County Mayoral Candidates Respond to Equity Questionnaire Ahead of Primary Election

Chattanooga 2.0 defines educational equity as:

intentional supports, resources, and policies designed to meet the individual needs of each learner and eliminate disparities in outcomes, ultimately ensuring that all students have the opportunity to unlock their full potential. 

Chattanooga 2.0 is pleased to release responses to our educational equity questionnaire from the 2022 Hamilton County Mayoral candidates.

The Chattanooga 2.0 equity questionnaire is a demonstration of our commitment to keeping the community informed about issues that impact all children, and to holding local elected leaders accountable for educational equity in Chattanooga-Hamilton County. It has never been more important for us to work together to ensure every child has access to the resources and supports needed to reach their full potential, cradle to career.

Jennifer Bronson, Chattanooga 2.0 Executive Director

CLICK A CANDIDATE NAME BELOW TO VIEW THEIR RESPONSES TO THE CHATTANOOGA 2.0 EDUCATIONAL EQUITY QUESTIONNAIRE:

1. DO YOU BELIEVE EDUCATIONAL EQUITY, AS DEFINED BY CHATTANOOGA 2.0, SHOULD BE A PRIORITY FOR HAMILTON COUNTY? IF YES, WHAT DOES THAT COMMITMENT LOOK LIKE IN ACTION?

I certainly believe that educational equity must be a priority for Hamilton County. In action, it looks like investing equitably in our public schools across the county. We must ensure that all our students have quality educations and a safe building to learn in, and our teachers are empowered to help foster opportunities for our students.

 

 

2. WHAT ROLE SHOULD HAMILTON COUNTY, SPECIFICALLY, PLAY IN ELIMINATING RACIAL AND SOCIOECONOMIC DISPARITIES IN RESOURCE ALLOCATION AND ACCESS TO HIGH-QUALITY LEARNING OPTIONS FOR CHILDREN AND YOUTH, FROM BIRTH TO CAREER?

We owe it to our students to prepare them from early childhood on for successful lives filled with opportunities. That means we must invest in the digital and physical infrastructure of our schools, so our students and teachers are set up for success from the beginning. Our students deserve the best facilities and best trained teachers we can offer them. We must set them up for success early on, and that will continue into the grades following. Once they are ready to leave high school, we must ensure our students are ready for a variety of post-secondary opportunities, anywhere from moving on to a 4-year degree to job training. With equitable investments and resource allocation, we can be confident that we’ve set all our students, and the future of this county, up for success.

 

 

3. HOW WOULD YOU ALIGN THE WORK OF OTHER DEPARTMENTS WITHIN HAMILTON COUNTY TO SUPPORT HAMILTON COUNTY SCHOOLS’ EFFORTS TO PROVIDE AN EXCELLENT AND EQUITABLE EDUCATION TO EVERY STUDENT?

As it stands Hamilton County Schools have made strides to close the gap in mental health services for our students; however, we have a long way to go. Ensuring the Department of Health is working with the Department of Education to close the health gaps will go a long way to ensure the long-term success of our students. Additionally, there are several studies that show the effects of community engagement programs with law enforcement. In cities like Nashville, it has been shown to lower gang involvement, improve long term relations with the community as a whole, and even improve academic measurables such as literacy. When a community and law enforcement have a mutual respect and trust, many aspects of a community will improve and that can be seen in schools.

 

 

4. CHILDCARE DESERTS PERSIST IN RURAL AREAS OF THE COUNTY, LEAVING FAMILIES WITHOUT THE RELIABLE, QUALITY OPTIONS NEEDED TO PARTICIPATE IN THE WORKFORCE. WHAT WOULD YOU DO TO ENSURE EQUITABLE EARLY CARE AND EDUCATION OPPORTUNITIES FOR FAMILIES?

The state of Tennessee is investing several billion more dollars in public education throughout the state this fiscal year. We must invest the funds we are receiving into closing gaps that have widened over the last couple of years. The county needs to invest in early childhood learning by developing a robust program that will prepare our students both in school and beyond and give parents the ability to get to work without increased worry of their child’s well-being.

 

 

5. WHAT STEPS DO YOU SUPPORT HAMILTON COUNTY TAKING TO ENSURE STUDENTS FROM LOW-INCOME BACKGROUNDS AND STUDENTS OF COLOR HAVE EQUITABLE ACCESS TO OUT-OF-SCHOOL TIME PROGRAMMING AND ENRICHMENT?

Working with the nonprofit sector is a cornerstone of what I plan to do as the next mayor. The county has to provide opportunities for our underprivileged students, and we can certainly accomplish that if we work with the groups that work day in and day out to provide those opportunities. Bringing in groups and individuals that are experts in their particular fields will allow for the long-term success of our students in Hamilton County.

1. DO YOU BELIEVE EDUCATIONAL EQUITY, AS DEFINED BY CHATTANOOGA 2.0, SHOULD BE A PRIORITY FOR HAMILTON COUNTY? IF YES, WHAT DOES THAT COMMITMENT LOOK LIKE IN ACTION?

