One small county in Tennessee is running out of money, and its Director of Schools has taken it upon himself to address the problem by closing all schools in the middle of the academic year, affecting more than 1,100 students. According to him, it’s all Obamacare’s fault.
“The straw that broke the camel’s back was really the Affordable Care Act for us,” Clay County Director of Schools Jerry Strong told the Greenfield Reporter, “and it has made it very difficult for us to have our employees properly covered and meet the mandates of the law.”
Strong wants the County Commission to increase taxes to get the schools open again by November.
“[Obamacare] was going to require new revenue and the commission felt like they couldn’t do that through a tax increase.”
County Commissioner Parrish Wright says the schools, which have been struggling with budget issues for three years, actually have enough money to stay open through the academic year. A wheel tax referendum comes up for a vote in March, and if it doesn’t pass, officials will still have the same options they have right now.
“It’s going to hurt a lot of people,” Wright said of the school closure, “Either way it goes, Clay County has lost. Nobody’s won.”
He argues that Clay is a “poor, rural county,” and property taxes there are already high by Tennessee standards, so taxing vehicle registration is a better option.
Two students have filed a lawsuit that will be heard Monday, Oct. 19, and a judge has issued an injunction to delay the school closures. Schools are closed this week anyway, for the regular fall break.
The state mandates 180 days of instruction, so the students at the county’s three schools will likely have to make up the closure days at the end of the school year.