As a member of Unifi
-Ed’s APEX Steering Committee, I can attest to the validity of the findings consolidated in the APEX Project Report. Some people seem to think liberals from out of town" identified the priority areas in the report. In fact, the results came from everyday people throughout the county. Real people, just like you and me, who care about the education of their children and the children of Hamilton County.
There is also a lot of attention on forced busing as a solution to desegregate schools recently. However, the APEX Project Report does not recommend forced busing. Further, the report does not offer a specific plan to improve integration. Instead, it lists a variety of policy options that promote integration such as rezoning, increasing magnet school access, controlled choice programs, and open transfer policies. These policies must include transportation because otherwise, choice options will be available only to those who have their own transportation resources, and segregation would likely worsen as a result. None of the suggestions call for forcibly busing students across town.
As a teacher, I have seen students from diverse backgrounds thrive and learn together in integrated classrooms. I believe increasing racial and socioeconomic integration will benefit our education system by improving educational attainment and will strengthen our economy by producing a more competitive workforce. Morally, it’s the right thing to do and our county will be stronger for it.
I hope we will set aside our politics, stop the name-calling on all sides, and resist straw man arguments. Let’s work together to make real progress on this issue, for our children and forthe future of Hamilton County. I strongly encourage everyone to learn more by reading the entire APEX Project Report at .
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Over the weekend, from the posts and news reports I’ve seen, it is clear the questions posed by UnifiEd to school board candidates were loaded questions.
As I understand Mrs. Thurman and Mr. Smith’s responses, they oppose any kind of forced shuffling of students, however accomplished to achieve something a private foundation wants. That’s a far cry from opposing integration of classrooms by race and economic class.
A lot of negative comments have been raised about using the bussing of students across the county to achieve these goals. Those comments caused Jamie Petty, I suppose with UnifiEd, to post a statement in this forum. Petty says UnifiEd doesn’t advocate forced busing and goes on to suggest the system should consider increasing magnet school access, open transfer policies and something called “controlled. choice.”
Well, with the combining of city and county schools in 1997 there was increased magnet school access. But since then they closed 21st Century magnet school. Tyner Magnet School was operating on 50 percent capacity which allowed the system to convert the former Tyner Middle School into the new CSLA campus. The Center for Creative Arts has never reached capacity and neither have a few others. So maybe that’s where their “controlled choice” comes in. And as for transfer policies, the system in 1997 paired schools around the county to allow for transfers and they had a majority to minority transfer option as well. But if not enough parents want that for their children, I guess we get back to the nebulous “controlled choice” to accomplish that goal.
Such a costly plan will involve spending millions of dollars on something other than literacy, math and science instruction while requiring unnecessary, longer and potentially unsafe travel for children.
There are approximately 340,000 residents in Hamilton County and over forty thousand students in the public schools. I’ve done educational surveys as a grad student and as a principal in preparing state improvement plans. I learned two things that apply to the “survey” UnifiEd touts: not everybody agrees on the same thing and for the survey to have validity with a low margin of error the number surveyed must be significantly high with hundreds of thousands in the population of Hamilton County. UnifiEd says they surveyed over 2,000 people. To get an accurate survey that represents what a majority of citizens want the survey needs to be widely and randomly distributed and not in small controlled groups. And that figure does not approach the number needed to be sampled for the 340,000 people, including over 40,000 students, this plan will affect.
Citizens of Hamilton County should question every candidate for school board and county commission this year and ask them if they are accepting financial support from UnifiEd, if they can explain their APEX Project and if they endorse it.
I worked in the Chattanooga Public Schools in the early 1970s and I know what a disaster that bussing plan was. Since the early 1960s the city closed over 30 schools but only opened three schools where no school had been - Dalewood, Brainerd High and Big Ridge Elementary. Social engineering and such always come down to “control” no matter how they spin it. The choice is who is doing the controlling.
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Roy Exum’s hysterical and slanderous recent attacks on UnifiEd have been revealing in the same sense as the emperor’s new clothes. That is, it shows us more of him than is pleasant to look at.
You can hear the note of his hysteria in his inability to maintain a consistent logical thread. Sometimes he argues that there are no problems in Chattanooga’s schools, that they are already integrated (an absurd claim), that there are no inequalities between schools that should be addressed (another). In the next breath, he implicitly acknowledges the glaring inequalities of Chattanooga’s schools but suggests that these were distributed at birth by God and that it’s in the Bible, so life ain’t fair, and change is futile.
Whenever someone in a position of privilege looks down on you as from a mountain and pronounces that his position was granted by God himself and that the Bible proves it, you should be suspicious. It’s the same argument the English monarchy made to American colonists in the 1700s. It’s also the same argument that slave owners made in their attacks on abolitionists. Likewise, it’s the same argument made more recently by those who sought to keep black people out of their neighborhoods, out of their diners, and away from the front of the bus. And, it’s the same argument once made by those who sought to deny women the right to vote and by those who sought to keep them out of higher education and by those who sought to deny them the opportunity to work outside the home. The arguments for these systemic, institutionalized injustices were always the same: “That’s the way things are. God made them that way. It’s in the Bible. Change is futile.”
But as history has shown, God did not make those social and racial disparities, people did. It’s culture, not God, and we can change cultures and make lives better for others. Some cities, even in Tennessee, do education better than Chattanooga does, and we can learn from them. UnifiEd is trying to make that education happen – honestly, legally, and by engaging Chattanoogans themselves. The people who voted out Greg Beck were nothing more or less than other Chattanoogans who were persuaded that another candidate would serve them better. Nobody paid them for their votes. There was nothing nefarious about it, nor was it the work of evil, lying, cheating outsiders who “don’t understand Chattanooga.” On the contrary, it was the work of Chattanooga voters who understand Chattanooga all to well.
Except for their proportions, there is nothing Biblical about the glaring racial and economic disparities reflected in and perpetuated by the organization of Hamilton County Schools. God didn’t make these problems, Chattanoogans did, and they can solve them, too, if they will only not give in to the purveyors of naked cynicism and despair.
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Congratulations, Mr. Stuart. You have managed to get most the liberal dogma crammed into a single post. Attack someone's Christian faith (check), call them racist (check), label them as having white privilege (check), call them sexist/misogynist (check). Liberals sure do love labeling people.
Mr. Exum has an opinion and he has expressed his opinion in, of all places, an opinion section. You obviously don't like his opinion but rather than counter the points that he has made, your retort was little more than name calling, albeit in a rather highbrow way.
Honestly, I didn't think much about Roy's comments on this subject but the method of your attack only makes me believe that I should take his comments seriously and consider the political ideology behind UnifiEd as a group, its APEX project, and the candidates they support in local elections. For that, I thank you for your post.