If we want better schools, we must be a better city

I have always found it interesting that a blog is, by its nature, made for preaching to the choir. To the converted. This is a good thing: it’s a place where a writer can work out her thoughts, remind herself of things worth remembering, and shine a light on important ideas to other people.

In this post, I want to do exactly that. Because when I think about education in Chattanooga, I don’t have all the answers. In fact, I’m nowhere close — I’m not sure that anyone is. Our city is, without question, a beautiful place full of beautiful people. As President of the Community Foundation, I see many of you working hard to make our city a better place for everyone who lives here. But sitting in this chair has also allowed me to see what so many people already recognize: that our schools – public education –  are facing real challenges.

By now, you have likely seen the statistics: 80% of living wage jobs in Hamilton County require education beyond high school, but only 38% of residents have attained this. Only 33% of all current students are on track to graduate; 6 out of 10 students are not kindergarten ready when they start school, and by 3rd grade, 60% of them are below standard reading levels.

What you might not have seen is the progress that is being made. Local leaders and communities coming together in ways that give real hope.

Chattanooga 2.0 brought together dedicated citizens, educators and parents, around honest and critical dialogue about public education in town. I am dropping a few links below, which you could easily read through in half an hour, to understand the situation and how you can help make a difference:

  1. Understand the issues. Chattanooga 2.0 produced this report that explains the challenges our students face in meeting educational benchmarks.
  2. Support our teachers. Our public schools are full of talented and passionate teachers who want to implement cutting-edge curriculums in their classrooms. Visit DonorsChoose.org to contribute directly to their projects which range from reading level enhancement to tech resources for science experiments.
  3. Support our students. Connecting generous people to causes at the tap of a button, Purposity is a mobile app that allows users to donate to specific needs of students and children in their community.

There’s something else I see daily from this chair: if we want better schools, we must be a better city. And vice versa. The two are irreversibly intertwined – each giving strength to the other. So it’s up to us as a city to do better. To be better. And to start early.

There’s something else I see daily from this chair: if we want better schools, we must be a better city. And vice versa. The two are irreversibly intertwined – each giving strength to the other. So it’s up to us as a city to do better. To be better. And to start early.

That’s why the Community Foundation supports Chattanooga 2.0 with a particular focus on the Early Childhood Initiative. Because we know that when our kids start school far behind, the consequences for them and our community are both long-term and costly. By starting early, we’re focused on preparing them for success before they even enter school, so kindergarten and beyond aren’t such an uphill climb.

When I entered grade school, I was set up for success because of the kindness and attention of my parents, teachers and community leaders. I believe this is true for many of you, and it should be true for every child. Every opportunity that we have had in life has been because someone spent the time and energy on us, because they decided that we were worth the risk.

Every child in our city is worthy. Every one of them. But they will only have real opportunities, a real shot, if we believe it. And only if we act on this belief, and commit to being a city that works to create greater opportunities, and a better life, for every Chattanoogan. Let’s do better together.

Maeghan Jones
President
Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga

Tell Us Your Story

Our experiences as individuals inspire us together, to shape our community narrative. As an educator, a business owner, a parent, tell us about your experience with the education system.