First, let’s look at PEF’s own History webpage,
In 1994 Chattanooga city voters voted to turn responsibility for education over to the county, requiring the two systems to merge. At the request of the Hamilton County School Board, PEF surveyed 3,300 area residents and convened 135 community members – educators, civic and government leaders, residents, parents and students – to help shape the vision for the new school system. When the newly consolidated system emerged in 1997, the partnership with PEF continued.Interestingly, Prigohzy is no longer listed as board or staff with PEF. Maybe we should ask them why….
So, what came of all this consolidation in Chattanooga? It must be great, considering PEF’s Board Approved 2005-2010 Strategic Plan for Great Public Schools,
In the years 2005 – 2010, Hamilton County Public Schools will meet or exceed national benchmarks for excellence with continuous, measurable improvement in reading, mathematics, and in the numbers of students who progress smoothly from grade to grade, graduate from high school and go on to college or career-path jobs. Because of this sustained progress, Hamilton County will be recognized among the very best mid-sized public school systems in America. The community will be justifiably proud and more and more people will understand and support the investment necessary for great public schools. The Public Education Foundation will be instrumental in these achievements as a champion of school transformation and will devote its expertise and fundraising capabilities to the Hamilton County Public Schools as a catalyst for bold ideas that create real and positive change.Sounds great!
But an outside study shows a different result. Kontji Anthony wrote for WMCTV, 23 January 2011, Study offers glimpse at possible impact of school consolidation,
A study led by Rhodes College professor Marcus Pohlmann, Ph.D. offers a unique glimpse of the possible impacts of merging Memphis and Shelby County Schools.Educational disruption outside the classroom, lower test scores in the classroom, more racial segregation in the public schools, and bright flight to private schools: those were the actual results of PEF’s plans in Chattanooga and Hamilton County Tennessee. Is that what we want in Valdosta and Lowndes County, Georgia?
The July 2001 study, “School Consolidation: State of Tennessee,” looks at the impact of school mergers in Chattanooga, Knoxville, and Nashville.
Educational disruption appeared to happen outside the classroom in Chattanooga and Knoxville, but the Nashville transition was smooth.
When it came to test scores, Chattanooga’s test scores caused lower averages in both school systems, but test scores improved in the other mergers.
As far as flight is concerned, private school enrollment increased in all three scenarios.
And when it came to race, the Chattanooga merger left less whites, and more blacks in public schools.
It gets better:
According to the study, in all three situations, teachers’ jobs, tenure, pension, and benefits were protected and their salaries increased.Which is good for the teachers, but means taxes went up, without improvement in educational results.
Enrollment increased in the Chattanooga and Knoxville mergers, and decreased in the Nashville consolidation.More money won’t come from state or federal sources in the local case here.
School unification in Chattanooga and Nashville yielded more state and federal dollars, but the Knoxville merger brought in less money.
More about costs:
Costs increased in all three scenarios, but the study indicates the higher layout would have happened with or without consolidation.So consolidation didn’t save money.
Where did the increaseed financial layouts come from?
And then there are taxes. The study shows taxes dropped for Chattanooga residents, but increased in the county. The Knoxville increases were not all related to school consolidation. Meanwhile, Nashville and Davidson County taxes increased as a direct result of school consolidation.So county residents here don’t get to vote, but taxes would go up.
To summarize the results of the advice Steve Prigohzy’s PEF gave the consolidated school system in Chattanooga and Hamilton County:
- There was educational disruption outside the classroom.
- Test scores went down in the classroom.
- The schools overall became more racially segregated.
- Bright flight went to private schools.
- Public school teachers were better off, but educational results did not improve accordingly.
- Public school costs went up.
- State and federal funds paid part of the difference, but we can’t expect that.
- Taxes went up for county residents, even though they didn’t get to vote for or against consolidation.
To be continued….