Well, that felt like a waste of time.
The Hamilton County Commission and the Hamilton County Board of Education got together Tuesday night, and other than being elected and having the same first two words in their collective titles, there was little common ground.
There were loud voices and passion. Passion is a great thing when dealing with issues of the magnitude of our struggling public school system.
The issues have been that way for a while, and when the school board convenes tonight for its monthly pow-wow, we're willing to bet no one with a nameplate in front of them would deny that.
The issues are deep.
Test scores. Safety. Facilities. Busing. Staffing.
The discourse Tuesday — and almost assuredly the talking points of tonight — are becoming tired.
In fact, those talking points are beyond tired, teetering somewhere between troublesome and terrible.
In fact, we are long on problems and short on fixes. In fact, when the two most important county organizations got together Tuesday there was very little beyond the political version of coach speak.
The school folks cry for more funding, and that makes sense considering the double-edged sword of crumbling facilities and going on a dozen years since the last tax increase that went for schools.
But, to be fair, the way the system has been mismanaged, would you feel comfortable giving that group more taxpayer money?
I am not elected. I do not have a name plate. Here is a checklist of suggestions to start attacking the problems that face our schools and, more importantly, 42,000 or so of our children.
- We are going to have to have a tax increase. Buckle up and know it's coming. If you want to vote out your commissioner because of it, well, that's your right. But 12 years without a tax increase leaves a lot of inflation holes in the budget. We firmly believe that county Mayor Jim Coppinger is a sound and successful administrator who would find any other possible way apart from raising taxes. That said, it's time and there likely is not another way.
- The fact we have zero school building projects ongoing is at best short-sighted and at worst negligent. And the first projects on the list should be earmarked for overcrowding scenarios and projections and not be grandfathered in for magnet schools.
- If the commissioners are going to pony up more funds, the school board needs to get serious about the future of the leadership of the biggest and most important part of our county's budget. No more "Well, the search firm " or "Yeah, we're waiting to hear " or any more of the handwringing that comes across as equal parts indifference and negligence.
Our school system and elected officials are paying a steep price for a decade of inactivity.
This needs to change and it needs to change fast. Those solutions do not come from speeches and sound bites, though.
In truth, the most telling thing from Tuesday's meeting may have come from Coppinger's statement that building new schools and the reports of building a new jail do not have to be connected in terms of county funding.
Well, the unspoken next verse could very likely be that if we don't fix the schools, we are not going to be able to build jails fast enough.
Contact Jay Greeson at email@example.com and 423-757-6343.