Your Audio Guide to School Funding

We’re excited to be featured on the latest episode of the Camp House Podcast, a weekly podcast exploring the culture and community of Chattanooga.

UnifiEd Executive Director Jonas Barriere and Communications Director Natalie Cook spoke with host Matt Busby about funding issues in Hamilton County schools. Catch the last 24 minutes of this episode for the quickest way to get up to speed on what’s been happening this year around the school budget and funding process leading up to next week’s county commission budget vote.

Also get details on how you can take action to tell your commissioner you support their vote to support increased school funding. (Hint: Get their contact info here)

Note: The entire podcast is 36 minutes. The first 12 focus on UnifiEd in general – we hope you’ll listen, but to cut to the funding chase, advance to minute 12:00.

Listen now

Business Leaders’ Report Backs UnifiEd’s Call for More Funds for Schools


A report was published this week that brings further momentum to public support for increased funding for Hamilton County schools. The report and recommendations were prepared by several prominent members of the local business community following a six-month study of the school system’s budget and spending.

The three calls for funding in UnifiEd’s “Fund Hamilton County’s Future” campaign (increased funding, a multi-year budget, and increased efficiencies in spending) were all backed by this group’s findings and recommendations.

View Full Report


Our executive director, Jonas Barriere, weighs in: “With more than a thousand community members having already contacted their county commissioner in support of increased funding, the grassroots voice demanding better school funding and budgeting practices is strong,” he says. “The business community has now stood alongside that voice to say that Hamilton County’s students have been sold short by these practices, and now is the time to make changes that better serve our kids and our community’s future.”

These business leaders analyzed the Hamilton County Department of Education’s spending and concluded that investments must be made in order to realize future savings and efficiencies. The creation of a multi-year budget and capital plan was supported by the group as a prime opportunity to increase efficiencies as well. The report concludes that current funding levels would remain insufficient to meet the school system’s needs even after inefficiencies were reduced.


Community Voice: It’s time for a long-term capital plan

In addition to increased funding for our schools, UnifiEd calls for the county and school district to work together to create a long-term plan to address current and future facilities and capital needs. If you agree, we encourage you to take a few moments to contact your county commissioner and tell them so! Visit the Fund Hamilton County’s Future campaign hub here to get your commissioner’s contact info plus templates for letters, emails, and calls on the subject. 

Lesley Rice, a Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts parent, wrote this “Community Voice” guest blog with her perspective on why such a long-term plan is vital.

I have been tirelessly advocating for a new building for Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts (CSLA) over the past few months, and it has become apparent that neither the Hamilton County Department of Education nor the Hamilton County Commission has a strategic plan for how to address the many facility needs in our county’s schools. When UnifiED approached me regarding their current “Fund Hamilton County’s Future” campaign (which includes a call for creating a multi-year strategic plan), I knew the CSLA story needed to be told in this context. CSLA is a very tangible symbol of the failure of Hamilton County to properly resource our schools and to create and fulfill effective long term planning strategies.

Back in March of 2014 WRCB’s School Patrol journalist David Carroll wrote an article titled “CSLA’s sad situation: Who’s to blame?” He writes:

“Back in 1999, I attended a Hamilton County School Board meeting of the Facilities Committee. Dr. Jesse Register was superintendent. Board members included Debra Matthews, Charles Love, Joe Conner, Janice Boydston, Bill Eldridge and Everett Fairchild, among others. All have since retired, resigned, or moved out of town, and in Ms. Matthews’ case, passed away. Their Facilities Committee was made up of community leaders who spent months visiting every single school building in the county. This committee listed each school’s physical condition, wiring infrastructure, student capacity, classroom space and enrollment. From those visits, they created a massive report listing the pros and cons of each building, particularly the ones that needed to be replaced or renovated in the first 5-10 years of the new century. Near the top of the list was the Chattanooga School for Liberal Arts (CSLA). By 2004, so the experts said, it needed to be replaced.”

