Education Crosses Party Lines

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Education crosses all barriers and effects every single person as citizens of Hamilton County, Tennessee, and our country.  

In August, the State Collaborative on Reforming Education released the results of a statewide survey of likely voters in Tennessee’s 2018 gubernatorial primary elections. Among Democrats and Republicans surveyed, the results show improving the quality of education is a top priority for all voters across the state. It was also a good reminder for me that we are all in this together.   

During the survey, participants were asked if they would be more or less likely to vote for a candidate who supports education reform. The majority of surveyed voters from both parties said they would be more likely to support a candidate who supports the following education reforms: expansion of early workforce training, higher academic standards, improved early learning opportunities, increased teacher pay, teacher evaluations, and statewide testing that correlates with what is being taught in the classroom.  

That's the role of the Chattanooga 2.0 movement:  bring the community-- teachers, administrators, non-profits, businesses, community leaders-- together for a focused use of resources that supports significant improvement in access to opportunities for all children in Hamilton County.  From early childhood through high school to preparation for college or career, we must come together to provide our children with the tools to succeed. 

According to the 10 urgent priorities developed through our 100 Days of Community Engagement and published in our latest Chattanooga 2.0 report, we must take advantage of state workforce initiatives and make accessible the most up-to-date information on high-demand careers, so we can ensure our residents are workforce ready and trained in an area to help them prosper.  Our state is the national leader in supporting postsecondary opportunities for high school graduates and adults through initiatives like Drive to 55 and Tennessee Promise.  But we must look at ways as a state to expand these initiatives to support increased dual enrollment opportunities for high school students.  We have the ability to support students in obtaining industry credentials or complete a good deal of college coursework before they graduate, but current legislation limits the number of classes that are free to students.  That means that students whose families have the means to pay for additional courses have a decided advantage.  

It’s evident from the SCORE poll results that postsecondary issues like this are important to most voters, so it is the perfect time to look at ways to expand some of the great programs we have in place at the state and local level.  There is a movement, among not only Chattanoogans but across the entire state, to improve our educational outcomes for all students. With the help of teachers, businesses, faith-based organizations, and community partners, we, as voters, can ensure education becomes a top priority for our elected officials.  

Our new superintendent of schools, Dr. Bryan Johnson, and his staff have brought a renewed sense of excitement and visioning for Hamilton County Schools.  Let’s continue to work together as a coalition of stakeholders to support them and capitalize on the voter interest in education.  From cradle to career, we can support and continue to improve our education system and build the smartest community in the South.

Jared Bigham
Executive Director of Chattanooga 2.0

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