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.
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.