Wait – so are you telling me there was some sort of 5-10 year plan regarding facility planning created in 1999 and which has absolutely not been followed? Is this because the money wasn’t there? Is this because the politicians who came along in the subsequent years weren’t committed to the vision or the plan? I suspect the answer is a combination of those two things.

Mr. Carroll goes on to tell the story of how CSLA, an award winning school, has been the victim of the local political system. Carroll says, “within that word called ‘politics’ resides smaller words like ‘clout,’ ‘power,’ and ‘turf.’ Ever since that Facilities Committee recommended a new school for CSLA in 1999, our elected leaders have used their clout and power to shore up their own turf.”

There are nine districts in Hamilton County, and the elected leaders in those nine districts tend to favor projects and investments that work to get them re-elected. This is just the nature of the system. But for a school like CSLA – a small, dedicated magnet school with students from all nine districts – there simply isn’t enough power or clout to compel the overwhelming members on the school board or county commission to act on its behalf.

Currently facilities are voted on every 2-3 years by the school board. This means that, rather than following a multi-year approach, the facility needs in Hamilton County are open to political posturing every few years based on the whims of the current batch of politicians.

The parents at CSLA have utilized various strategies to try to work within the existing political system over the years to win over the hearts and minds of politicians. It is a frustrating and exhausting process that seems to start all over with each election.

One of our newly elected school board members told me a few weeks ago that CSLA parents were not being “objective” in our approach for a new building. Perhaps that individual is right. It is difficult to be objective when you see a political system that takes a strategic plan that was created in 1999 and fails to see it through to fruition and that has yet to create a similar plan for a new crop of needs some 18 years later.

While I can’t pretend to be objective when it comes to the very apparent and long-standing needs at one of our county’s flagship schools, I hope I can at least point out that the existing system and the failures of nearly two decades of leadership are not unique to CSLA. CSLA is merely a symptom of a much greater problem countywide.

It is past time for our school board to create a new multi-year strategic capital plan similar to the one that was created in 1999. HCDE must take inventory of the facility needs that exist and prioritize those needs based upon the immediacy of the findings. There was a list presented at a Facility Committee meeting back in February of 2017 that can be expanded upon and further developed.

It is time for the County Commission to ascertain how to fund the plan and to properly resource ALL of our schools so that every student in our county has access to the best education possible in a clean, safe, and modern facility. How will the commissioners generate the necessary revenue to fund such a robust program? How can the state of Tennessee assist in that process? These are the questions with no easy answers – and yet it seems clear that there is simply not enough revenue coming in at the present time to fund the existing needs.

Perhaps most importantly, it is time for the voters of Hamilton County to demand that our leaders act in the best interest of all of our students. It is unlikely that anyone can develop a plan that can withstand the ever-present political turnover. Therefore, voters must be watchful in seeing that well thought out plans are implemented by whoever happens to be in office.

While I hope that our current leaders will take the call to create a plan seriously, I know all too well that the existence of a plan isn’t worth anything if it isn’t implemented. Let us not repeat the follies of the last two decades. We MUST do better, and we must begin now. And it is okay with me if we start by granting Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts that building they were promised 18 years ago.

By Lesley Rice
Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts parent


Letters to the Editor Guide

How to Send a Letter to the Editor

Have a perspective on public education that you want to share with the community? Write a letter to the editor! Here are some guidelines to help get you started.

A few pointers

  • Several letters on the same topic or issue can be a strong indicator to our local policymakers and elected officials, so encourage your friends to share their voice too.
  • State why you’re writing in your first sentence.
  • Effective letters focus more on issues than personal attacks.
  • State what you’re calling for (or demanding, if you feel so bold!). Whether it’s for the school board and county to vote to increase funding, or for the creation of a long-term plan for new school construction and additions, or for a multi-year budget that helps spend our education dollars more efficiently — tell the community or your elected officials what you want to see happen.
  • Keep it focused on one or two key points.
  • If you’re responding to an action or event, respond quickly! Timely comments are the most newsworthy.

