The Schoolhouse Heist Bill Is Unethical And Unfair

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The recently proposed Senate Bill 1755 is unethical and unfair to the children and taxpayers of Hamilton County and the state of Tennessee. The bill states, “If a municipality creates or reactivates a city school system . . . all real and personal property that is located within the boundaries of the municipality and is owned by the county school system shall be declared surplus property by the county school system, and transferred to the municipal school system.” 

In other words, schools would be forcibly taken from the county - and from the taxpayers that paid for them - and given to a new school district. This "schoolhouse heist" goes against 250 years of American thought on property rights. This alone should  be enough to kill the bill. However, UnifiEd stands against this bill for several additional reasons. 

Investment in capital projects and long-term planning would be stifled by the passage of SB 1755. UnifiEd has long called for an adequately funded long-term capital plan for our school system, yet this bill discourages Hamilton County taxpayers from supporting capital projects when they could be forced to cede those assets at any time in the future while still being responsible for any debt on the assets. This bill would incentivize municipalities to exit county systems and leave taxpayers continuing to foot the bill of schools to which their students no longer have access to attend.

In addition, most municipalities across our state that have formed independent districts have been affluent suburbs. Municipalities with the resources and political clout to establish independent school systems would be incentivized to segregate themselves and further increase the number of schools in concentrated poverty. Lower-income communities would be left at an even greater disadvantage due to ongoing debt service and loss of assets. 

This situation creates a transfer of wealth from lower income neighborhoods to more prosperous communities. It is, in effect, a “reverse Robin Hood.” UnifiEd calls for this bill to be withdrawn and has launched a campaign to effect its defeat. We call on the citizens of Tennessee to contact your state legislators and urge them to vote no on the Schoolhouse Heist Bill (SB 1755). Local legislators’ contact information can be found on UnifiEd’s website. 

Jonas Barriere
Executive Director
UnifiEd 

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Hello once again, a state senator finds reason to bring a bill to the Tennessee State Legislature suggesting that the state should get involved in school politics and especially the Signal Mountain attempts recently to leave the HCDE school merged system. Certainly I understand the need and the emotional connection to one's schools. The small town personality and ethos is present and likely to bring about such thinking. But for some issues that seemingly have not been discussed. Prior to the marriage (merger) of the two school systems there was a lot of feeling on both sides. Got the feeling, however, that the county system was bullied into the merger. We folk in the city system were not all that keen either. I can remember holding a sign at the voting precinct at Alhambra location and people yelling out the window of their cars, "great job, keep it up!"  But here is an argument meant to bring a bit of a pause to the idea of forming separate schools, Red Bank, East Ridge, Signal Mountain and etc. If and when such fever takes the likes of Signal out of the combined system their decision will increase school taxes, maybe substantially. Upkeep of buildings and expense of hiring staff; forming a an administration and generally running an independent school  system will not be cheap nor cost effective. 

The community I am from had three separate school systems. All were no more then 7-8 miles apart. School taxes in those communities, small towns, went up substantially. The smaller of the three finally had to send high school children to a bigger school and kept open for the elementary. Student enrollment dropped.  Wonder if those bent on merger have thought about such a plan for costs?

Robert Brooks 


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