The Right Recipe Can Lift Tennesseans Out of Poverty


January 9, 2017 12:00PM

We know that there are three key ingredients that can help lift someone out of poverty—or prevent them from falling into poverty in the first place. They are a quality education, a good job, and a stable family. If someone has all of these ingredients, they have a 98% chance at avoiding poverty. Conversely, if they lack the ability to obtain a good education, cannot find gainful employment, or come from a broken home, they are far more likely to experience the plight of poverty.

This is the reason Beacon has chosen to push state-level policies that will put these outcomes in reach for many downtrodden families, paving their path from poverty to prosperity. Given the ingredient needed to make this transition, Beacon has proposed a Poverty-to-Prosperity agenda for 2017.


First, we call on our state leaders to expand educational opportunities for all Tennessee children, especially those who are low-income and disadvantaged, by embracing educational choice.

Second, our state leaders should eliminate barriers that prevent Tennesseans from obtaining good jobs. They can start by reviewing the myriad of occupational licensing laws and rules under the Right to Earn a Living Act, which passed in the 2016 legislative session.


Third, our public policies are tearing families apart, and our criminal justice system is the main culprit. An astonishing one in nine Tennessee children has had a parent in jail within the last year. Policymakers can help keep families together by reforming our criminal justice system, allowing those leaving prison to become productive members of society and provide for their families. Doing so would also improve public safety and save taxpayers money.


As an addendum to our Poverty-to-Prosperity agenda, the wellbeing of all Tennesseans is paramount to their ability to prosper. To that end, we need to reform how we deliver healthcare in our state. We’ve come a long way by embracing ideas like direct primary care and certificate of need reform. Next, we must wrestle control of healthcare decisions away from Washington and return it to patients and their doctors where they belong. Block granting our Medicaid program back to the state is a great place to start, and with the shakeup in the recent election, there is no better time to make this a reality.

In the coming days, we will delve deeper into these issues here on the Beacon blog and show why they will pave the path from poverty to prosperity for our fellow Tennesseans. The more than 1.1 million Tennesseans suffering from poverty are counting on us to embrace these reforms, and the future prosperity of our entire state depends on it.