Submission guidelines for local publications

Times Free Press

  • Keep it topical, short, legible, and not more often than one every 30 days. Letters may be edited by the Times Free Press for clarity and length.
  • Word count limit is 200 words!
  • Must be signed with name, address and telephone number.
  • Send to: Editorial page editor (either Times or Free Press), P.O. Box 1447, Chattanooga, TN 37401; fax: 423-757-6383; or e-mail:

  • The site publishes longer form letters than the newspaper is able to. There is no word limit (but if your article is too long you may lose your reader).
  • Must include your real first and last name and contact information.
  • Email to

Topical prompts

The topic of the moment is school funding. Want to share your thoughts on funding with the community? Here are a few ideas to get you thinking on what to write about.

  • Talk about a specific program that is under- or unfunded in your school and the impact to students.
  • Give examples of unacceptable maintenance issues that aren’t being addressed in your school.
  • Explain your perspective on the problem with HCDE not having a multi-year budget.
  • Paint the picture of what you think our community will look like in 30 years if we don’t start investing more in our schools now.
  • Explain why it’s a problem that HCDE and the county don’t have a long-term plan for building new schools or expanding school facilities.
  • Talk about the impact of underfunding technology in schools (not enough devices for each child to have access).
  • Explain what underfunding our schools says to you about our values or actions as a community.
  • Explain what it says to you about our county government that schools are not the top priority in the county budget.
  • Offer your perspective on what students deserve that they aren’t getting due to lack of funds.
  • Anything else that you care about related to funding in our schools!

Need help?

Feel free to contact our communications director, Natalie Cook (423-991-7790,, with any questions or if you need a boost in the writing process! She’s also happy to help you brainstorm a topic or give a proofread if you want it. 

If you submit by email, feel free to copy She can follow up with the publication to draw attention to your letter.


Letter to School Board Chairman Steve Highlander: Where’s the Plan for Superintendent Search?

The following letter was sent to Board of Education Chairman Steve Highlander (copying all members of the Board) on May 5, 2017.

To: Chairman Steve Highlander

CC: Joe Galloway, Karitsa Jones, Kathy Lennon, Tiffanie Robinson, Joe Smith, David Testerman, Rhonda Thurman, Joe Wingate

Dear Chairman Highlander:

UnifiEd calls on the Hamilton County Board of Education for the immediate release of its plan for the school superintendent search and selection process. This call comes after the board’s move this week to trim the list of candidates with input through private email and a decision process based upon criteria that have not been made public.

In the absence of a public plan for the search and selection process, the community is left without a transparent view of the process. It also creates a lack of accountability on the board for its actions.

We call for the restoration of transparency in this process going forward. The community deserves to know how candidates are being evaluated, when decisions will be made, and how they can be involved in this important decision impacting the future of our public schools.

Four recommendations emerged from public meetings UnifiEd held in every district in Hamilton County in 2016 on the topic of the superintendent search. For more than a year, we have called for the following elements to be included in the board’s search and selection plan to ensure community involvement in this important decision:

  • Live streamed public interviews of potential candidates
  • Public access to finalist candidate resumes online
  • Open forums for community members
  • The creation of a community advisory council

At the October 2016 school board meeting, you committed to creating a plan to involve the community in the process and indicated that the search firm’s first task should be the creation of a plan for engaging the community. You also asked that the board’s policy committee draft a plan. To our knowledge, none of these recommendations was implemented.

Now is the time to release your plan for this process that includes a community involvement component. On behalf of our community, UnifiEd looks forward to seeing this position filled by the most qualified candidate after a thorough and transparent search that takes into account perspectives as diverse as our population.

Best regards,

Jonas Barriere
Executive Director, UnifiEd



Digging in to HCDE’s Proposed Budget Increase

Understanding the schools’ request

Hamilton County Department of Education (HCDE) presented a general operating budget for the 2017-18 school year to the Board of Education finance committee last Thursday that totaled $397 million, a $33.5 million increase over the current year’s budget.

“Download full details” sample document for each focus area

Let’s dig into how the requested additional funds would be spent if granted. The requests are organized by HCDE’s six areas of strategic focus.

