Monday, May 18, 2015

Something's got to give

My fellow Rock Chalk Jayhawker, reporter Kevin Hardy of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, wrote a quote from a school principal about the funding of schools in Hamilton County: something's got to give.

That's exactly right.

Something does.

Superintendent Rick Smith was appointed county school superintendent because he was one of Hamilton County's developed educational leaders. And by no means is that a derogatory statement - Tennessee PTA just awarded Smith the Superintendent of the Year award. And justly deserved. We do have highly qualified educational leaders within this county.

But Smith was appointed to be able to overcome that outsider tag that dogged previously appointed school superintendents in Hamilton County. They had to endure that tag each time budgets and school financing came up. Smith would be treated differently so went the reasoning.

Well, that's not happening either.

Despite traveling to all parts of the county holding public meetings and holding school staff meetings, it seems that nothing is going to give as far as increased taxes and school funding. A part of Smith's proposed budget increase - approved by the county school board - is to double the block grants to each school. Do we really expect our schools to operate on the same amount of block grants as in 1998?

Apparently Commissioner Joe Graham, who derisively calls this the Rick Smith Tax Increase, does. And so do other county commissioners who have painted themselves into a corner running as candidates on a no tax increase platform.

As the lame-duck president of the Hamilton County Council of PTAs (I only have 13 days left as of this post), I was pleased that the council's board of managers took a position back in November 2014 to support any budget increase by the school board. It is not the PTA unit's job to raise money for public school operations nor for school staff. That is the government's job plain and simple.

It seems strange to me that the county commissioners and the school board are elected by exactly the same electorates in each district. Yet, an overwhelming majority of school board members supporting a budget increase is meeting resistance from county commissioners representing the same people. How odd.

I wonder what it will take, or what needs to happen, for a majority of county commissioners to support increasing taxes for school funding. Something's got to give.

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