Chattanooga is a city at the forefront of growth, innovation, and economic development making it one of the best cities in America to live and work. However, when it comes to education, Chattanooga is falling behind and is currently not equipped to meet the demand of a growing workforce and economy that depends on knowledge to succeed. In order to address the much needed improvement in early education, K-12 learning, and postsecondary degree attainment, the Benwood Foundation, the Hamilton County Department of Education, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Public Education Foundation have launched “Chattanooga 2.0”. This effort is to ensure Hamilton County students have the ability to be academically successful and to compete for high tech jobs that sustain our growing community.
Chattanooga 2.0 has identified Chattanooga as one of the top 10 metro areas in country for growing advanced industries and shown that Hamilton County has added jobs at a higher rate than Tennessee as a whole. Despite this economic boost, only 38% of Hamilton County residents have a postsecondary degree that is needed for advanced industrial employment. Currently, there are 15,000 jobs available that cannot be filled by Hamilton County residents because of education requirements alone. Hamilton County is not able to meet the demand because our public schools are falling behind on educational benchmarks in literacy, math, ACT requirements, and student completion of a postsecondary credential or degree. These new jobs can only be filled by applicants with a postsecondary certificate or degree, and jobs that require only a high school diploma or less are rapidly declining.
The main goal of Chattanooga 2.0 is to ensure 75% of Hamilton County residents hold an industry certification, two year degree, or four year degree by 2025. In order to do this we need to strategize as a community to set bold educational goals, eliminate equality barriers, and support and empower talented teachers. A focused action plan centered on improving early childhood learning, K-12 success, and college and career readiness, is currently being developed and will be released in the next 100 days.
UnifiEd, along with dozens of other businesses and organizations, is an endorser for this new initiative. Since our founding, we have formed a strong community coalition and are actively pursuing many of the goals outlined in Chattanooga 2.0. Currently our Pact for Public Education calls for increased access to pre-k, improvement in reading, math, and ACT scores, teacher support, and eliminating socioeconomic barriers for students in schools, all of which are crucial points of Chattanooga 2.0. We strongly support uniting the community around improving public education and developing the continued growth of our city.