Our School's Problem Isn't Lack Of Funds- And Response

Thursday, October 03, 2013
Dear Mr. Smith,

I seem to recall that back in July the school board increased your yearly pay to $190,000 per year. Lets see, $190,000 minus $165,000 equals a healthy pay increase of $25,000 per year. Not too shabby.  At $165,000 you were already one of the highest paid persons dipping into the pockets of the Hamilton County taxpayers. Yes I know, I know, persons in your position in some other Tennessee counties get paid more.  So what is your focus? Best for the students? Or best for Mr. Smith? Frankly as you can see I am a disgruntled taxpayer.

After a hefty pay raise such as you received it takes a lot of guts to say "We have not had the kind of financial support that I think our kids deserve," and "Teachers are having to take money out of their own pockets to buy school materials." It is a crying shame that the school administrators scrape off the cream and leave the remains to run the school system.

The school system already has the largest budget in Hamilton County government. The Hamilton County taxpayer does not have bottomless pockets.

Tom Wheatley

Soddy Daisy 

* * * 

Mr. Smith, your call for increased taxes is offensive, unjust, and short-sighted. 

I can’t speak for all taxpayers, but I imagine I speak for a lot of them when I say I think we pay enough already.  With per pupil expenditure in Hamilton County at $9,009 or thereabouts, one has to wonder where all the money is going. After looking at the standardized performance metrics for academic achievement system-wide, there is little doubt the money isn't being spent wisely. 

An “ideal classroom” of 15 students produces $135,135 in revenue, and a “crowded” classroom of 20 even more revenue at $180,180. Believe me, I understand business costs, and there must be a certain amount of overhead for every direct dollar spent in producing services in addition to ancillary expense, but this amount seems more than sufficient to adequately compensate hardworking teachers. 

The real answer to this question is the one that is logical and most apparent to most observers: there are systemic problems with our local public schools that prevent well-meaning, passionate teachers from producing the kind of results the children deserve. 

Compensation – The best and brightest teachers are rewarded similarly to the very worst. 

Discipline – Teachers run a tremendous risk when they do the right thing and disciple students appropriately and communicate the truth to parents. 

Low Expectations – I have taught graduates of the Hamilton County School system who could not write a complete sentence, assemble a paragraph, or complete the kind of math problems necessary for making informed personal finance decisions. If you want to become aflame with indignant injustice, Mr. Smith, how about beginning a quest to end the issuance of rubber-stamped diplomas that produce functionally illiterate graduates and handicap individuals for life. 

Heavy Administrative Overhead – If the money per pupil is adequate, and it must be when you observe the tuition of local private schools that are lower yet are performing adequately and orderly, then the money must be evaporating into overhead that does not improve the quality of the student’s educational experience. 

Presently, for my tax dollars, because of my address, I can’t send my child to a local public school where I feel she would be safe or that the graduation rate would top 40 percent. There are countless taxpaying parents all over this county who “donate” to your organization every year with their tax dollars with no hope of a return on their investment for their children. Perhaps a little more gratitude for this set would be well placed. 

Regarding tax increases, there is a concept called proportionality. This means that as the county grows and the citizens have an improvement in their lot, your organization too will receive increased funding – proportionally and fairly.  But, the very idea that you feel justified in asking working families to reduce their incomes so you might put meaningless patches on a broken system is insulting and betrays a lack of compassion and appreciation. 

Mr. Smith, leadership requires making tough decisions and tackling problems that might make you unpopular in your professional peer group.  If you really want to make a difference in the lives of students in Hamilton County, be a logical reformer and abandon the easy yet misinformed approach of throwing good money after bad. 

That is how you will leave a legacy you can be proud of. That is how you will change the lives of local children and improve our community in earnest. 

Brandon Lewis
Chattanooga


Worse And Worser

We hear a lot about voter apathy, citizens of this, the greatest nation to ever grace the face of Planet Terra, these United States of America, who fail to take advantage of their right, nay, accept their responsibility to participate in government of this great nation. How many of us know citizens who don't vote? Worse yet, how many of us know citizens who aren't even registered ... (click for more)

Howley Has New Ideas And New Energy For Signal Mountain

Over the last several years, I have had the opportunity to serve with Chris Howley on the Signal Mountain Recreation Advisory Board.  During this time, I obtained an insight into the qualities that make Chris Howley an outstanding candidate to serve on the Signal Mountain Town Council.Chris has spent countless hours on the board overseeing the numerous recreation leagues and ... (click for more)

Chickamauga Lock To Reopen As Soon As Next Thursday

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District  plans to reopen Chickamauga Lock to all navigation traffic as early as next Thursday. An inspection of the upper gate anchorage and a repair plan were completed today. Chickamauga Lock closed on Monday after a routine inspection revealed a crack in the anchorage of the upper gate. Lt. Col. John Hudson, commander ... (click for more)

Downtown Chattanooga Apartment Complex That Brought $3 Million Profit Exempt From Most Taxes Until 2022 Under PILOT

A downtown Chattanooga apartment complex that recently was sold at a $3 million profit is exempt from most property taxes through 2022 under a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) agreement.   No payment of school taxes was included in the deal for Walnut Commons at Walnut Street and Aquarium Way.   The only taxes due on the property for the next eight ... (click for more)

GPS Moves To Finals With 3-0 Win

MURFREESBORO - GPS defeated Brentwood Academy 3-0 to advance to the finals of the TSSAA Division II-AA soccer tournament. The Bruisers were the recipient of the only goal they would need in the 38th minute off the foot of senior Lindsay Rufolo. Fourteen minutes into the second half Emily Large added the first of two insurance goals. Six minutes later at the 60-minute mark Catherine ... (click for more)

Hixson Clinches 6-AA Title With Shutout Over Brainerd

Just about any coach will tell you that winning ugly is always better than winning pretty. Such was the case at Hixson Community Stadium on a frigid Halloween night as the host Wildcats finished off their regular season with a 19-0 win over the Brainerd Panthers. Hixson improves to 8-2 overall and 6-0 in District 6-AA while Brainerd is now 3-7 overall and 3-3 in 6-AA. (Story ... (click for more)