By Steve Hunley
Tomorrow the people of Knox County will cast their ballots for virtually every office in local government. The decisions made by the voters will affect us for years to come; judges and the attorney general have eight-year terms. Yet perhaps the most important races are those for the Knox County Board of Education. Not even Mayor Tim Burchett presides over a bigger budget than that of the schools. The Board of Education is spending over half a billion dollars yearly on our schools, accounting for roughly two-thirds of every tax dollar collected in Knox County. Not only does the Board spend most of the tax money collected in our community, they are charged with effectuating the policies that daily affect our most precious resource: our children.

The races for the Board of Education have drawn more attention in this election cycle than past decades as folks are figuring out just what important posts these really are. The campaigns for the Board can be summarized as being about one thing: CONTROL. The establishment in Knox County helped to pick Jim McIntyre as our superintendent, a man who has only one year of actual teaching experience.  Yet McIntyre is telling real teachers how to teach, all the while throwing every possible obstacle in their way as they attempt to teach. McIntyre has bragged about our increasing graduation rates, but when questioned about preparation rates (those rates indicating how many of our students are prepared to further their educations or join the workforce), he mumbles, mutters, seemingly unable to grab one of his usual glittering generalities out of thin air. In fact, McIntyre ended his virtual town hall meeting last week thirty minutes early rather than address the tough questions about preparation rates.

Yearly, McIntyre announces a new slogan to impress us; “Excellence for All Our Children” or “Excellent For Every Child.” We are promised that the school system will partner with “stakeholders,” develop a “culture of excellence” and a host of other glittering generalities that shine like dead mackerel in the moonlight. Yet there are never any specifics.

The incumbents seeking reelection to the Board have very little to campaign on, except for their rubber stamp devotion to McIntyre and his agenda. They can only hope the illusion of improved graduation rates impress the voters enough to leave them in charge of a system where parents are becoming increasingly dissatisfied and their employees are in open rebellion. Improved graduation rates are meaningless in the face of the shocking number of our youngsters who are NOT prepared to go on and further their education or get a job. Those numbers are not only shocking, but also frightening. What difference does it make if we graduate 100% of our students, if only 21% of them are prepared to go on to college or get a job? Just what have we accomplished? The purpose of education is educating our children so that they can become productive, taxpaying citizens, not excelling at taking tests or participating in whatever fad McIntyre wants everyone to follow next. There’s really only the one true test and that is going on to get a college education or a good job. Anything less is failure.

And yet McIntyre and his puppet Board have consistently asked for more and more of your money and higher and higher taxes while producing less and less.

The establishment in our town has an elitist mentality, meaning they will tell us what is good for us, as well as what we should do. These elitists know what is best for the rest of us peons and we should never have the temerity to question that. The usual suspects, McIntyre, the Chamber elites and the Knoxville News Sentinel, always come together to sing the same song to lull us all to sleep.

It’s hardly surprising the elitists trotted out former UT President Joe Johnson to plead in a recent News Sentinel Op Ed that the Board incumbents be reelected. This is an act of desperation. And desperate people do desperate things. Change is in the air and the elitists are trying to do anything to stop it. They are terrified that they are going to lose control of the Board to we the people.

The Board of Education is in dire need of change. You have an opportunity to vote tomorrow and make a REAL change that will echo for the next decade. Say no to McIntyre and yes to allowing our teachers to do their jobs and elect Board members accountable to YOU, not McIntyre.

Vote for the challengers: Amber Rountree in the 9th District, Sally Absher in the 4th District, Terry Hill in the 6th District, and Marshall Walker in the 1st District. You’ll be glad you did and our children deserve no less.