If HCDE Were A Business

Monday, May 13, 2019

If the Hamilton County Department of Education were a business that required even marginal performance and results, the doors would have been locked long ago and operations ceased.


There are no consequences for failure in the government school model. The funding and compensation increases regardless of dismal academic results. It rains money at HCDE, whether children can read at third grade or carry out basic math at graduation.  


HCDE is a testament to the implications of funding without accountability, a school model with a license to fail.  HCDE is an agency that exists with the power of the state of Tennessee constitution mandating their existence, regardless.

That is where the problem lies - no consequences for HCDE.


It is not surprise to me that an estimated 25 percent of all children in Hamilton County attend private school, and that does not include the thousands in home school programs.   In fact, when I reviewed HCDE enrollment from the late 1990’s to present, enrollment is flat, only increasing from 39,000 students to 44,000. That is not growth in enrollment over decades. 


Our local government schools have demonstrated for well over a decade that they cannot produce a majority of third graders that can read.  The state of Tennessee annual report card speaks to blatant and long-term academic failure. For people that read the HCDE report card, and have followed HCDE annual marketing spins with cute acronyms to name their latest reform effort, the public is finding this tiresome. 


Nothing changes at HCDE.  It is an antiquated education model. 


I would encourage anyone that believes HCDE is producing results to examine the state of Tennessee report card.  Only 35.8 percent of graduates score a 21 on the ACT or are graduation ready, and the majority of third graders cannot read.  I would encourage you to read a Chattanoogan piece titled, “What’s 28% Of 2,500,” and take the time to read the state of Tennessee Report Card on HCDE performance. 


So, I genuinely want to ask a question of others. 


What exactly is it you wish to preserve about HCDE?


What is worth salvaging, other than a few pockets of excellence?


Do we the people in majority believe that a showering of more tax dollars will result in improvement in the HCDE government schools?


My questions are reasonable in the face of a long track record of academic performance data that demonstrates gross failure.  


To support HCDE, you must place your head in the sand and pretend HCDE’s dismal education record does not exist, and never review the state of Tennessee Report Card. No matter how much public cash, called mandated taxes, rain on HCDE, their buildings of critical or marginal schools will continue.


Academic failure is an HCDE way of life. 


Don’t y’all think it is time to fund alternatives to HCDE, such as parental choice vouchers and charter schools?


But wait, the state of Tennessee was attempting to break up failing government schools through parental choice ESA or vouchers.  What happened I wondered?  Why was Hamilton County exempted from parental choice vouchers? 


Senator Todd Gardenhire-R and Senator Bo Watson-R voted with the HCDE lobby. Yes, HCDE uses tax dollars to protect the flow of public money to their failing schools with public tax dollars on lobby.


Senator Gardenhire used the excuse that parental choice vouchers did not include illegal immigrants, and Senator Watson has stated to media sources that the income threshold was too high, and that would cause financial harm to HCDE.


Are these state Senators kidding, illegals and financial harm to HCDE moved them to exempt Hamilton County from parental choice vouchers?


Bottom line, our state senators caved to a lobby by HCDE that was funded by our tax dollars, and betrayed we the people.


HCDE’s response to the parental choice vouchers, was, “we already have school choice.” 


Yes Sir, Dr. Bryan Johnson, you have provided parents with a school choice,


1)            dangerous school,

2)            failing school,

3)            marginal school,

4)            and a few pockets of excellence that are inaccessible. 


Now comes Dr. Johnson and the school board with their latest acronyms, “it is time” for a tax increase.  UnifiEd joins in with, “the time is now” for a property tax increase.  Then, the HCDE budget working group joins with UnifiEd and HCDE singing three-part harmony with the same message, “it is time” and “the time is now.”  


UnifiEd has even ramped up with expensive color flyers to convince property owners that HCDE needs a property tax increase.


Dr. Johnson, UnifiEd, and HCDE budget working group.  It sure is “time,” to ignore all of y’all. 


HCDE is asking for 350 new employees to join their ranks, with less than 28 percent being teachers is my understanding. Only HCDE could come up with this idea.


The adverse implications of a $0.49 tax increase to Hamilton County is certain to be:


*increase flight from dual taxation areas,


*less affordable rentals or affordable housing, and


*harm the most financially vulnerable, elderly and young adults. 


HCDE is viewing a property tax increase through huge rose-colored glasses, with no concept of the consequences to Hamilton County.


I reviewed the state of Tennessee Comptrollers site to obtain the tax rates for the four largest cities. I wonder if off the charts property tax is helping the Shelby County or Memphis Schools.


The Shelby County schools report card is more than disturbing


Add 0.49/$100 assessed to Hamilton County, and ask yourself if we want to have the second highest property tax rate in the state.  My take away is that high property taxes have not improved Shelby County’s government schools. 


On a secondary note, Hamilton County better stop issuing so many PILOTs, before we are Little Memphis.


Hamilton County              $2.77       rounded to 1/100

Knox County                      2.12

Davidson County              2.76

Shelby County                   4.05


So, If HCDE were your business, would you close the doors or continue to fund HCDE?


April Eidson

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