Each section has a link to documents issued by HCDE with more details like:

  • Why these investments?
  • Details on each request
  • Expected outcomes
  • What if these needs are NOT funded?

Strong Foundations: Literacy and Math

Total requested increase: $1,600,000

Additional funds request at a glance:

  • Added literacy support for priority and on-the-cusp schools ($900,000)
  • Expanding innovative and effective math instruction ($100,000)
  • Supporting schools with literacy materials ($500,000)
  • Kindergarten readiness support ($52,000)

See full details >

Engage Every Child. Every Day.

Total requested increase: $8,700,000

Additional funds request at a glance:

  • School technology upgrades and support ($7,600,000)
  • Robotics program continuation and expansion ($63,200)
  • Hands-on science and art pilots ($250,000)
  • Art and eLab teachers ($780,000)

See full details >

Future Ready: Prepare All Students for College & Career

Total requested increase: $1,900,000

Additional funds request at a glance:

  • Core funding for the new Chattanooga Polytechnic Academy ($586,000)
  • Expanding post-graduation options for high school students, including work-based learning and technical credentials for high-demand jobs ($1,300,000)

See full details >

Closing the Opportunity Gap

Total requested increase: $4,000,000

Additional funds request at a glance:

  • Support for our growing English Language Learner population ($677,000)
  • Strategic and differentiated support for priority and cusp schools ($1,500,000)
  • Additional support for student health services ($289,000)
  • Increased supports for students with special needs ($964,000)
  • Charter school enrollment increases ($474,000)
  • Replicate Graduate on Point program at additional schools ($150,000)

See full details >

Great Teachers, Great Leaders

Total requested increase: $14,500,000

Additional funds request at a glance:

  • Cost of living adjustment and step pay increase for all educators ($11,000,000)
  • Strengthening our pipeline to ensure a great leader in every school ($417,000)
  • Additional teaching positions for projected enrollment increases ($1,500,000)
  • Professional learning to support beginning teachers ($1,400,000)
  • Increase capacity to recruit and train top talent ($148,000)

See full details >

Building Our Values: Culture, Climate, and Communication

Total requested increase: $2,800,000

Additional funds request at a glance:

  • School-based telephone support for communication and safety ($500,000)
  • Increase in block grants to allow more site-based decisions ($1,000,000)
  • Increases in custodial and transportation services ($1,300,000)

See full details >

UnifiEd’s take

The requested increase in funds has been tied to expected student outcomes, a first for HCDE and a step UnifiEd has called for as part of the Pact for Public Education. We are very pleased at this big step toward the goal and hope HCDE administration will expand on this approach by tying the full budget to outcomes in the future.

The Pact also calls for a multi-year operating budget. Dr. Kirk Kelly, interim superintendent, told the Board at the April 13 finance committee meeting that he would be presenting a multi-year budget “soon.” We commend the commitment to this Pact goal and look forward to seeing it presented!

Still unaddressed is a long-term plan for building and expanding schools, as well as addressing the massive backlog of maintenance issues. UnifiEd calls for HCDE and the county to work together to create and fund a multi-year capital plan that creates efficiencies and opportunities for equitable access to quality education for every student in Hamilton County.

Take action!

Our school funding campaign hub gives you all the tools to take action in support of increased funding for our schools.

  • “Find your elected officials” feature: Select your neighborhood to see who your school board member, county commissioner, and county mayor are, plus their contact info.
  • Tools to contact your county officials: Download a letter to sign and mail, get a phone script for making a call, or get suggested text for an email.

Visit the campaign hub now >

Finally, turn out to support school funding! The school board will vote on HCDE’s proposed budget on Thursday, April 20 at 5:30 p.m. Whether you support HCDE’s proposed budget specifically, or more funding for our schools in general, be there to show the school board that our community values investment in education!

UnifiEd will be there with pizzas and posters to help you share your voice – let’s fund Hamilton County’s future! Board meeting info >

School Guide Video Launch Block Party a Smashing Success!

