U.S. Mayor Article

Chattanooga Community Partnership Offers Pay and Housing Incentives for Teachers


April 29, 2002


Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker recently announced a unique community effort to offer low interest mortgages to teachers in the Chattanooga area. This initiative builds on the Mayors Community Education Alliance (CEA). The CEA is a team of fifteen corporate leaders recruited by the mayor to come up with strategies for improving education at nine Chattanooga area schools listed on the states "on notice" list. The members came up with a pay incentive plan that offers an additional $5,000 a year to high performing teachers who agree to teach in one of the nine designated schools and salary bonuses of $10,000 to principles whose schools meet the high performance standards.

The Community Education Alliance in partnership with Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise, Inc., and two area foundations, put another piece of the incentive program in place by offering additional housing incentives for teachers.

This program offers up to $10,000 in equity to teachers and a low interest second mortgages to all teachers who teach in one of the designated schools.

Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise, Inc. is a private non'profit organization by the City of Chattanooga and local foundations to provide financing for low income residents. CNE's mission is to stimulate neighborhood revitalization and ensure that all Chattanoogans have the opportunity for decent, fit and affordable housing.

The Lyndhurst Foundation and the Benwood Foundation in partnership with CNE agreed to put up a total of $600,000 to fund the equity portion of this program for educators. Teachers in these elementary schools are provided an opportunity to purchase a home, in one of nine designated downtown neighborhoods, with a down payment of only $3,000. The buyer is eligible to take advantage of a second mortgage at a special CNE rate of 6 percent for 30 years to cover 20 percent of the appraised value (maximum loan of $25,000). Through the Lyndhurst and Benwood grants, those teachers buying one of these homes are enrolled in the equity program. This program essentially eliminates 10 percent of the total cost of the home (including rehabilitation expenditures) providing equity of up to $10,000. The equity is provided by a zero interest loan totally forgivable over a five year period at 20 percent perMayor Corker has been a driving force behind the initiatives and has worked closely with the business and foundation community to bring about innovative solutions to the city's challenges.

Mayor Corker has been a driving force behind the initiatives and has worked closely with the business and foundation community to bring about innovative solutions to the city's challenges.

"This is just more evidence of the tremendous community we have in Chattanooga. I cannot begin to thank the business and foundation community for their participation in this effort at offering incentives for our teachers, who we believe perform the most noble work in our community—educating our children. Their dedication to improving our community will make an incredible difference in the lives of many children here in Chattanooga," the mayor stated.

While the Mayor does not regulate or have administrative power within the school system, he is committed to doing whatever he can to help improve the level of learning in all Chattanooga schools. "We may not be a part of running the system, but the quality of education in this city is an issue that the Mayor and the City Council have a duty to be involved in. We believe that if we can show success in this targeted way in our most distressed schools we can build support for the entire public education system," the mayor noted.

Corker played a key role in establishing CNE, serving as its founding Chairman. Through the hard work of a diverse group of community participants, CNE has become a national model for neighborhood revitalization, having invested more than $240 million dollars and having helped more than 6,000 families in Chattanooga find decent, fit and affordable housing.

Corker was elected Mayor of Chattanooga in April of 2001. Before running for the Office of Mayor, he served as the Commissioner of Finance for the State of Tennessee under Governor Don Sundquist. In his role as Commissioner he was widely acclaimed for his ability to bring together people to solve problems.

Mayor Corker was enthusiastic about the Community Education Alliance and the participation of Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise. "It shows that good ideas tend to stimulate more good ideas and that's the role of the Mayor's office; to put the idea out and then let the great people of our community run with it. The credit goes to the business and foundation community for wanting to be a part of improving the quality of education in our city."

"For more information about Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise, Inc. or the Community Education Alliance, you may contact Mayor Corker's office at 423-757-5244. CNE also has a website at www.cneinc.org which features information about their organization."

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