The Schoolhouse Heist

Unifi-Ed out of Chattanooga has this to say about legislation related to Signal Mountain creating an independent school district:

Tennessee Senate Bill 1755 was proposed on January 23, 2018 by State Senator Todd Gardenhire. The bill proposes that all property and assets in a municipality that belong to a county school system would be forcibly transferred to the municipality if it forms an independent school district.

There are a variety of consequences of this bill, if it passes, that run counter to the desires expressed by the Hamilton County community through the recent process of the forming the Action Plan for Educational eXcellence (APEX Project).

Reverse Robin Hood Effect

Under this bill, the state would force the transfer of assets from one entity to another without compensation. Taxpayers own their schools, yet this bill would allow for their property to be seized. Historically across the state, and within our own community today, the municipalities that have formed independent districts have been affluent suburbs.

This situation creates a transfer of wealth from lower income neighborhoods to more prosperous communities. It is, in effect, a “reverse Robin Hood” effect — stealing from the poor to give to the wealthy.

READ MORE on this attempt to force the transfer of school district assets without compensation. The basic premise that the entire county’s taxpayers paid for the buildings would seemingly dictate that any creation of an independent district would result in at least some proportional compensation back to the larger district.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport


2 thoughts on “The Schoolhouse Heist

  1. I venture to disagree with the “reverse Robin Hood” premise, as the citizens of Signal Mountain have paid the same county taxes that built all school facilities. Actually, given the disparity in property values, they probably paid for more than their share of the facilities in less-affluent areas.

    It’s true that municipal systems tend to form in more affluent suburbs, but those residents continue to contribute to the county tax base that supports ALL schools in the county.

    • it’s unlikely that the citizens of Signal Mountain alone contributed ALL the revenue needed to support/maintain the facilities located there. Taxpayers across Hamilton County contributed, no doubt. As such, it seems a logical premise would be to have Signal Mountain pay a price reduced by the proportion of total taxes Signal Mountain residents pay. For example, if Signal Mountain contributes 20% of all tax revenue in Hamilton County, they would pay fair market value for the properties less 20%. Keep in mind, too, that the properties have been maintained by tax revenue from the entire county as well. It seems problematic to simply say if you wish to start your own school district, you automatically receive all the buildings located in your city with no compensation to the larger group of taxpayers who helped build and support those buildings. Forming a municipal district also has implications for the county’s BEP allocation.

      As you point out, forming a municipal district carries a cost — if you choose to separate from the county, of course you’ll still pay county taxes a portion of which will support all the schools in the county.

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