School Guide Video Launch Block Party a Smashing Success!

Community members who love Hamilton Schools turned out in droves at UnifiEd’s offices last Saturday, April 1 for a block party to celebrate the premier of the first 28 videos in the Public School Guide video series. Updates to every school’s Public School Guide were launched this weekend with 2017 data, and the first round of completed school videos were added to their respective Guides to help tell the unique story of each school beyond stats and test scores. Video production continues across the county, and each school will have their own video showcasing the great things happening in their classrooms over the next year.

“The first generation of our school guides provided information on all Hamilton County public schools including demographics, test scores, and classroom offerings. They did a great job of providing quantitative data, but we know numbers don’t tell the full story of these schools,” says Jonas Barriere, UnifiEd Executive Director. “The video project is a way of telling stories and highlighting achievements in our schools in a way that statistics don’t capture.”

The block party drew approximately 400 teachers, families, students, administrators, school board members, and members of the community to celebrate our schools. “The turnout demonstrated to me that people who are involved in public education are eager to celebrate our schools and the PEOPLE inside them,” says Abby Garrison, Executive Director of video project partner Causeway. The organization granted funds to Katie Smith, a Battle Academy parent, to create a school video series.

“The whole reason we chose Katie as a winner of the Causeway Challenge was because she wanted to tell a story about what’s really happening inside the school’s walls, and all the heart and the innovative programming and the uniqueness of each school.” Garrison adds, “I’ve always thought Chattanooga was a glass half-full kind of city, with an inherent yet gritty optimism. And to me, the video project embodies that.”

The grown-ups at the block party spent time interacting with the Public School Guide on tablets in the office lobby, comparing and contrasting student body make-up, academic achievement, and class offerings among schools. They were encouraged to leave thank-you notes to teachers, share written feedback on posters about what makes a great teacher, and what our students deserve.

The most thought- and discussion-provoking station explained the difference between equality and equity in our schools, and asked attendees to envision equity in our schools. They wrote Post-it note responses to what that would look like for our community and then added their sticky-note voice to an interactive art exhibit spelling out “I love HC Schools” on a wall facing McCallie Ave.

Meanwhile the kids were outside getting their faces painted, decorating giant Jenga blocks, making sidewalk chalk art, playing cornhole, and getting messy with popcorn and ice cream. Many of the students featured in the school videos attended with their families to get a first glimpse at their cinematic debuts.

Explore the Public School Guide here >

Watch the school videos on YouTube here >


Event gallery

School Board Recap: Dec. 15, 2016

Prior to the regularly scheduled school board session, the finance committee met to discuss the school budget. Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Purchasing, Christy Jordan, gave a presentation to the board describing in detail where the school system receives funding and how money is being spent across the county. The finance meeting ended with discussions about contract renewals with independently contracted bus drivers and our contract with Durham School Services. The board agreed to hold a work session on Dec. 28 at 3 PM to further discuss all contracted bussing services. 

The regularly scheduled board meeting began with statements from board members and the superintendent regarding Woodmore Elementary. Steve Highlander, Karitsa Jones, and Kirk Kelly all thanked the community for their continued support and praised Woodmore Principal Brenda Adamson-Cothran for her strength and leadership during this tragedy. A moment of silence was held for the 6 children who lost their lives in the bus crash and prayers were shared for all affected families. There will be a Christmas for Woodmore event on Dec. 17 from 12-4 PM which will include fun activities for the community and presents for over 100 students at Woodmore Elementary.

The Loftis Beta Club was recognized for receiving 1st place in the Power of Tower competition, making them state champions two years in a row. They are qualified to go to Disney World in June to compete nationally. The president of HCEA, Dan Liner, approached to board to discuss the importance of implementing the community schools model in Hamilton County and asked the board to add this to their discussion at their upcoming strategic planning work session in January. Kirsten Johnson, the Harrison Elementary PTA president, addressed the board about the dilapidating conditions at Harrison Elementary. She described hazardous conditions including sewage backup, faulty heating systems, chipping lead paint, and lack of space for classroom activities. District 4 board member, Tiffanie Robinson, agreed to host a work session to prioritize facility repairs, and student board member, D’Andre Anderson, applauded the teachers at Harrison Elementary for continuing to be exemplary educators despite their working conditions.

