The economy is so bad in Clay County, Tennessee that school is canceled indefinitely.
The decision to ebb budget concerns by shutting academic doors came down on Thursday when Clay County Director of Schools Jerry Strong quite literally decided to lock the doors of the county’s schools. He was particularly concerned with partially unfunded government mandates and what he believed to be the effects of Obamacare making it impossible to keep funds in the green.
“Clay County’s inability to generate the revenue to offset the mandates is what’s caused this to come to a head,” Strong said Thursday. “The straw that broke the camel’s back was really the Affordable Care Act for us and it has made it very difficult for us to have our employees properly covered and meet the mandates of the law. That was going to require new revenue and the commission felt like they couldn’t do that through a tax increase.”
Clay County is, thankfully, a small district in northern Tennessee with three schools including kindergarten through eighth grade and high school. In total. some 1,150 students are affected by the school closure, which Strong hopes to fix by November.
According to the State Education Department, students are required to attend class for 180 days a year so any time missed to fix the budget crisis may have to be made up once school is supposed to end.
Strong’s cavalier actions are not supported by everyone in the county.
County Commissioner Parrish Wright alleges that the district has enough money to make it through to the end of the school year, which would be a much more logical time to address the budget.
"Either way it goes, Clay County has lost,” Wright said. “Nobody’s won.”
For Strong, who hasn’t responded for a request for comment from The Daily Beast, the issue simply cannot wait.
“The choice was to either close schools and deal with this now, or keep schools open and spend ourselves until we have nothing in our fund balance at all,” he told the Greenfield Reporter.
But the schools can’t remain locked for long. The state could come in and urge Clay County to raise the property tax before the end of the year or simply have them use the remaining budget in their coffers to keep school open for students to take the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program tests.
Strong is just biding his time until school administrators and county officials can figure out a plan to stop treading water before it’s too late.
Until then, school’s out.