Providing education to all children regardless of their race, their religion, their financial status, or their place of residence helps to make this the great country in which we live. From my own personal experience as a product of a public education here in Chattanooga, I know it can give children from families like mine an opportunity to be the first generation to complete high school and college and beyond. All children deserve this opportunity, and I believe the children of our community deserve our commitment to making the opportunity the best one we can give them. And, not surprisingly, doing what is best for the children benefits everyone, as the quality of our local public education directly affects the sustained growth and prosperity of our regional and local communities.
Over the last two years. Superintendent Bryan Johnson has listened carefully to many different groups, including the business community, and tried to assess the strengths and weaknesses of our public schools. Last month, he put forward a budget that will make a number of significant and immediate impacts, including raising teachers’ salaries, providing middle school students with access to laptops, and adding art teachers, special education teachers, and literacy coaches. In addition, and critically. Dr. Johnson’s budget will help our students make a successful transition from high school to “post-secondary education” where they can earn a degree or a credential that will allow them to build a career in a field available in our community.
Within the next five years, more than 80 percent of the jobs in Hamilton County that pay a living wage will require a college degree or credential. In other words, four out of every five desirable jobs in our community will require a significant amount of education after high school.
Dr. Johnson’s budget will help meet this growing need. Specifically, the proposed budget expands career academies—“future ready institutes”—^that are already helping students across the county develop critical skills and knowledge in a profession where Chattanooga has good paying jobs. His budget increases the number of AP and college-level courses available to all students. These rigorous courses prepare students for the academic demands of college. And the budget dramatically increases college and career advising for all high school students.
Additional advisors will help guide students to post-secondary institutions—be it four-year or two-year colleges, apprenticeships, or certification programs—^that align with their skills and talents. Taken together, these investments can transform the lives of thousands of children and meet the needs of our businesses.
I believe that Hamilton County is at a crossroads. In the next few weeks we have the opportunity to improve our community by taking steps to equip all of our children (and children of future generations) to enjoy productive and satisfying lives. To do this, we must step forward and support our public schools.
Roger W. Dickson