All items on the agenda were approved which included a vote on the selected calendar for SY 2017-18, the second and final reading of Board Policy 5.305, and the renaming of the PALS Center. Interim Superintendent Kirk Kelly walked the school board through the updated TN Report Card available on and discussed the iZone plan the school system has begun to implement in the 5 priority schools across Hamilton County. The iZone plan includes strategies such as: increased truancy officers, additional bussing options, a PATHS program to improve college and career readiness through literacy, ACT bootcamp, a WAY program for students who don’t fit into the regular school day, a new mentoring program for new teaches, community school expansion, principal coaches, and a new principals network.

The meeting closed with a discussion about municipalities wanting to breakaway from the Hamilton County school district. Assistant Superintendent of Student Services, Lee McDade, has met with one of the municipalities and has offered assistance in investigating the breakaway. Many board members voiced that they believe our system is stronger together and that we should all work to support an informed decision.

The next agenda session will be on January 12th at 5 PM. There will be a work session prior to the meeting at 4 PM to discuss the superintendent selection process with Coleman Lew and Associates.


School Board Watch Blog: November 17, 2016

In this edition of UnifiEd’s School Board Watch Blog, we will take a look at the agenda for the November 17th regularly scheduled session of the Hamilton County School Board Meeting. The meeting will be held in the Hamilton County School Board Meeting Room at 3074 Hickory Valley Road and is set to begin at 5:30 PM. We will live tweet @UnifiEdHC, follow along at #HCSchools.

To see the entire agenda with supporting documents click here.

Hot Topics:

  • First Reading of Board Policy 5.305 – Family and Medical Leave: Provisions are being added to the Family and Medical Leave policy that states an employee may submit any form of medical documentation to Human Resources to have leave authorized under FMLA. In addition, the School District is able to designate leave as FMLA under their discretion if they feel adequate medical documentation or information was provided to the District. This policy change provides an important area of clarification for the system regarding medical documentation.

Field Trips

  • CSAS Upper and Hixson High School will participate in band and orchestra related field trips.
  • Brainerd High School, Hixson High School, Signal Mountain Middle High School, Central High School, East Hamilton School, Red Bank High School, and Sale Creek Middle High  will participate in sports related field trips.
  • CSLA will participate in a travel related field trip.
  • Hixson High will participate in a college and leadership related field trip.
  • Signal Mountain Middle High School, Lookout Valley Middle High School, and Sale Creek High will participate in Model UN or Youth in Government related field trips.
  • East Ridge High School, Ooltewah High School, and Sequoyah High School will participate in competitive Hot Rodding and JROTC related field trips.
  • Brown Middle School will participate in an American government related field trip.


  • Approval sought to purchase restroom panels for Washington Alternative School in the amount of $15,665 from Service Systems.
  • Approval sought for Brainerd High School to contract with Reading Plus for a total of $2,166 from their Title I budget.
  • Approval sought for Sequoyah High School to contract with Reading Plus for a total of $5,500 from their Title I budget.
  • Approval sought to amend contract with Stellar Therapy Services, LLC for nursing services reimbursement for HCDE. The reimbursement is for Medicaid eligible students through Stellar Therapy.

Conferences and Consultants:

  • Approval sought from the Principal at Orchard Knob Elementary for the consultant agreement with Jessica Kaminski for a total of $9,600.00 from the iZone Federal budget. The consultancy will work on professional development for teachers aimed at increasing student achievement in literacy.

Financial Report

  • Presentation of the monthly financial report comparing actual year-to-date expenditures to the original adopted budget and the year-to-date amended budget from up to September 2016.

