Franklin resident Brad Fiscus, who is running as an Independent for State Rep. Glen Casada's seat in the State House of Representatives, spoke with the Home Page last week ahead of the upcoming state elections about his positions on education, health care, criminal justice reform and more.
A 22-year resident of Franklin, Fiscus currents sits on the Williamson County Board of Education representing District 4, as well as on the board of directors for Project Transformation Tennessee, which is a literacy program based in Nashville that helps underseved populations.
Fiscus spent 13 years as a teacher both in his home state of Indiana and in Nashville, and later went on to move into ministry, with 2020 marking his 15th year with the United Methodist Church.
Questions from the Home Page are paraphrased.
What made you want to run for office for the first time in your life?
Fiscus: Honestly, it's something that's always been a part of my desire. When I was in middle school to college, I had a great uncle that served in the Indiana House of Representatives - Donald Dean - and he was just a great person that I always looked up to.
I just felt like it was time, and also, our state representative currently has not represented us well. While he may have made some good policy decisions over his years there, his behavior, his stance on public education, his connecting to constituents, has been embarrassing. As a constituent of his, I felt compelled to be a better choice in this race to defeat him and to go back to representatives that are more similar to those that we've had like Mike Williams, Charles Sargent [and] Sam Whitson.
As a former teacher and current member of the Williamson County Board of Education, how would you translate that focus on education into legislative action?
Fiscus: I would hope that once I'm elected that I would have the opportunity to serve on the Education Committee. Teachers have become more valuable in this pandemic as parents have understood what a teacher has to do day in and day out. It's not just about getting more money for education, because pouring money into something doesn't necessarily fix it, but it's the right policies and practices that will do that, so we have to put an end to this push towards privatization.
I have no issues with private schools or private religious schools, but as a parent, if I choose to take my child to a private school, I'm making a choice to pay for that. So what's happened now with [school vouchers] is that it's opened the door for public dollars to be distributed potentially to religious organizations, religious communities, religious schools, and that really violates the separation of church and state in my opinion.
We're trying to eliminate vouchers all together. Even though it's been deemed unconstitutional right now here in Tennessee, we have no false ideas that it's not going to be brought up again. So valuing teachers, valuing administrators, pushing for an end to this high stakes testing that our kids are pushed into.
One of the things that we realized here is that when the pandemic happened and we shut down in March, we had already covered the majority of the state standards in our public school classrooms, and we still had 10 weeks of school left.
That's because most of those last 10 weeks are spent on preparing for state testing, and so we're spending so much time and money on testing that our kids are stressed out. It's really not providing the data that we would hope that it would, but it's a failed system that we continue to push because there's so much money in it right now.
Your opponents have taken opposite views when it comes to the expansion of Medicaid. Where do you stand on the issue?
Fiscus: I think we still need to move forward [and] expand Medicaid. Senator [Bill] Frist came out this last week and said it's shown us during this pandemic that those states that committed to expanding Medicaid when they had the opportunity, their COVID-19 rates are lower. We have to expand not just because it's a financial thing, but because it's people.
One of the things that Mr. Casada and this assembly has really shown recently is that they're often more concerned about profit than they are people, and we've got to put people over profits. We want to be prosperous, but at the same time we have to make sure that we're taking care of those people who will help us become prosperous.
We're spending more money by not expanding health care for these folks than we would if we expanded, and we would have gained, some say as much as a billion dollars a year of revenue that we've lost.
As a state representative, would you push for form of police or criminal justice reform?
Fiscus: I would. It's sad and frustrating that it's taken this many different acts of harm in order for us to get to this place to finally talk about it. The movement "8 Can't Wait," those things which talk about no chock-holds, no no-knock warrants, I'm a supporter of that. We need to be behind that, we need to be about everything we can do to return the role of police back to a peacekeeping organization instead of one that's being funded on the level of military organizations.
I think one of the things that we've seen in Tennessee is that while the amount of money that we're spending on criminal justice has increased, the money that we've seen spent on public education, health care has remained pretty static. We know that the best way to reform criminal justice is to slow the pipeline of people being sent into the criminal justice system, and so I would advocate for community policing.
You look at a place like Camden, New Jersey. They had one of the highest murder rates, and now because they've reorganized how they do policing, they're [one of] the lowest. We've got to also look at the way that we perpetuate the opportunity for crime to happen, whether it's by not investing in communities or by passing laws or restricting laws that would help keep us safe.
I'm running as an independent because I believe there are some certain things in our society that need to be non-partisan - public education is one of those. Health care should be a non-partisan issue, but we've made it a partisan issue. Even wearing masks has become a partisan issue, and it should not be that way. As an independent, my job will be as a representative, as a person in my whole career, to bring people together.
The primary election in Tennessee will be held on Aug. 6, with early voting taking place between July 17-Aug. 1. Those wishing to request an absentee ballot must do so by July 30.
The general election will be held on Nov. 3, with early voting taking place from Oct. 14-29.
The voter registration deadline was Tuesday, July 7. To see if you’re registered to vote, click here.