Like many people in this community, I want to see major changes in public education. There is a spirited movement to improve Hamilton County schools, and I am encouraged that local leaders are taking a vested interest in repairing the physical brokenness with the recently approved funding.
I stand with UnifiEd’s proposal for an audit, as we have to show great responsibility to make both ethical and equitable decisions with taxpayer dollars. In our private households we evaluate the needs and then prioritize – so should it be when we budget for facility repairs and upgrades for county schools.
The issue of accountability is raised because all stakeholders deserve transparency in this process – from parents and community members on up to public officials. Our educators and students deserve a high quality learning experience, but when they are absent due to sickness from classroom mold infestation or injury from dilapidated flooring, we interrupt and delay their opportunities to be successful. They deserve better from us.
Hamilton County Department of Education can be a leader for the state – let us see this facility plan and sufficiently evaluate where we really are so we can get every single site up to par.
* * *
Forget a capital-needs-only audit; let's see a full audit of the Department of Education. County taxpayers are going to pay almost half a billion (yes, billion with a B) dollars this year for one of the worst school systems in the state. HCDE accounts for over 60 percent of county spending, yet in the 739-page Hamilton County budget, HCDE takes up two pages, showing only broad categories such as "Office of the Principal," "Fiscal Services," "Central and Other," etc. The HCDE website is equally uninformative. As taxpayers, we are purchasing an overpriced, poor quality product, and we have a right to know where our money is disappearing to.
Roy Exum showed us in his May 9 column that, given money but no oversight, the school board will purchase the (incompatible with everything else) electronic toy of the hour instead of fixing leaky roofs or buying much-needed school supplies. "It's for the children" does not excuse wastefulness.
If we want good schools for our children, tax dollars must come with strict scrutiny to avoid a repeat performance, and the first step is a deep audit of HCDE's wasteful spending. No amount of funding will fix poor money management.