What you got going on this Sunday?
Church? Good call. Lunch with family? Never a bad idea. The rest may depend on the weather.
Well, the next chapter in the monthslong finger wagging among well-intentioned and principled elected officials and some of their constitutents unfolds in a town hall-type meeting Sunday.
So, a town hall. You in? If so, great. If not, well, that's understandable.
Here's what is not as easily understandable: What is the expected result of this town hall, surely to be packed with a pro-teacher and pro-teacher-pay-raise crowd?
Let's start with the premise that this is a good faith effort to encourage civil and respectful debate, to work together.
And before we go any further, let's emphasize that all of us are pro-teacher, especially those of us with kids in the Hamilton County school system. No one is anti-teacher.
The decisions made over the last six months about school district budget increases and teacher pay raises were not a referendum on teachers, who have been used as the rope in this very political tug-of-war over school funding.
The school system had asked for a record-setting amount of money with a major selling point of teacher pay raises. The property tax increase needed to pay for the budget increase and pay raises flopped. Still, the school district got more money than it has ever received from the commission, and decided that new positions were more important than across-the-board teachers' raises.
The sting of Hamilton County commissioners turning back tax increases has not eased. Teachers drafted a petition targeting the county commissioners who voted down the pay raises, and it quickly garnered 70 signatures. And an invitation to the commission and Board of Education to attend a town hall meeting followed. Now that petition has more than 1,300 signatures — that's fewer folks than in the crowd in the stands at a mid-July Lookouts game — in a county of more than 300,000. Let's not confuse that number with some overwhelming sentiment for tax increases for the school system.
(While we are on the subject of numbers, let's put some other figures in context and keep proportion in mind. There was the recent report of 32 teachers resigning before fall break, a number that was more than double a year ago. Cue the outrage meter. But lots of people quit their jobs for lots of reasons. Considering that there are more than 5,000 Hamilton County Department of Education employees, that's what, somewhere near 0.6 percent of the workforce. OK, can the outrage.)
I hold out high hopes for Sunday. If the expected result is a first step toward the commission and school board getting together to discuss issues, great.
It is a great goal in theory, but the system — the commissioners write the checks, the school board approves how those checks are spent, and neither is willing to give an inch of its responsibility/power in the process — will not change for the foreseeable future.
So maybe Sunday can be a discussion about better planning for the next budget cycle, when the issue of teachers' raises will be joined by the monstrous needs of our school facilities across the district.
Maybe it can be a chance for some of our public servants to voice their concerns, rather than listening to the political haranguing of some others who like the sound of their voices a bit too much.
But what it can't be is a step backward toward the crossed bridge of public officials revisiting a budget issue that was dealt with — twice.
That ship has long since sailed, and truth be told — and hopefully for the final time — that ship was launched from Bonny Oaks, not downtown.
Contact Jay Greeson at email@example.com.