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House (R) calls for Tennessee Education Commissioner Lizzette Reynolds to resign

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — For the first time, a Republican member of the Tennessee General Assembly is calling for Tennessee Education Commissioner, Lizzette Reynolds, to resign.

For months, Reynolds has been under fire for a variety of controversies, including not being able to answer simple questions about her own department to Democrats claiming she’s not qualified to hold the job under state law.

“The commissioner shall also be qualified to teach in the school of the highest standing over which the commissioner has authority,” Rep. John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville said during a press conference in January. “She has no degree in school administration.”

Now Rep. Todd Warner, R-Chapel Hil, is echoing their call.

“I think she needs to step aside. I think the Governor needs to ask her to step aside,” Warner said in an interview with NewsChannel 5. “If she won’t step aside, the Governor needs to take matters into his hands.”

Rep. Warner says his last straw was a story first reported by the Tennessean. They found, twice, Commissioner Reynolds signed a waiver swearing she had been a state employee for at least six months. She needed the form to qualify for free tuition at UT-Martin for her teaching certification.

The only problem? The tuition waiver was dated August 2023. Reynolds was sworn into her position in June 2023, so she didn’t qualify for the free collegiate classes.

“It’s not right, it’s just not right,” Warner said. “I started receiving phone calls from throughout the district, mainly school teachers, and former school administrators, and said it was time for her to go and asked me to call for her resignation.”

Both the Governor’s office and the Tennessee Department of Education sent similar statements about the discrepancy.

“Upon realizing the administrative error, Commissioner Reynolds immediately paid the outstanding balance for all classes,” Elizabeth Johnson, spokesperson for Gov. Bill Lee wrote. “She has taken full responsibility, and we appreciate the work she is doing to serve Tennessee students.”

The Tennessee Department of Education told us the following:

“This was an administrative error, which immediate action has been taken to correct. Upon realizing the mistake, Commissioner Reynolds personally covered the cost of all classes that were ineligible for the state waiver, in accordance with language in the waiver application. The Commissioner is dedicated to serving the students of Tennessee and is exciting about continuing her work on their behalf,” Brian Blackey, a spokesperson for TDOE, shared.

Warner says that apology isn’t good enough.

“I think the damage is done,” he said.

It’s important to note, Rep. Todd Warner is not a beloved member of his own caucus. He’s rubbed Republican leadership the wrong way on multiple occasions, dating back to his election and an FBI raid of his home and office, connected to an investigation into Former House Speaker Glen Casada and his Chief of Staff Cade Cothren. Warner was never indicted as a result of the raid or investigation.

More recently, Warner has been outspoken against Gov. Bill Lee’s attempt to expand school vouchers statewide.

“At the end of the day, I’m not bowing down to leadership,” Warner said.

Still, even though Warner is the only Republican to say so publicly, he claims many more of his colleagues quietly agree.

“I definitely got some concerns, as do a lot of other members, I don’t speak for those members, but I hear the talk behind the scenes,” Warner said.

As a part of our statement request, NewsChannel 5 asked the Governor’s Office and the Tennessee Department of Education to respond to Rep. Warner’s call for Reynolds’ resignation. They declined to respond to that line of questioning.

Carrie recommends:

Ravenwood High sends 3-year-old to Disney World through Make-A-Wish Middle Tennessee

“There is nothing better than seeing JOY on a child’s face. Kudos to the students at Ravenwood High School who worked so hard to surprise little Miss Tilly with a trip to Disney World! This little girl has been through so much, it’s now time for her to be treated like the princesses she loves so dearly!”

-Carrie Sharp

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