From Staff Reports
NASHVILLE, TN — Before founding the Education Equal Opportunity Group, George Thomas was a Chattanooga Civil Rights legislator’s aide on Capitol Hill. Now, he’s campaigning to be a state senator.
Thomas, 45, of Bordeaux is campaigning to represent retiring Sen. Thelma Harper’s district: Nashville’s inner city service area; Antioch; and part of North Nashville, an historically black district with underlying tensions of gentrification.
A campaign aide calls it a contest between Thomas, a prominent minister/educator and somebody with social connections.
Thomas says when Tommie Florence represented Chattanooga in the House, he helped her and others fight for “Brian A” and other foster care kids victimized by neglect. An historic Children’s Rights campaign sued Gov. Don Sundquist and the Department of Children’s Services in 2000. In 2016, a judge ruled DCS sufficiently overhauled its foster care system.
“Not doing what you say is bad, but abandoning children is worse,” says Thomas who participated in meetings that brought solutions to systemic failures.
Subsequently, he established the Education Equal Opportunity Group, a non-profit college and career readiness organization working to reduce disadvantaged students’ high school dropout rate. Working with Democrats and Republicans since 2007, he obtained more than $300,000 to serve students statewide.
“The Tennessee Department of Education directed the money to serve more high schools,” said Thomas, EEOG’s president. It partners with school boards, directors and superintendents so public education better serve students.
“If we want young people to learn and avoid pitfalls, we need to provide them with the right tools to succeed,” Thomas said.
Established in 1999, EEOG addresses “family space” issues, he said. “We started with 100 kids. Since then we’ve served 20,000.”
Thomas is inspired by former state Rep. Tommie Brown. She left office after GOP redistricting merged black districts pitting her against a fellow state representative and former campaign manager. Brown served 1992-2012. She was: on the Finance Ways and Means Committee; vice-chair of the House Education Committee, chairing its Higher Education Subcommittee; and a member of the Children and Family Committee and its Domestic Relations Subcommittee. Thomas was Brown’s legislative assistant 2000-2008 and provided constituent services.
“That experience is exactly what I’ll bring to the State Capitol to improve the quality of life for Nashville residents,” Thomas said. “I’m committed to finding innovative and effective solutions to complex challenges.”
He’s an advocate for public schools, safer neighborhoods, good housing, home ownership opportunities and better health care.
Thomas advocates preventive medicine. The 1996 graduate of Tennessee State University has a bachelor’s degree in business administration.
“Look at the billions of dollars total, and $24,000 spent on one inmate annually, and then $8,200 to put a young person through school,” he said. “So, we’re spending more on the back end. I’d rather nurture young people to assure their path to citizenship, rather than for them to learn the hard way through the penal system.”
Thomas has wanted to change that as a lawmaker. He ran for senate in 2014. The primary is Aug. 2. The general election is Nov. 6.