Budget Amendments

The following budget amendments for Self-Funded Programs for FY2017 are recommended for School Board approval:

  • Therapy Services Self-Funded Program, with a net increase of $300,000
  • Character Education Self-Funded Program, with a net increase of $26,482
  • Photography Self-Funded Program, totaling $400,000
  • Ochs-Oakes Self-Funded Program, totaling $2,250

First Reading of Board Policy

  • Board Policy 5.305 – Family and Medical Leave: Provisions are being added to the Family and Medical Leave policy that states an employee may submit any form of medical documentation to Human Resources to have leave authorized under FMLA. In addition, the School District is able to designate leave as FMLA under their discretion if they feel adequate medical documentation or information was provided to the District. This policy change provides an important area of clarification for the system regarding medical documentation.

Administrative and Business Matters

  • Dr. Lee McDade will recommend the approval of the 2016-2017 Local Education Agency (LEA) Compliance Report. The TN Department of Education requires that local school boards certify that they are in compliance with TN and State Board of Education rules and regulations. The compliance report was reviewed by HCDE staff.
  • Justin Witt will address the school board to recommend approval of a request by Crown Castle to extend our current lease agreements for cell towers at Orchard Knob Middle School, CCA, and Central High School. The current agreement regarding cell towers will expire in 2023 and the base rental fee is $1,064.00. After discussing different options HCDE mutually agreed to extend the lease to 2043 with a new base rental fee of $1,500.00. The new rate will increase by 2% annually.

Important Dates and Events

  • December 8th, 2016: Board Agenda Work Session at 5:00pm in the Board Room
  • December 15th, 2016: Quarterly Session Board Meeting at 5:00pm in the Board Room
  • December 16th, 2016: Last day of Classes
  • December 19th-30th 2016: Winter Break

HCDE Budget for 2017

In April, the School Board approved the 2017 Hamilton County Department of Education (HCDE) Budget. The new budget proposes an increase in school spending by $33,793,866 requesting a total of $385,051,862 for Hamilton County public schools. This year, our school system budget is linked to student outcomes focused on system wide priorities including: workforce readiness, improved literacy, and a renewed focus on priority schools. We applaud the school system for dedicating time, resources, and money towards ensuring there are highly effective teachers in the classrooms of our most vulnerable students.


FY 2017 Budget Overview

Base Budget Starting Point:                       $351,257,996

Budget for Strategic Focus Areas:             $  33,793,866

Total Requested Budget for FY 2017:       $385,051,862




Workforce Readiness Priorities: In Hamilton County, 94% of students with Career/Technical Education (CTE) concentrations matriculate to postsecondary placements related to their concentration. Currently, 1 in 30 (3%) students complete a certificate. In 3 years, Hamilton County would like to see 1 in 7 (14%) students complete a certificate.

Budget Allocation: $19,166,917

Literacy Across the Curriculum Priorities: In 2015, 45% of our students were reading on grade level. In 3 years, HCDE would like to see 60% of students reading on grade level. In 2015, the average ACT Composite Score was 19. In three years, HCDE hopes the average ACT score moves up to 21 enabling students to qualify for the HOPE Scholarship.


         Budget Allocation: $7,205,059

Priority School Focus: HCDE wants to put more focus on priority schools in our county by: extending support beyond iZone schools to all schools near priority status, increase instructional supports tailored to specific priority schools and student populations, strategically recruit and retain highly effective teachers and leaders in priority schools, increase support for the growing English Language Learners (ELL) population, and build connections for students and families to basic medical care through telemedicine and clinic-in-schools program.  

Budget Allocation: $5,713,080

System Wide Priorities: HCDE is requesting an increase in the Capital Maintenance Budget for building repairs and maintenance, contractual increases for transportation plus 2 additional buses and the remaining cost of 4 buses bought last year, and the increase in utilities to pay for increased electricity and water/sewer rates.

Budget Allocations: $1,708,810


Hamilton County is at a crossroads for change and the Hamilton County Department of Education is taking a step in the right direction with this year’s school budget by aligning dollars spent with student outcome goals. The Department of Education will present the budget to County Commission for final approval in May. Stay tuned for more information.