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OK, it started with 70 or so teachers penning a letter to the Hamilton County Commission for not voting to allow a potential wheel tax on the March ballot.

You are going to see, read and hear a bunch about this — and get a bunch more come Wednesday when David SharpE (the 'e' is now officially capitalized because of his connection to UnifiEd and the school system) speechifies — and you should.

It's a big deal.

Let's agree to a few universal truths:

First, we all want our public schools to be great. Whether you have kids in them or not, public schools that excel help all of our community.

Second, teachers are underpaid. So, too, are police officers, good waitresses and, if I do say so myself, newspaper employees. (Maybe my bosses aren't reading this one, but it's worth a shot, right?)

Third, everyone wants a raise. Everyone. It's right there with everyone actually cares what other people say about them, everyone wants their college football rival to lose and everyone wants the traffic lights on 4th Street downtown to be better.

(Seriously, we all know the Ridge Cut is dreadful and that the stretch on Interstate 24 between Tiftonia and I-59 is as close to Atlanta-level traffic as anyone wants to see. But how, in this year 2-0-1-9 of the Lord can we not get those 4th Street red lights synched?)

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OK, yes, we all want a raise, but the teachers being mad at the County Commission for doing the right thing and keeping the silly, Hail Mary $60 wheel tax off the ballot is wrong. Plain and simple.

It's wrong because the Hamilton County Commission is right to have questions about how the school system deals with extra revenue.

I've sat through budget meetings, and the five fiscally prudent commissioners who have stood tall — Chester Bankston, Tim Boyd, Randy Fairbanks, Greg Martin and Sabrina Smedley — deserve kudos more than criticism.

The school system had every chance to redirect a record-setting windfall to teachers. The commissioners asked the school district representatives directly — on the first day of school in August, ironically enough — if there was a way to fund the raises or work it out.

The answer was no then. Now they want to blame that no on the commissioners asking questions.

That's not fair. And it's not accurate.

The school system's answer was yes to 180 new employees. The answer was yes to a lot of other things considering the system got more money than ever from the county — and found more than $10 million in budgetary savings — but it's important that we all remember who gave the 'no' that should enrage all the teachers.

It was not the county commissioners. It was not your neighbors. It was not our community, which clearly wants better for our schools.

It was the school system, which put a priority on adding rather than satisfying.

It was your union leadership, which kowtowed when it should have stood strong.

Which brings us to this: If those 70 or so teachers and the Hamilton County Democratic Party are going to blame the five right-thinking county commissioners for being responsible with our tax dollars and demanding accountability from the school board, then maybe the entire system is broken.

Smedley responded directly to Kendra Young, head of the county Democrats, and emailed asking for a meeting among the upset teachers and commissioners:

"Good morning! Could you arrange a meeting for the five commissioners, named in your email, to meet with the teachers listed in your email? I personally would love to sit down with all of you and meet. I would assume my fellow commissioners would like to do this as well. I look forward to this possibility. Thank you. Sabrena Smedley."

I definitely support Smedley's direct approach.

For the teachers understandably upset that the raise promised by Superintendent Dr. Bryan Johnson was denied, know this: When Commissioner SharpE asked Hamilton County attorney Rheubin Taylor if a ballot referendum for the wheel tax could go directly to your paychecks, Taylor said the commission would need an agreement in place with the school system beforehand.

Who would blindly hand a blank check to a group that has said one thing and done another in this budget process as much as the school leadership?

Teachers, be mad that the promised raises failed. We all can understand that.

But teachers, be mad at the right people. We all can support that.

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Jay Greeson

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com.

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