Brash. Crass. Obnoxious. Polarizing.
Rhoda Thurman has been called all of those things, and worse.
But whatever Thurman's opponents think of her, she may be the most successful advocate for taxpayers in Hamilton County today.
Her honest, take-no-prisoners approach to representing the students, parents and teachers in her district has earned enemies. But it has also made her a very powerful and effective voice on the Hamilton County School Board.
Thurman says that she was initially drawn to running for the District 1 school board seat in 2004 to defend her belief that "parent's should get to choose what's best for their kids."
Since that time, Thurman has fought for greater transparency and more educational options for students. Perhaps most importantly, she has been the one school board member consistently willing to ask "is that a good use of taxpayers hard-earned money?".
This page respects Rhonda Thurman both as a watchdog for all Hamilton County taxpayers and as an advocate for the students of her district. We wholeheartedly endorse her re-election to the Hamilton County School Board.
Her opponent, Katherine Benefield, calls herself the "diametric opposite" of Thurman. That is true, for both better and worse.
Benefield is endearing, eloquent and brilliant to the point of using her skills as a computer network engineer to perform intelligence work for the federal government during the Gulf War.
But Benefield is also an unabashed mouthpiece for the teachers union. Her tired arguments for more government spending, less teacher accountability and restrictions on school choice come right out of the teachers union playbook. Those ideas haven't served children well in the past and they continue to fail today.
When asked what a successful school should look like, Benefield rightly pointed to KIPP DC, an extraordinarily successful open-enrollment public charter school in D.C. While serving almost exclusively at-risk, low-income minority kids, KIPP DC graduates 93 percent of its students, and four out of five KIPP DC students go on to college.
KIPP DC's success is possible because the school is allowed to bypass many of the traditional, unsuccessful curriculum requirements and place higher expectations on both students and teachers.
While praising KIPP DC's successes, Benefield stated her opposition to bringing more charter schools, like KIPP, to Chattanooga. Benefield apparently wants the outcomes that school choice -- particularly charter schools -- provides to students, without allowing the competition and increased teacher expectations required to make those achievements possible.
In addition, Benefield is critical of policies that tie teacher performance to salary -- even though almost every other profession in the world rewards better performance with better pay.
This page prefers a candidate that wants to reward great teachers, spend money responsibly and create a school district that educates as many children as possible as well as possible -- even if it means scrapping a broken system. That is why we support Rhonda Thurman for District 1 school board.