Teachers Look For Solutions To Increase Funding For Education In Hamilton County

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CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) — A leader of the teachers group pushing for an across-the-board raise, says its time to look for new ways to reach that goal and stop the finger-pointing.

A called meeting between the Hamilton County Commission and the School Board, is scheduled for Dec. 9th, and members of both groups are hoping it will resolve a simmering controversy. The debate is raging over who’s at fault for teachers not getting a promised raise in the 2020 budget.

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Teacher Kendra Young recently wrote an open letter calling out the 5 Hamilton County Commissioners who voted down a 34 cent tax increase, and a proposed wheel tax referendum. That letter now has over 1,600 teacher signatures. But Ms. Young says it’s really meant as a wake up call for the county.

Kendra Young, East Hamilton teacher, said, “The letter actually started with frustration just with my own representation in my own district, and needing more support for our schools. Our schools are under-funded at both the state and the local level, and so it started with needing our representatives to really understand.”

Some, like Kendra Young, worry that the county could be losing teachers because of lower paying jobs.

“We’ve lost, what was it 40 or 41 teachers? And it’s not even Christmas. I don’t know of anytime before that this has happened. And I’m hearing that there’s going to be other major losses before the end of the school year, of teaching staff here in Hamilton County,” said Ms. Young.

But how big a factor is teacher pay?

“When you look at the districts surrounding us, in either working conditions, pay or benefits, and sometimes all three, they outshine us, which is ridiculous. Hamilton County is the largest county, and we’re the ones begging for scraps from the table,” said Ms. Young.

Ideas now on the table include increased hotel/motel tax so tourists could help pay for teacher raises, an increase in the sales tax, or even an E-SPLOST. (Education Special Local Option Sales Tax).

“I think that’s a choice, it’s going to be a really tough position for Hamilton County residents, and that’s why we’re hoping to get them involved in this conversation as well, it’s time for tough choices. No one wants a tax increase, no one wants a wheel tax, no one wants to pay more. But education underpins every facet of our society,” said Ms. Young.

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Ashley is a lifetime Chattanooga area resident, and a 1987 graduate from UTC, with a BA in communications. While there, he was commissioned through the ROTC program, served simultaneously in the 1/181st field artillery Tn. Army National Guard, finished Airborne school, was a member of the Scabbard and Blade military honor society and ROTC Rangers, the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, played snare drum with the UTC Marching band, and played in a southern rock band called Southern Atmosphere, while working a full time job as a trainer at the Sports Barn. He also won the Southeastern United States teenage bodybuilding competition during this time. Ashley has been with News 12 Now for 21 years. Prior to working here he was a videographer, director, producer and editor at Falcon Cable TV in Dalton, Ga. for 6 years where he produced thousands of commercials and dozens of hour long features. He also worked as a freelancer and employee at another network affiliate in Chattanooga. He has operated a part time video production business from home for 25 years. He says his passion is telling stories that feature people who give of themselves to help others, and stories that inspire people to make positive changes in themselves and their communities. Ashley is ecstatically married to Debbie Henderson, and has two step sons, a daughter in law, a sister, and lots of aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews, and great nieces and nephews. His parents are celebrating their 60th anniversary this year. Ashley and Debbie are active members of Brainerd Baptist Church. His interests include weight training and cycling with his wife, photography, poetry, playing drums, and checking off items from his extensive honey-do list. If you would like to reach Ashley, email him at ahenderson@wdef.com.