Catoosa County GOP chairman says party's new official platform is misunderstood

Catoosa County GOP chairman says party's new official platform is misunderstood

April 21st, 2017 by Tyler Jett in Local Regional News

Jeff Holcomb talks with his brother, Rick Holcomb at the Ringgold Voting Precinct Tuesday, July 26, 2016.

Photo by Angela Lewis Foster /Times Free Press.

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Catoosa County Republican Party Chairman Jeff Holcomb said he does not support the death of public education, saying a portion of his party's new official platform is misunderstood.

The statement reads: "We believe that government control of education should be ended."

In a statement, Holcomb said this week: "In my personal view, society could not function without a Public School System, we no longer live in the era of 'Little House on the Prairie.' The Platform never said anything about eliminating the school systems, rather it said eliminating total government control, which I interpret as giving parents more input into their child's education."

The platform, approved by a majority of the 45 Republicans at the county party's convention March 18, drew criticism from some local elected officials and members of the school system. In particular, planks about ending tax incentives for businesses and forcing Georgia schools to get funding approval through the county commission drew their ire.

Right now, local Georgia school boards levy their own taxes, whereas in Tennessee the school systems get funding through the county commission. The Republican Party's platform does not have legal authority: It is merely supposed to be the guiding light for conservative elected officials.

"Why are our local officials so angry because we think taxes are too high and, [sic] we need to be more responsible with the peoples [sic] tax dollars without tax raises that were necessitated by the public spending in the first place?" Holcomb said in the statement.

He added he is particularly unhappy about the characterization that the party wants to end government-funded education. He said school officials should watch their money closely and get approval for textbooks and curriculum from parents. Also, he thinks parents should be able to choose from a variety of public schools in the area.

Put another away, Vice Chairman Greg Grayson said party leaders think schools should still receive government funding — just not government input. Grayson is an advocate for a voucher program, in which he would receive money to send his student wherever he wanted.

"Educators, in a sense, work for the government," he said. "They're controlled by the government. The government interferes with how they do a job."

Grayson said he and about 15 other local Republicans crafted the party platform earlier this year, hoping to spark debate about issues they hoped to improve. A larger swath of the party voted on the issues during the convention, and no planks were put to paper without a majority vote.

"That's one of the best things I've seen come out of the platform: We've got people engaged," he said. "And that's what we need — particularly, the Republican members engaged and looking at the various issues."

Holcomb, who was elected the party's chairman at the convention, said he was not involved in writing the document. He voted on issues March 18, like the other local Republicans. But when he spoke with the Times Free Press last week, he had not seen the written version.

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.