Roy Exum: Don't Dare Cut Teachers!

Tuesday, July 16, 2019 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

The Hamilton County School Board should be abolished, Superintendent Bryan Johnson be sent packing – by whatever buyout it takes to get him and his high horse gone -- and the County Commission should expect a beady-eyed review until the next election, if this flagrant emotional abuse they are forcing on our teachers and staff members is allowed to continue any longer.

The proposed FY 2019-2000 budget contained a 5 percent raise for our long-ignored teachers and a 4 percent boost to key support salary. But the raises were craftily included in a most unwelcome tax increase. Failure of the tax increase was predictable from the very beginning because the county’s Department of Education is so abysmal it wouldn’t be worthy of an accursed “participation trophy.”

The original budget that was proposed, $410 million, is $19 million more than last year’s record-setting figure but instead of being joyous and happy, Superintendent Johnson and the more liberal School Board members greedily pushed for a 34-cent tax increase that would have an affect on every county taxpayer. Ironically, it has now been established that almost 34 percent of school-aged students in Hamilton County do not attend the beleaguered public schools yet the blackboard dreamers think that now they have County Mayor Jim Coppinger hoodwinked the whole menu is a la carte.

Wouldn’t you? A 17 percent raise when there are more staffers making $100,000 or more, and the excitement there are over 300 new jobs who only need the County Commission’s nod? This is beyond ludicrous, as any professional accountant can see. Two weeks ago the County Commission voted 5-4 against the tax increase, when wiser heads know that in reality it would have been 6-3 had Chip Baker not played Kermit the Frog with his condescending “let’s be nicey-nice” harmonica rendering.

Just moments after the defeat, Supt. Johnson went into a supreme pout … and then … with all the aplomb of Napoléon at Waterloo, our modern-day field general immediately showed the county hayseeds he could still swagger by massacring his best and greatest warriors – blinking nary a vengeful eye as he cut the raises of over 2,900 Hamilton County teachers in half.

Admittedly, I am no genius, but as far as I am concerned any wild animal that eats its young, or offers his front-liners to friendly fire, best know his remaining days are few. The citizens of Hamilton County are not going to suffer such foolishness lightly after he haughtily steals promises and serves the cold reality of yesteryear’s take it-or-leave it leftovers. This is absurd, to literally bargain a sloppy mess of a budget as you use your teachers as slave market chattel.

Unless the County Commission takes a stand for the teachers, and firmly insists on that 5 percent raise Johnson has so broadly teased, I can promise the Hamilton County elections in 2020 will not include such pretenders any longer and never again.

The candidate landscape already promises major changes after the far-left political charade of Chattanooga’s liberal elite has now been exposed. UnifiEd, which has been propped up by several of Chattanooga’s most hallowed foundations, has two leftists already seated on the County Commission – Katherlyn Geter and David Sharpe.

Add the two more dillies on the School board in Kathy Lennon and Jenny Hill and public education is most definitely threatened. Insiders say had it not been for Sharpe and for Lennon and Hill on the School Board, this embarrassment would have never gotten this far.

When the County Commission is presented the new budget from the schools, it might be prudent to have a trustworthy accountant and a common-sense expert address a number of seemingly frivolous ventures the public schools have now used, or are using, because the parents of students look at “Director of Diversity” and “Office of Equality” when the vast majority would prefer English, math, science and reading

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee has just announced he is trying to accelerate voucher education in the state. Hamilton County has opted out of the statewide program because if the state helped fund the tuition costs of children not in the public schools, the HCDE will take a public beating if it loses the money it allegedly claims on the ghost children.

An anticipated “wrecking ball” report on the dilapidated schools within the county in the next two weeks could easily be higher than the entire county budget for next year. The public-school buildings are owned by the county – not the Department of Education. Almost all must be replaced, face huge renovations, close or – this is not a joke – be rightfully condemned.

Yet today that doesn’t matter, not an iota. Teachers deserve full raises and full state appropriations. Each is a hero. We can never be adequately grateful, but if someone, or some shady group, even has the audacity to cut what they have been promised, there will be hell to pay.

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