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Newly elected and inaugurated Mayor Tim Kelly recently announced his plans to support public education within the city of Chattanooga. Much of his plans seem to lie in continuing work that...
was already outlined to happen and escalating the support for programs. One of the main parts of Mayor Tim Kelly’s education plan is for the City of Chattanooga to partner with Hamilton County Schools to continue supporting Future Ready Institutes within inner-city schools. Although the city relinquished its responsibility for the public school system in Hamilton County in 1997, the mayor still wants to take some steps to support the education system as it exists through Hamilton County Schools. Kelly has outlined other strategies that include supporting the expansion of child care programs to allow for more openings within the city and lower costs for parents for these programs. These seem to be two of the issues which Kelly’s plans focus most strongly on, unsurprisingly since they are some of the biggest in education over which he has any jurisdiction. To support the expansion of Pre-K and childcare options within the city, the Mayor has several specific action steps to follow his plan, including inventorying the number of and cost of Pre-K seats around the city from different types of Pre-Schools and creating a task force to plan for more, affordable Pre-K in the years to come. It is refreshing to hear the discussion in education shift to equitable opportunities early in students’ educational careers. It is rare to hear HCS discuss Pre-K since they operate relatively few Pre-K services. I personally think that HCS should offer more Pre-K services because it provides a foundational early start for kids. Still, it also helps parents with child care and ensures that students are coming into Kindergarten prepared, regardless of how much they may have learned at home.
Many of the other specific actions that Kelly has released relate more towards supporting Trade Schools and Future Ready Institutes. This includes increased wages for Head Start teachers, creating a partnership between HCS and the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce, and expanding public transit coverage. All of these steps will take needed action towards developing equitable access to education within our county and ensuring career pipelines for students as they leave High School. It is certainly strange to hear bodies other than HCS talking about supporting Future Ready Institutes, but having community support behind them has always been one of my favorite aspects of the concept of Future Ready Institutes. I’m excited by the idea of these institutes getting the continued support and resources that they deserve and have the opportunity to continue to expand in the coming years.
In addition to his announced plans specifically for education, Mayor Kelly is also planning to continue the Mayor’s Youth Council that was started under his predecessor, Mayor Berke. The Mayor’s Youth Council operates similarly to the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council; however, it also involves students from Chattanooga’s private schools and centers on students within the city limits of Chattanooga (although others, like myself, are allowed to join regardless of living just outside of Chattanooga’s limits). I was a member of the Mayor’s Youth Council during my senior year, and it was an excellent opportunity to get to know fellow students from Chattanooga, talk about the problems being faced in our community from a youth-led perspective, and brainstorm solutions to these problems in different facets of our community. I’m really glad that Mayor Kelly plans to continue the council as it seems promising in creating positive change for our city in the future. From brainstorming ideas to combat climate change in our area to encouraging Chattanoogans to comply with mask mandates and stay safe during the peaks of the pandemic, the council has a lot to offer the future of Chattanooga, and I can’t wait to see where it will go under Mayor Kelly. However, I hope to see the council move towards action steps on its issues, as all that we did on the council was talk about the problems and brainstorm ideas, never taking actual actions.
Overall, Mayor Tim Kelly has outlined some really great actions to support education within the City of Chattanooga. Many other issues are occurring within education in Hamilton County that needs to see solutions like these, but most of them are simply not things under city control. I’m glad to see that Tim Kelly has made plans around education because it is still something that’s important to focus on as Mayor of Chattanooga, but I’m still left thinking that his plans could be a bit more ambitious and defined. However, I know that his office simply doesn’t allow that much attention to go to education, which I understand. At the end of the day, these are changes that our city does need, even if they aren’t changes that are for the most urgent issues within education, as can be seen in Hamilton County Schools.