UniPerplexed About Education For Children - And Response

Sunday, December 29, 2019

UnifiEd is reported to be UniClosed.

Oh goodness. 

Who will surround our county mayor on the steps of the court house for the next round of HCDE property tax increase proposals?

UnifiEd, acting as the political arm to four major foundations, was UniLobbying under a notion that more taxpayer funds would improve HCDE.

HCDE employees and UnifiEd filled the county commission meeting room during the last rounds of property tax debates.  Public education is financially lucrative to many groups, employees, unions, and contracted groups.

According to the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce list of major employers, HCDE holds the place of the third largest employer in Hamilton County, with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee and Erlanger Hospital leading.

•Hamilton County Schools Elementary & Secondary Schools Employees 2019:
 4,674 full time, 1,458 part time.

The HCDE employee financial lobby was working overtime with the county mayor. It is a shame with significant increases in HCDE funding this school year, through growth revenue and contingency funds, that the teachers were robbed of raises by the worst school board majority ever. 

HCDE’s operational budget was increased by an estimated $12 million plus in growth revenue alone.

There have been so many attempts at HCDE, by many superintendents to reform with the same employees.  How many public relations campaigns and race to the top, turned out to be race to the bottom? HCDE reform campaigns and rebrands are tiresome.

Just what are the supporters of HCDE trying to preserve in this antiquated public-school model?  I want to understand, what there is to love about a public education system that cannot educate 60 percent?

Why don’t the supporters of public education want the poor to have say in their child’s education?

These are reasonable questions.

This is the data provided by HCDE on the number of children served each school year.

School Year         ADM
SY 07-08               39414
SY 08-09               40229
SY 09-10               37285
SY 10-11               38554
SY 11-12               41676
SY 12-13               42428
SY 13-14               42379
SY 14-15               42663
SY 15-16               43104
SY 16-17               43313
SY 17-18               43681
SY 18-19               43842

For a period of 12 school years, the minimum number of children attending HCDE was 37,285, and the last five years has been around 43,000 children. As growth has exploded in the previous three years in Hamilton County, a net increase in students is not apparent, even with new development abounding. The Times Free Press reported that about 5,500 children attend private school. Census comparisons from estimates are even more convoluted. 

We need a reliable child count in Hamilton County from a 3rd party to determine where children are educated.

I believe the deviation between population and private and public-school counts lies within the mega growth in home schoolers. That is just my thought.

If Hamilton County currently serves about 44,000 students, and has 4,674 full time employees, and about 1,458 part time employees, the taxpayers should have better results. I believe this employee count was collected prior to the additional employees hired this school year.

HCDE currently spends an estimated $11,000 per child in the current school year, and was spending $10,400 per child in prior school year. This estimate includes the additional growth and contingency fund surplus.

Pam Sohn, TFP wrote, “Consider: In this last school year — the one these results represent — only 33.4 percent of students in Hamilton County between grades 3 and 8 were reading on grade level, up from 33.2 percent the year before. Math grade-level showings are only slightly better, with 43.2 percent testing on or above grade level — up from 35.6 percent.”

The state of Tennessee Department of Education awarded HCDE a 5 score for gain. Then, the spin masters at HCDE leveraged that 5 into a UniSpin public relations campaign.

This data is heart breaking and is a call for new school options for Hamilton County children, vouchers, more charter schools, and financial support for home school networks.

Reasonable people know that more than 33.4 percent of 3rd through 8th graders are capable of reading grade level. HCDE is charged with and has control of about 43,000 children 190 days a year, and they can only teach 33 percent to read grade level.

HCDE has become a political ideology of financially interested leaders over the best interest of children. If the funding was about children, the commission meeting room would have been filled with people demanding better results and options.

Parents should have 100 percent decision making in selecting the educational environment for their children, regardless of their income or circumstance. The idea that local government is deciding for parents is not acceptable. Apparently, parents feel that way as well, and are making great sacrifice in other education options.

HCDE has created a few pockets of excellence that should be retained, then HCDE needs to be downsized through full parental choice in vouchers, more charter schools, and support for home school networks.

I would favor a tax increase to fund broad school choice for Hamilton County children by subsidizing private school vouchers, more funds for charter schools, and financial support for home schooler resources.

I have not forgotten the internal communications in emails where HCDE was a full throttle political lobby, using public funds, equipment, and employees to lobby members of the state delegation to the end of stopping parental choice for Hamilton County children.  Yet, HCDE is not educating children, but worked diligently to stop school choice, counting what HCDE could lose in child head count funding. Their internal communication spoke volumes to me.

Sincerely,  UniPerplexed on the state of education in Hamilton County.

April Eidson

* * *

April does her homework. It pays to look at her work.

Joey Blevins

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