Two Hamilton County Board of Education members are rejecting calls for racial and socioeconomic integration in schools.

Rhonda Thurman and Joe Smith, who represent District 1 and District 3 respectively, are pushing back against a report from nonprofit education organization UnifiEd.

The organization’s Action Plan for Educational Excellence Project calls for addressing inequities in schools and aims to end socioeconomic and racial segregation.

“[UnifiEd] calls for using busing to promote integration,” Thurman said in a prepared statement. “UnifiEd may think that busing is a new and innovative idea but, the truth is that busing was tried in the ‘60’s, ‘70’s and ‘80’s. It did not work then and it will not work now, I don’t care what the research says.”


UnifiEd is currently co-hosting a series of debates with Chattanooga 2.0 for the five contested school board elections, scheduled for the county August general election.

Two debates have been held, two are scheduled and one remains to be scheduled.

Smith said that UnifiEd is asking potential school board members for their plans on integration to ensure equity.

He also said:

I read every word of the report after we received it in April, and I have talked with the education leaders in my district about this policy. I can’t support what it says. I am not sure how UnifiEd can say this represents Hamilton County because I know it doesn’t represent what the people of District 3 believe.

Hamilton County is a conservative place, and UE has shown itself to be way far to the left on what they believe.

Below are the areas of focus from the UnifiEd report.

Above are the APEX Policy Platform issue areas for which UnifiEd will develop actionable plans. (Screenshot: APEX report)