Solution Isn't Necessarily More Money For Schools - And Response (6)

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Yes, the schools are important, but so is managing taxpayers' money. I for one grow tired of that same old argument of using "kids" to further one's cause. 

Mr. Exum, looking at your article depicts an alarmist viewpoint that Hamilton County is light years behind in funding. I personally believe that until our educational administration is operated more like a private business, which is precisely what our county commissioners are supposed to do, then the problems of our financial woes will persist.

Administrative costs are way out of line in my viewpoint.

You see anytime government negotiates they automatically feel privileged rights, even to the point of again using that it's all about the kids argument. I would encourage our school board commissioners to look at how private academia operates on their budgets. Well, I guess perhaps that can better be accomplished by voting out some of the lifetime professional educators on the school board.  

Educators, look beyond yourselves; did you notice that there is a support staff that includes cafeteria and janitorial personnel that pour their hearts into their work everyday? Often times these are people without the benefit of a college degree so the chances of increased pay is greatly reduced. In the end they have the same right as the teachers of if they don't like the pay find another place to work that will meet your financial needs.  

Please, don't misunderstand me, I greatly appreciate all of my educators who taught me so much while I was a student.  Their is a solution here that doesn't always automatically mean more money just because it's schools. 

Ron Ray
Lookout Valley 

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I find your comments about money for schools to be the same old excuse for underfunding education- administrators make too much and there's all of this waste. 

Certainly in some school systems across the nation this is true. And here there is waste as in any large corporation. A start would be to change all of the lighting here to a motion sensitive system in over 60 buildings. Many schools leave lights on all weekend. 

And some of these buildings are over 60 years old. Wiring, plumbing and insulation is extremely outdated. There are structural problems too. The cost of repairing and patching is tremendous especially when a boiler goes out. 

But business people don't think that way when it comes to education. They think in a market driven economy schools should be like a business. Yes they should be more business like. We all should be. 

But schools have no control over raw materials-what business would call quality control. In public education everyone gets an opportunity regardless of the special needs or cost. And to add to the complication, states and the feds continually passing new and ever perplexing mandates with no funding. Ever heard of that before? 

Hamilton County is growing. There are about 100,000 more people here than in 1970, but many want us to educate all of these additional students with budgets at about the same level and in the same facilities we were in 1970. 

Certainly you would not want to go to exactly the same medical center with the same equipment used 50 years ago. Do you question what your doctor or dentist charges? 

And in your business you wouldn't expect to offer the same service or charge the same prices you would have in the 70s. When prices rise for you they are passed in to your customer. 

In the business world prices are based on supply and demand. Schools can't do that. They rely on taxes and politicians sensitive to whims of the voter. And everyone who ever went to school becomes an authority because now they share the cost. 

My aunt lived in Atlanta and before she passed away she vigorously complained about the school tax. She had no children so why should she pay a tax? I reminded her somebody, my grandparents and others, paid for her generation to go to school. 

So if you think money is not part of the solution, visit CSLA or Harrison Elementary or other antiquated edifices still being used to offer a 21st Century education to yes, our kids. Then explain why money is not part of the solution to improving education. 

Ralph Miller 

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Mr. Ray says, " I would encourage our school board commissioners to look at how private academia operates on their budgets." Here's what I found with a quick internet search. 

In 2005 McCallie had roughly $35 million in revenue and $25.3 million in expenditures.  Using the figure of 900 students at the school, that equates to around $27,000 expenditures/per pupil. That was 12 years ago and should probably be adjusted for inflation. 

According to the TDOE and the TFP in 2015, HCDE had $9,728.20 expenditures/per pupil.  

In the case of this private school, spending more than double the amount per pupil than HCDE produces the results that the school is pleased with. I don't believe HCDE can find a way to "cut its way" to those levels of spending per student by looking solely at administrative costs. 

If we really want to cut our way to comparable spending levels of private schools, then let's look at things like cutting out all middle school sports, reducing the number of buses, forego on all building maintenance, not building any new schools, etc. 

Ben Schulz 

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Mr. Schulz has quoted the highest priced school in the area to compare to the public system.  

Just for the sake of full disclosure, there are several excellent private schools in the area like Boyd-Buchanan, Notre Dame, and Chattanooga Christian which run in a much lower price range than McCallie.  For Boyd Buchanan the rough average Pre-K through 12th grade is $9,014 per student for 2016.  This is $714 less than the average spent per student by the public system.   

I used Boyd-Buchanan as it had readily available prices for Pre-K through the 12th grade which is the same grade range as the public system Mr. Schulz quoted.  McCallie, which Mr. Schulz mentions, is only middle school and high school which for the public system the average is not readily available. In general middle school and high school cost more per student than elementary school. 

James Garner
Decherd, Tn. 

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Okay, no big shocker that anyone doesn't know our school system is in bad shape. With that being said, Roy Exum, who can't decide which side of the issue he is on any given day, he's either trashing the whole system or throwing out "solutions" for the mess the next.

