CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) — Hamilton county teachers and county commissioners have found little common ground as the public debate continues over teacher raises.
The subject did not come up at today’s commission meeting, but there was comment from both sides.
“Who doesn’t want the teachers to get a pay increase? We all did. And that’s why you heard so many commissioners frustrated during the budget process to find that’s the very first thing they cut,” said Sabrina Smedley, District 7 Hamilton County Commissioner.
The five commissioners who have been “called out” by teacher groups for not supporting a 34 cent tax increase, or a wheel tax to pay for raises, are adamant that they do support that effort. Commissioner Sabrina Smedley says the money was provided, but misused.
Commissioner Smedley continued, “I’ve called it a bait and switch a number of times. The bait was: we’ll roll out the tax increase by promising our teachers a pay increase, and the switch is – it’s the first thing you cut, and you give them additional staff members instead.”
The teachers ended up with a one-time bonus, and additional support staff instead of a raise in next year’s budget.
Hamilton County Teachers Association president Jeanette Omarkhail said, “It wasn’t that we said, ‘Yeah, we don’t want this.’, it was – we looked at how can we get both this year, and also be able to start working on now – or in the spring and the summer, talking with the district leaders and looking at what we have to do at the state and local level, to move this to get a sustained revenue stream for teachers increases in salaries every year.”
Only two commissioners were at last Sunday’s Town hall meeting for teachers.
District 8’s Tim Boyd was not there.
District 8 Hamilton County Commissioner Tim Boyd said, “With the additional 19 million dollars that the school board was given this year, by the commission, with our blessing, they refused to give the teachers a salary increase. That is not on us. That’s something that young Tucker McClenton and his fellow school board members have to live with.”
“We have to start having our elected people to show that we have confidence in our public school system and we can’t do that until we’re able to make some – some big changes as to where our public education system goes and that’s in a number of different areas,” said Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger.