Say “No” To UnifiED - And Response (3)

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

I first want to acknowledge that even though I personally have strong differences of opinion with many of the supporters of UnifiEd regarding the true nature of UnifiED, I have much admiration for efforts to improve education in Hamilton County. Many of the supporters of UnifiED are good friends and distinguished business and civic leaders. However, I strongly believe that UnifiED itself is not who they claim to be. 

Make no mistake about it. UnifiED is not for education – it is a well-constructed political machine that has flipped the Hamilton County School Board to a progressive agenda. UnifiED now has as its goal flipping the Hamilton County Commission and bringing the county a huge tax increase. Think of a wolf in sheep’s clothing – a Trojan horse. That is UnifiED.

UnifiED and its close cousin, Organized for Action (whose CEO is a union organizer and married to UnifiED’s COO), are tools for Barack Obama and George Soros’s plan to push the United States to the radical left. UnifiED’s founding executive director served on Mayor Berke’s campaign and ran his ground campaign. UnifiED’s founder had a history as a Democratic party operative for political campaigns. UnifiED’s current CEO worked from 2007 to 2012 for America for Obama as a political community organizer. One of UnifiED’s board members is a seven-year veteran of Barack Obama’s advocacy and electoral organizations, serving as Tennessee State Director of Organize for Action. He served as Andy Berke’s chief of staff from 2014 through 2017. These people have no background in education – they are professional community organizers. 

Consider that UnifiED has received over $2 million from local foundations since 2014 and now has nine full-time staff and has established chapters is most of Hamilton County’s local high schools. What do you think students in those school chapters are learning? Learning the basics of community organization? What would you think is UnifiED’s textbook? Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals”?

What is their 2019 club project? Canvassing door-to-door, harassing citizens into emailing their respective county commissioner to support the $43 million tax increase. What will that tax increase do? I would venture much of the tax increase will be used to support UnifiED’s manifesto – the APEX report that demands their leftist and progressive goals be funded.

Don’t be fooled. UnifiED is not about education. UnifiED is about expanding Barack Obama and George Soros’s plan to socialize the United States – one county at a time.

UnifiEd has smugly assured the non-profit community of Chattanooga that the political machine they have created will deliver the necessary commissioner votes to approve the tax increase.

County commissioners – please say “No” to UnifiED and “No” to UnifiED’s wasteful tax increase.

Tom Decosimo

* * * 

Everything Tom Decosimo said in his letter is exactly correct-UnifiEd is nothing but a political organization. All anyone had to do when they showed up in Hamilton County to “save us from ourselves”, was to Google their organizers.

The original head of UnifiEd was Elizabeth Crews. Elizabeth touts one of her accomplishments on her profile as, “Trained 20 National Social Justice agencies in different facets of political and community organizing.” She was also a rield organizer for the Obama campaign.

On Ms. Crew’s list of accomplishments for UnifiEd in Hamilton County, she brags that she “managed a budget of $500,000” and that she “successfully raised over $1.5 million” during her tenure here.

I still shake my head when I see Republicans who even are willing to meet with UnifiED. What good could this liberal organization possibly do them?

UnifiEd’s goal is to create confusion, disruption and division that elected officials must address and your tax dollars must fix.

Thank you, Tom, for your well thought out letter of warning. I hope the citizens and elected officials in Hamilton County will pay attention.

Rhonda Thurman

* * * 

Once again, the voices of negativity rise in opposition to any move by the County Commission, School Board, and community groups to improve and modernize our public schools. As usual, they do not offer any positive input, preferring to criticize, and demonize, any and all the ideas of others, and they now stoop to wild eyed conspiracy theories and racially charged code words, instead of detailed policy objections, in their attempts to impede any meaningful change in our schools.

Mr. Decosimo claims that UnifiEd and Organized for Action are not legitimate community organizations, but “tools for Barack Obama and George Soros’s plan to push the United States to the radical left.” Instead of logical arguments enumerating his areas of disagreement with the group's recommendations, he spouts only conspiracy theories and code words that resonate with those on the extreme right. 

Whatever else the members of these groups are, they are members of our community with a vested interest in our schools whose only “agenda” is to improve our schools, the health of our community and the quality of life for all the folks of Hamilton County. Disagree with their proposals if you will, but don’t question their legitimacy, especially with such silly wing-nut stuff. If you have a gripe, Mr Decosimo, lay it out and, as I have asked of Ms Thurman, and other contributors to this op-ed page, many times, give us your ideas. Tell us what you think will work. "Barack Obama and George Soros" are neither relevant nor constructive.

As for Ms Thurman, she got her wish. She had her man appointed as superintendent and her ideas instituted a few years ago and we all know how that worked out. She seems to think that just associating the efforts of Unified and Organize for action with Barack Obama and the alleged evils of community organizing is enough to discredit them, but she throws in “liberal” for good measure. Instead of just repeating far-right ideological talking points, Ms. Thurman, lay out your specific complaints with the proposals of these organizations, tell us what you think needs to be done and let’s have a good public discussions of the  relative merits of each. I must once again remind you, however, that segregated schools has already been tried and proven to be a dismal failure. Any viable plan must seek to provide quality education for all Hamilton County Students. You might also tell us of your accomplishments for our schools as a long serving school board member.

The bottom line is that, if anyone has legitimate complaints, or something constructive to say, a plan that he/she thinks has merits, let’s hear it. If all you can do, however, is proffer nebulous arguments and/or ideological gibberish designed not to raise legitimate objections, but to demonize, and serve only to hinder any real progress, please get out of the way and let those who do have ideas and plans a chance to implement them.

Harry M. Hays

* * * 

During last week’s Hamilton County Commission meeting, Patrick Hampton, a former Hamilton County Schools teacher, pointed out that Rutherford County Schools’ students scored significantly better on statewide tests than Hamilton County Schools’ students, yet Rutherford County spent roughly the same amount as Hamilton County while serving more students. Commissioner Sharpe responded that 31 percent of Hamilton County school-age children attend private schools, which pulled down Hamilton County Schools’ scores on the statewide report card.

Yet if UnifiEd and the Hamilton County School Board actually care about improving scores while helping kids – especially those whose families are most desperately seeking alternatives to the worst-performing schools – why did HCS Superintendent Dr. Johnson actively lobby against school vouchers passed for other state school systems, but exempted in Hamilton County? All while using your tax dollars to lobby against the interests of Hamilton County property owners.

Wouldn’t providing vouchers for, say, 1,000 kids in the most underperforming county schools help improve the scores on the state’s report card? Wouldn’t that be a worthy test to pursue on a parallel track in the midst of the equity proposals in UnifiEd’s APEX Project report, the primary driver of the HCS’s $34 million budget increase? Thanks to Senator Todd Gardenhire, we may never know. 

Brendan Jennings
Chattanooga Tea Party



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