Who Really Pays For Local Public Education? - And Response

Saturday, July 6, 2019

The government of the United States of America does not pay for public education in America. The government of Tennessee does not pay for public education in Tennessee. The Hamilton County Commission does not pay for public education in Hamilton County. The Hamilton County School Board does not pay for public education in Hamilton County. And the Hamilton County Department of Education certainly does not pay for public education in Hamilton County. We understand that none of those outfits have any money of their own; they frequently tell us they have no money, and it is our responsibility to provide money.

More money. Lots of money.

In all of those situations, it is the people themselves, the citizens of the nation, the state, and the county, who pay for public education. It is the people of Hamilton County, specifically the local property owners and those who rent from them, who really pay for public education in Hamilton County. Any money that comes from the governments of the State of Tennessee and the United States of America to Hamilton County in the name of public education has first been taken from the people of Hamilton County by those same governments. It doesn’t take a CPA to understand that neither Nashville nor Washington ever adds one dime to any funds for education. Washington and Nashville do not even return all of the money they take from us; significant handling fees are deducted before they ‘give’ us anything.

Dozens of people are crying once again that more money and only more money will help local education. They make it loud and clear that, in their opinion, local education definitely needs more money, and more money is all it needs to be successful. Uncounted officials have told us the same thing for as long as anyone can remember. But the people who are actually required to provide that extra money for education never see any measurable benefit or relief from their additional financial sacrifice. The taxpaying citizens of Hamilton County have contributed more money and more money and more money to the schools for decades, without noticeably improved results and without relief. We’re always told that’s because we haven’t yet given enough money. Failing schools are somehow always the fault of those of us who have no connection to the schools at all, other than our mandatory responsibility to pay for that system which is totally beyond our control.

The money most of us use to pay property taxes, all of that money which supposedly goes for bigger and better schools, more and better education, comes from our wages and salaries, from our Social Security and pensions, and from our life savings. No one who demands more money from us in the name of education ever asks us, Will you be okay? Will you have enough left to live on? Will you be able to afford food, electricity, water, medicine? I guess that’s reasonable enough, since they don’t care one bit how we’ll manage; they just want more of our money.

The ‘business’ of education is evidently the biggest ‘business’ in Hamilton County; 60% of the County’s budget goes for education. We lowly citizens pay more, more, and ever more money for education, yet the results keep declining; the end products of the business of education – the students, the graduates – keep doing less and less well on essentially every measurable scale. The payback for more and more money spent on education is less and less real, honest education.

That sort of thing can keep happening only in a government-run operation funded by innocent and involuntary and helpless cash cows. No responsible person, no honest private citizen or businessman, would tolerate such a thing in his own operations. But in Hamilton County education, no one is really responsible for good results; no one is ever held accountable for failure in or of the schools. If the latest and most wonderful new Superintendent fails, he’s quickly bought out and sent on his merry way, hundreds of thousands of dollars richer than he was when he came here. Only the taxpayers are held responsible in this system of education, and their responsibility (as defined by the schools) is always and only to provide more money, more money, more money.

One of these days that system is simply going to fail. How and when that will happen, I don’t know, but the ‘why’ of its failure is already obvious to any reasonable person.

Larry Cloud
Lookout Valley

* * * 

Mr Cloud,

I ask myself what the purpose of education is. Is it to gain a certain number of facts? Or is it to gain the ability to seek, interpret and utilize knowledge? At any rate it involves participating in spaces with multiple people who may process thought faster or slower or more thoroughly or less thoroughly than me. And be able to communicate their understanding in less or more coherent ways than I can and do. At any rate, educate yourself, go to the commission meeting on July 23 and hear what our county mayor and superintendent have to put forth. Look at what the department of education has done in the last two years of this super’s tenure. I say this with my own skepticism of whether any government entity is able to function for the sake of the community it lives for more than for itself.

There were a whopping 20 folks when the school superintendent, county mayor, our county commissioner, and several members of school board and staff came to John A Patton Center to speak their piece about education funding. How many people live in Lookout Valley I ask?  And how many are willing to do their civic duty and see for themselves what is actually going on in the classrooms, halls, and offices of what their children and grandchildren will utilize for their education? I realize sporting events have good participation. But education funding procurement is more than being in the cheering section or the booing section, it actually involves a relentless curiosity coupled with the necessary tools to make that curiosity knowledge. That is what I try to use when I put fingertips to keyboards.

You see, Mr Cloud, I see a common thread with the naysayers and proponents of funding for education in this “opinion” section. Most of us, myself included, have not put our feet in the shoes of students, teachers, parents and staff and seen for ourselves what they go through on any given school day. I suggest you and anyone else who wants to make that proverbial line in the sand, whatever side you are on, do due diligence and seek knowledge so you can be a learned part of civic discourse. That is why I went to that meeting at Patton Center, I wanted to learn.

Prentice Hicks, also from Lookout Valley


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