UnifiEd has launched a campaign calling on Hamilton County’s elected officials to prioritize public education funding in the budget planning process. The campaign’s goal is "to see a county budget passed in June that includes an increased operating budget for the school system and funds to address the $382 million backlog of deferred repairs and new construction needs. A long-term plan is also called for to ensure education dollars are well spent."
Officials said, "This call to prioritize school funding stems from a community-led movement to affect change in public schools, as discovered through thousands of conversations with Hamilton County residents. The desire to see school funding prioritized was a consistent theme that emerged from these conversations, leading UnifiEd to include it as a goal in its Pact for Public Education.
"Community members who support increased funding for our schools are encouraged to attend the Board of Education meeting this Thursday, at 5 p.m. The board will vote on the 2017-18 school year budget, and UnifiEd will be present to support parents, teachers, and students to share their voice with the Board."
“We as educators work hard every day to give each of our students the best possible opportunity to succeed, but some of them are sold short due to a lack of resources,” said Arielle Hayes, principal at Dalewood Middle School. “I hope they will show up at the budget vote on Thursday to show the school board how important funding really is to them.”
Hamilton County Department of Education (HCDE) presented a general operating budget to the Board of Education finance committee last Thursday that totaled $397 million, a $33.5 million increase over the current year’s budget.
UnifiEd officials said, "The requested increase in funds has been tied to expected student outcomes, a first for HCDE and a step UnifiEd has called for as part of its Pact for Public Education.
UnifiEd has also long called for a sustainable, strategic financial plan that includes a multi-year budget and capital plan to address schools’ outstanding maintenance issues and need for new buildings and facilities. Such a plan would increase efficiencies in the budget and connect money to results."
According to Interim Superintendent Dr. Kirk Kelly, HCDE will present a multi-year budget to the Board soon. However, HCDE and the county commission have not committed to developing a long-term capital maintenance and expansion plan.
“Our children are the ones who are paying the consequences for the school system and county's delay in creating and funding a plan to address facilities needs,” said local parent Miranda Perez. “The list of schools needing to be replaced will continue to grow over time. The hundreds of millions of dollars of outstanding maintenance needs will compound, too. A leaking roof that's not fixed today can mean mold tomorrow and flooring or foundation problems later. Students deserve safe, healthy learning environments and a long-term plan that ensures that.”
UnifiEd is "a community-led movement of parents, teachers, and citizens who want every student in Hamilton County to have the chance to attend great public schools. The organization works to educate the community about how to help teachers and students, offers training and tools to advocate for them, and encourages a unified voice around public education to create real and lasting change."