School Board members attack Unifi-Ed over busing issue

CHATTANOOGA (WDEF) – Two members of the Hamilton County School Board are voicing opposition to a proposal that local schools need to begin busing to “racially and economically integrate.”

That was part of a new policy adopted by Unifi-Ed, a private group created to support public education.

School Board member Joe Smith says “Unifi-ED put out what they call their Apex project and they’re calling for social economic desegregation of our schools. And they’re proposing to fix that we need to be busing kids. And I strongly disagree with that.”

Unifi-Ed, the 4 year old non-profit that involves itself in public school issues, introduced its 55-page APEX Project platform to the School Board in April.

It includes the phrase “to racially and socio-economically desegregate our schools.”

School Board member Rhonda Thurman says “UnifiEd is an organization that says that they want to help the public schools. They come up and they want to give the school board their ideas of what they think needs to happen in Hamilton County schools. And I’m asking the question: Who are these people? All of their directors come from out of town.”

Unifi-Ed executive director Natalie Cook responds “It was disappointing today to see that Ms. Thurman and Mr. Smith, um, are not interested in hearing what their constituents shared with our team at UnifiEd through the process of the APEX project over the course of six months.”

Smith says “If we start bussing kids all over the county, which we’ve done before in the 60’s, 70’s and even into the 80’s, it just does not work.”

Cook says “So, bussing was in the APEX project policy report. It was referenced in terms of transportation being a key component of most solutions to breaking up concentrated poverty in schools, not necessarily looking like the busing of yesteryear.”

Thurman says “If we could go back to open enrollment like we had it when it was the old county school would still work.”

The debate comes as school board members run for re-election.

Unifi-Ed has formed a political action committee, and is sponsoring debates in all school districts

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