I have attended several Hamilton County School Board meetings over the past few months, including the recent special called meeting" to vote on teacher insurance changes.
First, let me say I am very impressed with Superintendent Rick Smith and his staff at the Central Office. Mr. Smith is a very dedicated public servant, working hard to provide services to our community on a very limited budget.
Second is the School Board, probably the most thankless job in the county yet these board members all work very hard to do a good job for the taxpayer and we should all be proud of them for their service.
Next are the teachers, those servants on the front line educating our young children and operating on very tough guidelines, both on the federal, state and local level and doing a great job. Yet when it comes time to reward these teachers, they seem to be the last on the list every time.
I've always seen our public school system in direct competition with the private schools, yet our state and local elected officials continue to underfund our school system. Our local School Board has done the best job they can possibly do, consider limited funding from the state and County Commission in recent years. I urge the Hamilton County Teachers Association and every parent to attend every Hamilton County Commission meeting and voice your concern every time they meet to demand increased funding for our kids.
Teachers should not be the ones bearing the burden of this increase in insurance; they already contribute enough already. Parents should ask every County Commissioner this question,"Where do your children and grandchildren attend school?" It may surprise you.
* * *
Welcome to the real world. Not all of us get the luxury of having taxpayers bear the burden of a tremendous insurance plan for employees and their spouses. This plan barely falls short of the dreaded ‘Cadillac Plan’ as defined by our beloved leader.
I know that many private businesses use the same limitation on spouses. Should we expect any less of those that we support?
* * *
After reading the op-ed from Perry Perkins, I believe some of his comments deserve a response.
First, Perry needs to research the roles and responsibilities of the County Commission versus the School Board. If he had taken this simple step, Perry would know that the County Commission does not make policy decisions for the school system, and it does not determine how the School Board allocates or spends its budget. The only impact the County Commission has on school funding is when they vote to raise our taxes to provide more funding to the school system or issue bonds to fund new school construction.
I do find it interesting that Perry is basically advocating for the County Commission to raise our taxes, especially since he is no longer running for an elected office. As someone who closely watched the recent GOP primary race for the District 7 seat on the County Commission, I find it interesting that Perry never shared this opinion during the campaign. If Perry had made this statement, I believe his vote count would have been far worse than the 20 percent that he did receive on Election Day! I’m guessing this same rationale explains why the School Board decided to delay any discussion or vote on cutting the insurance benefits for teachers until after the August 7th election was over and done.
Second, Perry is correct in that our schools, teachers and the educational needs of our children are not adequately funded in our community. I will cede this point to him, but the School Board needs to get its fiscal house in order before asking for a tax increase from the County Commission. They need to streamline the operational budget for our school system so more resources can be directed into the classroom, and they need to identify ways to be more efficient with our tax dollars so our school system can do more with less. Basically, we need to have a cultural change in how we operate and manage our school system going forward. Despite what some believe, this responsibility starts with the Superintendent and the duly elected members of the School Board – not the County Commission.
I do agree with Perry in that our “teachers should not be the ones bearing the burden of this increase in their insurance,” but I also believe taxpayers should not be the ones who are constantly bearing the burden of higher taxes to fund a school system with a history of spending money on programs and services that have little or no impact on providing a quality education to our children. I believe its time that we hold our Superintendent and members of the School Board accountable for how they operate and manage the school system. They are the one who should lead on this issue, and they are the ones who need to identify ways to fund the essential needs of our schools without asking for a tax increase every year.
As to your question about asking county commissioners, "Where do your children and grandchildren attend school?" I would encourage you to ask this question to the ones who want to represent our public schools by serving on School Board. If you did, I believe their answers may surprise you! I, for one, believe this question has no bearing or impact to the qualifications of those who serve on the County Commission.