Four Chattanooga-based foundations help fund the city’s left-leaning UnifiEd, according to a letter The Chattanoogan published Monday.
The author of the letter, April Eidson, listed the Benwood Foundation, the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga, the Lyndhurst Foundation, and the Footprint Foundation as UnifiEd donors.
Hamilton County Commissioner Tim Boyd linked to Eidson’s letter on his Facebook page Monday.
Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga spokesman Joda Thongnopnua told The Tennessee Star Monday that Eidson’s letter lacked some important context.
“I want to be clear. We supported the (UnifiEd) 501C3. They have a 501C4 as well. That is a more political organization, but all our money went explicitly toward the 501C3,” Thongnopnua said.
“We did that to fund some pretty specific non-controversial things like successfully advocating for the adoption of some changes that improved the transparency and accountability of things like school board meetings and putting the budget online. They also did these community input sessions that engaged about 2,600 local residents and that kind of community voice where we invested in UnifiEd and other groups that work to make sure every kid has access to a great public education regardless of what zip code they are in.”
No one at the Benwood Foundation or the Lyndhurst Foundation returned The Star’s repeated requests for comment Monday.
Contact information for the Footprint Foundation was apparently unavailable online.
On his Facebook page, Boyd asked his followers not to dismiss Eidson’s letter.
“Just absorb the documented numbers in this post about all the money that has flowed in to Unified, which is nothing but a political operation aimed at replacing conservatives with liberals on the school board and County Commission,” Boyd wrote.
“It’s amazing the superintendent, county mayor, school board, Republicans, conservatives and chamber buy into all of this.”
As The Star reported last month, many people in Hamilton County believe UnifiEd members orchestrated an unsuccessful attempt to add 350 new positions to the county school system, at a cost of $34 million, and at taxpayer expense. As reported, many of those proposed positions were for social workers and new administrators.
Most school board members voted for the plan, but most county commissioners said no. Going along with the plan might have required raising property taxes.
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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo “Tim Boyd” by Tim Boyd. Photo “Rhonda Thurman” by Hamilton County Schools. Background Photo “UnifiEd” by UnifiEd.