennessee Department of Transportation. City of Franklin officials have said repeatedly they have ensured it’s ready to start breaking ground, but they don’t have the funding.
“We’ve had a lot of things in the state house lately that are taking away from matters that are really important,” Rogers said. “If there are people out there elected to serve and they are not serving, we need to hold them accountable or we need to vote them out.”
But while she recognizes those issues are vital to Williamson County, Rogers expressed her passion for affordable housing. Her opponent recently passed legislation that took away one option for cities to tackle the affordable housing problem. The City of Franklin had to take an inclusionary zoning ordinance off of its books as a result of the new state law.
During September, Rogers held a town hall event as just a constituent, not a candidate to discuss affordable housing. Setting up a panel, she and dozens of others discussed this issue. She said the lack of affordable housing directly ties to the traffic problems Williamson continues to face.
“It should be a right; it shouldn’t be a luxury,” she said. “It’s important we have someone at the state house who will fight for affordable housing.”
As a result, Rogers made an open Facebook group for people to brainstorm. Along the way, she ends out updates. She said she wanted to work with people she could potentially represent to create positive change.
“I don’t know what this looks like yet,” she said. “I am really focused on the election, but the people in that room were very passionate and very diverse. They were very sick of people talking and not taking action. I would like to see us take action I don’t want to form a another group. We need to get the people together who are doing something and take it to the next level.”