Life in Rural Tennessee


October 31, 2019 11:33AM

Brooke Harrell and her family live in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, around 30 miles from Dickson where she works as a cosmetology instructor at Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT). A graduate of TCAT-Dickson, Brooke has always lived in rural Tennessee, even though Nashville, less than 80 miles away is bursting with opportunities. Brooke’s husband is an EMS worker, and they chose to raise their children in rural Tennessee because they treasure the values of small-town living. 

While they have decided that small-town living is the best route for them, it does have its drawbacks. The school that Brooke’s children attend, for example, is better than what would be her option in a larger city, but the Harrells would love to be able to homeschool their children. That’s not an option, though, for two main reasons. 

One of those reasons is the costs associated with homeschooling. This year, the Beacon Center was at the forefront of pushing for a statewide education savings account (ESA) program. While the bill that was passed fell short of helping all students in Tennessee, the groundwork is there. An ESA program in the Hurricane Mills area would help Brooke and her husband foot the cost for educating their children in the way they think is best for their family. But the cost of education is not the only roadblock. 

At Brooke’s home in Hurricane Mills, there is hardly any cell phone service, and for their internet access, her family relies on a satellite dish. State-sponsored broadband access in rural communities is a hot topic across the country. But as we all know, any state-run program is not going to operate as efficiently and effectively as a privately-owned business, and in many cases go belly-up at a significant cost to taxpayers. Instead of Tennessee breaking the bank on expanding broadband access on the taxpayer dime, there are other options. One of those options would be for the stage to move away from providing grants and credits to certain broadband providers, and instead, entirely eliminate sales taxes on internet equipment purchases, allowing cost savings to companies and individuals in rural communities. 

The solutions listed above are just a few from Beacon’s latest report, Reviving Rural Tennessee. In the report, Ron Shultis makes the case for investment in rural communities and offers solutions to these issues that Brooke and many other families are having. Giving individuals in rural communities—like Brooke—the freedom to make choices that will benefit her family can and will result in more success than any government program.