I believe that each child and every school has different needs. What works at Apison Elementary won’t work at Tommie Brown Academy- -and it shouldn’t. Our priority should ALWAYS be to provide the best experiences for our children, our teachers and the schools in where learning occurs. This means providing funding to meet the needs and as Mayor, that’s exactly what I’ll do.

 
2. WHAT ROLE SHOULD HAMILTON COUNTY, SPECIFICALLY, PLAY IN ELIMINATING RACIAL AND SOCIOECONOMIC DISPARITIES IN RESOURCE ALLOCATION AND ACCESS TO HIGH-QUALITY LEARNING OPTIONS FOR CHILDREN AND YOUTH, FROM BIRTH TO CAREER?

I believe in supporting programs that prepare our children to be ready to learn- -in short, a mixed delivery system that rewards effective programs and puts focus on those that are lacking. Because over 60% of our children don’t receive early childhood education, I will work closely with Superintendent Robertson to make sure he has the funding to meet those needs.

 

3. HOW WOULD YOU ALIGN THE WORK OF OTHER DEPARTMENTS WITHIN HAMILTON COUNTY TO SUPPORT HAMILTON COUNTY SCHOOLS’ EFFORTS TO PROVIDE AN EXCELLENT AND EQUITABLE EDUCATION TO EVERY STUDENT?

I am the only candidate for Hamilton County Mayor who will have a cabinet level position dedicated on a daily basis to education. The Education Executive will be an individual who will attend school board meetings, interact with school board members, and the community to build relationships and pursue partnerships to make a difference in the lives of our students. Because this individual will be a member of my cabinet, he or she will have a working knowledge of county government and ways to encourage partnerships and programming within county government that will maximize our effectiveness and our efficiencies.

 

4. CHILD CARE DESERTS PERSIST IN RURAL AREAS OF THE COUNTY LEAVING FAMILIES WITHOUT THE RELIABLE, QUALITY OPTIONS NEEDED TO PARTICIPATE IN THE WORKFORCE. WHAT WOULD YOU DO TO ENSURE EQUITABLE EARLY CARE AND EDUCATION OPPORTUNITIES FOR FAMILIES?

The pandemic caused a huge disaster for those in the child care profession. Over 40 of our local child care facilities closed down during this time, losing many of our essential workers. We don’t do enough to thank them for all they do each day. My recommendation would be to work toward a mixed delivery system for child care that would allow four-year-olds to stay in child care facilities that work well and to provide similar learning environments in more rural schools where there are fewer opportunities for focused learning.

As a business owner, I’ve always paid for performance and I believe this situation calls for a similar approach.

 

5. WHAT STEPS DO YOU SUPPORT HAMILTON COUNTY TAKING TO ENSURE STUDENTS FROM LOW-INCOME BACKGROUNDS AND STUDENTS OF COLOR HAVE EQUITABLE ACCESS TO OUT-OF-SCHOOL TIME PROGRAMING AND ENRICHMENT?

If I am elected Mayor, I will listen to Supt. Robertson and school board members who are closest to the schools they represent to learn about their needs and how the County can support those efforts. My job is not to form policy, but to support it.

1. DO YOU BELIEVE EDUCATIONAL EQUITY, AS DEFINED BY CHATTANOOGA 2.0, SHOULD BE A PRIORITY FOR HAMILTON COUNTY? IF YES, WHAT DOES THAT COMMITMENT LOOK LIKE IN ACTION?

Yes, our goal should be for every student to have an equal shot at success. My life story is one of overcoming by the power of faith and hard work, and I want to make sure everyone has an opportunity to succeed, even regardless of their circumstances.

 
2. WHAT ROLE SHOULD HAMILTON COUNTY, SPECIFICALLY, PLAY IN ELIMINATING RACIAL AND SOCIOECONOMIC DISPARITIES IN RESOURCE ALLOCATION AND ACCESS TO HIGH-QUALITY LEARNING OPTIONS FOR CHILDREN AND YOUTH, FROM BIRTH TO CAREER?

From early childhood to workforce development, it’s critical we’re supporting all our students and preparing them for the future. As Mayor, I will work to develop partnerships in the community among non-profits and others that will improve early childhood literacy and development. Research from the Annie E. Casey Foundation demonstrates that a student who is not reading proficiently by third grade is four times less likely to graduate from high school by age 19 than a child who is reading proficiently by third grade.


3. HOW WOULD YOU ALIGN THE WORK OF OTHER DEPARTMENTS WITHIN HAMILTON COUNTY TO SUPPORT HAMILTON COUNTY SCHOOLS’ EFFORTS TO PROVIDE AN EXCELLENT AND EQUITABLE EDUCATION TO EVERY STUDENT?

As Mayor, I will engage community leaders to provide better interventions for at-risk youth. We must keep our kids in school and provide opportunities and alternatives to crime, gangs, and drugs. We must have safe schools and secure recreational facilities where our youth can engage in wholesome activities.