The other day he said here that there should be a tax increase across the board for county residents. Umm, no. It's ridiculous to throw that at everyone. The city of Chattanooga, as well as other cities, like East Ridge, Soddy Daisy, Collegedale, Apison, Red bank, etc., don't formally fund the school system through their city taxes as far as I know.  If I am mistaken, please correct me. They get the benefit of a public education, but don't pay. I know their residents pay county taxes too. However, their city governments should help out.

I know most citizens in Hamilton County pay dual county and city taxes of some sort. I truly don't think and cannot get on board with raising county taxes when I feel the city of Chattanooga and other municipalities should pay into the school system. Plus, those of us that don't have children in the public school system should not have to suffer and fork out more money for failing schools. Am I wrong?  

Richard Hendricks Smith 
Lookout Valley 

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Our school situation is not hopeless, but our failing schools will continue to fail if we do not focus on school basics. We need to agree on what we value most in education and put all efforts into achieving that. 

What should we value most in education? We should value reading, writing and arithmetic. We can spend millions on education (and we have), but if we don’t focus primarily on reading, writing and math in failing schools, our children are often doomed to lives with dim futures. 

We are told there is not enough money to educate our children. Reading is basic. When a child cannot read by grade 3, they are left behind. Left behind children easily become behavior problems in classrooms or they become quiet and withdrawn. One day they are present, but mentally absent. Then, one day they are physically absent. Then, one day they drop out and never come back.  Sadly, many times the drop-out problem goes back to falling behind in grammar school. The lack of money didn't cause them to leave and money will not cannot bring them back to school. 
 
We should build and maintain safe school buildings, but how much should we spend on technology? How many classes does it take for a child to master use of a cell phone, tablet or computer? Classroom computers cannot replace personal instruction in the early grades. Long before cell phones, iPads, and computers existed, children learned to read by looking at a blackboard and they wrote on slate tablets with chalk. Schools had well worn McGuffy Readers that were used over and over. In the old days, children arose at dawn, milked a cow, ate breakfast and walked to school. Children of all ages and skill levels learned to read, write and do arithmetic in a one room schools heated by a wood stoves. Talk about skilled teachers. Then, teachers meant business and carried rulers to make sure students listened the first time. No parents went to school to lecture the teacher on anything. There was no constant chattering during class time and student bottoms sat in seats until the pupils were dismissed. Was that child abuse or education? These were not privileged children. They brought what little they had to eat to school in metal pails. These children learned reading, writing and math. How did those miracles happen? 

Then, students were not entertained or coddled at school. They were not entertained or coddled at home either. There was no leisure time for children or parents, because resting on your behind was the path to starvation and everlasting ignorance. Most adults worked and children helped with the work, because a family had to work together to survive. Back in the dark ages (meaning before 1940), few adults spent anytime talking about the rights of children. Parents had responsibilities and children had them too.

Today we have an educational system that is forced to accommodate the rights and personal desires of every individual for every thought that pops into anyone’s head. Failure to do so is a lawsuit waiting to happen and those cost schools money.  While accommodations often help the few, they can sacrifice the many. Today every difference seems deemed worthy of accommodation. Some of those accommodations are very expensive. Our well-meaning, but impractical, laws and policies have hobbled  educational systems that used to work.  Our educational systems have become bloated and stalled. They are too expensive to run and too impractical to work.  

Society, school administrators and our elected officials need to look back and re-learn lessons from what used to work in a time when there was no money for education. We need to circle back to a few of the old school ideas, because paying more for more failure is no longer a good option.  

The best way to teach reading, writing and arithmetic is person to person. We need teachers to keep teaching and we need many volunteers in schools helping with the process. We need adults coaching individual children with reading and math. We also need volunteers helping mentor and keep order in schools. One teacher in a classroom is no longer sufficient to meet every need in our failing schools. We need women and we need men volunteers. We need high expectations and no excuses. 

Deborah Scott
Chattanooga

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Schools being run as a business and further comparing private school education schools as the right way to operate a school, somehow the two opposing arguments miss the entire point.  

First, private schools have the option of taking a student or not.  Public schools do not. The tired, the poor, etc.  If we adopted the philosophy of Mr Ray that child, poor, ragged and unfed would be considered superfluous and using the private school argument that child would never be in a classroom in that private school. Public schools have the duty to educate all and that means the poor, ragged and unfed. We, of the schools, must accept what comes to us, and Mr. Ray, that responsibility takes money and lots of it.  

I was a poor school teacher from a monetary standpoint. I have advanced degrees preparing me for the greatest challenges presented.  I was not, nor are most teachers, paid enough to represent the value they serve. Paying taxes for education is the responsibility of all, not just a select few that can attend and pay for private school education..  

The educational outcome for some is another argument and meant to show that this community cares about education and further, willing to pay for it. Education 2.0 extensive and good talk is going on all the time to better the schools . We cannot rest on the status quo.  Education for all is not cheap, never will be cheap. There is room for improvement and the schools here are advocates for change.

If, as Mr. Ray suggests, schools should be run as a business that child that was my student would be not in school; he might be breaking into your home; he might be begging on the street or he might be the one that does bodily harm to you. Yes, I worked with the most difficult. If that child cannot be educated then we as a society fail. 

Robert Brooks



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