Wednesday, September 14, 2005


Stunning may be the only word to describe the reaction of Nashville proponents of the sales-tax increase referendum that failed 70% to 30% margin yesterday. Anger will probably rise, shortly.

The time for leaders to come to the forefront with sleeves rolled up and bringing a commitment to do the hard work of reworking the budget has come. Hand wringers and whiners should just stay home, you'll only waste their time. If our elected officials (school board and council members) are unwilling to do this job they need to step down.

If you want to give them some help you can read the current budget at the MNPS site. I thought that starting my reading with what the MNPS calls "Budget Highlights" would have been helpful before actually reading the numbers, but I found it to be mostly PR. It was chock full of phrases that sound good but really don't mean a thing. It's as if, lacking hard facts and numbers to justify, like junior highers, they padded the assignment with extra words and bigger printing to bring it up to the required number of pages or keywords the teacher required.

  • Raise the bar and close the gap to produce exemplary graduates from every school.
  • helping them make greater academic achievement
  • to facilitate a successful transition to high school
  • increase promotion rates
  • appropriate level of psychology testing
  • highly successful program that helps underrepresented students
  • to expand this successful program
  • strengthen streamlining staff and improving technology support
  • *pending MNEA negotiations
  • Positioning our resources and operations to fulfill our vision for all our students
  • Build community ownership through trust and confidence
As I began to read certain phrases kept coming up again and again. No, they weren't curriculum, teacher salaries, utility expenses or even 'supplies' they were the words transportation, feeding, discipline, health and counseling. Well, obviously, we spend a great big chunk of that $570 million budget on stuff that isn't really education. Things I think exceed any mandate the government may have to educate its citizenry.

Some comments in the local papers are of concern to me.

Nashville Tomorrow's Kendall Poole: "We're disappointed that our message wasn't received, but we know it's not an easy proposition for voters to accept, voting a tax hike on themselves."
Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell in the context of the multiple votes that were required to obtain our metropolitan form of government seemed to be saying that it took a couple of votes to get the metro government and so the same will happen with this issue. "It will happen again sooner than most people imagine possible. You keep the faith for these kids and for our seniors."
Dewey Branstetter described as an attorney who is considering a run for mayor is quoted as saying: "People usually will not vote a tax increase, and that's what we elect representatives to do. We elect representatives to fund budgets." From the Tennessean.

So let's see if I'm following this correctly, we'll keep voting until we get the results we want, spending a half a million dollars every time. And we'll do an end run around the citizens by going to elected representatives to get this money.

The best quote may come from Steve Glover, the government liaison for the district's Parent Advisory Council. "Unfortunately, there were things we couldn't control."

Like voters. Thank goodness.


George Rand said...

Excellent commentary(as always)!
When the budget was first before the council I attempted, as you, but was overwhelmed by the task of sorting through the propaganda in the hope(vain?) of finding any meaningful data. We now have about 9 months, so let's roll up our sleeves and get to work. What about it Nathan, Bob, Blake, and Ben? Where and when? I'd also welcome members of council, if open meetings requirements don't preclude; But then let's have the press and anyone else--Bring it on!

Kay Brooks said...

Thanks for your kind comments, George.

And you're absolutely right. We need to start the budget process MUCH sooner. And that whole, if we don't pass a budget the mayor gets his, isn't right. I was listening to Phil Valentine this morning and I like what he said: if we don't pass a budget it needs to default to the last year's budget. There's bound to be some problem with that, but the discussion has to start somewhere.

George Rand said...

Although I'm sure they were written well before the results of yesterday's referendum were in, the timing is propitious for two articles on McGavock in today's East Davidson edition of Davidson A. M. Even though donated, the expensive looking leather couches and chair and, although only a slivver is visible, the apparently large TV in the school's Hall of Fame speak volumes about the school's priorities. McGavock Cluster Parent Group president Steve Glover said "It gives(McGavock) a professional place for when you hold a meeting or talk about school busines." Like your next illegal distrubution of campaign liteature?
As if this weren't enough, another article reveals these buried gems. McGavock has a student/teacher ratio of 18.9. McGavock also has one guidance counselor for every 342 students. While I'm sure they will point to the remarkable job they are doing with such limited resources, my admittedly small private high school(PDS) originally had a combination guidance counselor, teacher of two classes of Chemistry, and assistant principal for 12 grades. I guess the workload wore him out; his replacement dropped the Chemistry. Note he was also assistant principal. How many assistant principals does McGavock have. More resources or just effective use of existing resources?

Kay Brooks said...

And everyone knows that you can't really be a professional or do a quality professional job without a leather couch. How have I managed all these years without one? :-/

Seriously, I didn't see the article but it may be that the couch was a donation. If it was purchased specifically for the school, I would have thought an investment in books, or chalk or cleaning supplies would have been a wiser move.

What a sad state of affairs when folks actually believe that appearance and stuff is this important.

George Rand said...

The couch was a donation, as stated in the article and my comment. However, it still speaks volumes in that a leather couch in a lounge is more of a priority than computer equipment, lab equipment, etc. They could have said that's a really generous donation, but we really need X more.