I will also propose consistent, dedicated funding for capital investment. After decades of deferred maintenance, our schools now face over $1.4 billion in facility needs. That’s why it’s so critical that we develop a comprehensive, long-term capital plan to anticipate and affordably fund future projects. That plan should include ongoing investments in maintenance so taxpayers and students can get the most out of our facilities.


4. CHILD CARE DESERTS PERSIST IN RURAL AREAS OF THE COUNTY LEAVING FAMILIES WITHOUT THE RELIABLE, QUALITY OPTIONS NEEDED TO PARTICIPATE IN THE WORKFORCE. WHAT WOULD YOU DO TO ENSURE EQUITABLE EARLY CARE AND EDUCATION OPPORTUNITIES FOR FAMILIES?

Access to early childhood education is a huge factor in workforce development. A cornerstone of my platform is a comprehensive study of existing programs in Hamilton County government that will include an assessment of where we are currently with regard to childcare access. That’s the starting point for going forward. Based on those findings, we should work to bring in state and federal funds to expand that access as much as possible.


5. WHAT STEPS DO YOU SUPPORT HAMILTON COUNTY TAKING TO ENSURE STUDENTS FROM LOW-INCOME BACKGROUNDS AND STUDENTS OF COLOR HAVE EQUITABLE ACCESS TO OUT-OF-SCHOOL TIME PROGRAMING AND ENRICHMENT?

When it comes to public education, local government’s job is to provide equal access for all students, no matter their background. As county commission chairman, I have built close working relationships with every commissioner. As Mayor, I will work with each commissioner to learn more about the unique needs in their districts. Extracurricular opportunities differ school-by-school, so addressing them will require input from the county commissioners and school board members representing their respective areas.

1. DO YOU BELIEVE EDUCATIONAL EQUITY, AS DEFINED BY CHATTANOOGA 2.0, SHOULD BE A PRIORITY FOR HAMILTON COUNTY? IF YES, WHAT DOES THAT COMMITMENT LOOK LIKE IN ACTION?

I want every student in Hamilton County to have access to quality public education, regardless of neighborhood or skin color. In order to serve the needs of students across our diverse public school system, we should work to customize education so that we meet students where they are and help them develop their unique gifts. It’s a shame that we moved away from vocational education – we should aggressively re-invest in career training so that more of our high school students, regardless of reading level, have a path to a great job. Beyond vocational education, which is an incredible option for students of all learning levels, the Health Department and Hamilton County Schools should work together to better educate new parents of the critical impact of the years that precede formal education in a child’s development.

 

2. WHAT ROLE SHOULD HAMILTON COUNTY, SPECIFICALLY, PLAY IN ELIMINATING RACIAL AND SOCIOECONOMIC DISPARITIES IN RESOURCE ALLOCATION AND ACCESS TO HIGH-QUALITY LEARNING OPTIONS FOR CHILDREN AND YOUTH, FROM BIRTH TO CAREER?

I mentioned that with leadership from the County Mayor’s office, the Health Department and Hamilton County Schools should work together to educate parents on the importance of the earliest stages of childhood development. Specifically, we should bring back Kirkman Technical High School, which was tragically closed in 1991 despite opposition from many in the Black community. Kirkman was the largest vocational high school in the State of Tennessee and in the 80s and 90s, the majority of its students were minorities.

 

3. HOW WOULD YOU ALIGN THE WORK OF OTHER DEPARTMENTS WITHIN HAMILTON COUNTY TO SUPPORT HAMILTON COUNTY SCHOOLS’ EFFORTS TO PROVIDE AN EXCELLENT AND EQUITABLE EDUCATION TO EVERY STUDENT?

We’ve proposed a new Mayor’s Apprenticeship Program that would be a partnership between Hamilton County Schools, the Mayor’s Office, and local businesses to give high school students the opportunity to work part-time while finishing their diploma. In pilot programs, this part-time income has been very impactful for students in lower income households.

 

4. CHILD CARE DESERTS PERSIST IN RURAL AREAS OF THE COUNTY, LEAVING FAMILIES WITHOUT THE RELIABLE, QUALITY OPTIONS NEEDED TO PARTICIPATE IN THE WORKFORCE. WHAT WOULD YOU DO TO ENSURE EQUITABLE EARLY CARE AND EDUCATION OPPORTUNITIES FOR FAMILIES?

The City and County Mayors need to address early childhood education comprehensively in partnership with large employers in our community, nonprofits and HCS. None of these entities can adequately address this crisis (and it is a crisis) alone.

 

5. WHAT STEPS DO YOU SUPPORT HAMILTON COUNTY TAKING TO ENSURE STUDENTS FROM LOW-INCOME BACKGROUNDS AND STUDENTS OF COLOR HAVE EQUITABLE ACCESS TO OUT-OF-SCHOOL TIME PROGRAMMING AND ENRICHMENT?

This is another example of where the city and the county mayors should work together to ensure that students have access to libraries, parks and the other public amenities that our community has to offer. A personal area of passion for me is connecting low-income students with entrepreneurs and business leaders – these encounters are a valuable learning opportunity for both parties.

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