School Board Member’s ‘Racist’ Remark Sparks Chattanooga Controversy

The Chattanooga TFP reports that the city’s black leaders — including ministers, county commissioners and Board of Education members – have joined with state Rep. JoAnne Favors in criticizing a Hamilton County school board member for what they say are racist comments about poor children in inner-city schools.
Favors, D-Chattanooga, is calling for school board member Rhonda Thurman to resign and formally apologize for a statement published in Sunday’s Chattanooga Times Free Press.
In the story, Thurman said inner-city schools get too much attention and money without much payoff. Her District 1 is in North Hamilton County, including Soddy-Daisy and Sale Creek
“I don’t think suburban students have been treated fairly,” she said in the story. “Poor people learn. Slaves learned to read. I don’t know why poor people can’t learn to read and write. I have a lot of poor people in my family, but they are still expected to learn.”
Reaction to the comments was swift and loud, according to Favors. She said she has heard from people all over the state about what Thurman said. The Democratic lawmaker said Thurman’s comments were “disheartening” and showed that she is an ineffective board member.
“Many citizens in this community find it quite alarming that freshman school board members and some county commissioners are so heavily influenced by the least educated among them,” Favors said Wednesday during a news conference at the school system’s central office. “They must remember that an empty wagon makes the most noise.”
The school board’s two black members, George Ricks and Jeffrey Wilson, attended the news conference along with Warren Mackey and Gregory Beck, the two black Hamilton County commissioners.
Reached for comment after Favors’ news conference, Thurman refused to speak to the Times Free Press.
“They can read what I have to say somewhere else,” she said by telephone.
She told other media she won’t step down and that she said nothing wrong.

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