Friday, September 16, 2005


On the local public school e-list one member writes in asking why schools are always blamed for the needed tax dollars, why doesn't the council fully fund the schools and make the trash collectors or policemen go begging for money. The poster even goes so far as to say that funding the schools cannot be left to a roll of the dice by referendum and finishes by saying it's clear that Nashvillians don't believe Metro schools are worth the money.

Let me respond:

Schools always get blamed, imo, because the school budget takes up a HUGE portion of the total Metro budget, because there is so little legitimate accountability about where the money goes, because it's a cheap heart tugging trick to say 'it's for the children' when you're a union rep protecting your members paychecks but won't support paying excellent teachers excellent wages, because the schools have muddied their core mission and offended a great number of taxpayers (and parents) in doing so.

A referendum isn't a roll of the dice--at all. It's the most legitimate and open way of discussing the issues, letting the public (taxpayers) test the arguments and then making their decision, which we then live by. If your side didn't win it's not the fault of the voters for not understanding your point of view. The losing side failed to make their case. The objections by some of these tax increase folks that voters cannot/should not be trusted is really scary. It's coming off like democracy can't be trusted. Do we really want to go there?

Further, that whole "education is the most important thing" motto was way wrong and arrogant, to boot. How many people could look face to face with a firefighter or policeman and tell THEM that education was more important than protecting life and limb? We ought to be thankful that they had enough integrity to ignore any of those signs on front lawns of burning homes and chose not put that motto to the test.

I think the poster is on the right track in saying they'll hold their councilman's feet to the fire. The whole budget process needs work. They should also throw plenty of heat Mayor Purcell's way, especially if he intends to run for mayor again. He showed a huge lack of leadership, especially for a guy who put so much emphasis on education in the beginning.

Educating our children is very important. I don't think anyone in Nashville disagrees. We disagree on how it's being done. There are too many other programs and systems that are doing a better job for lots less money so we know that a larger budget isn't necessarily the answer. If the current restructuring means less fluff and a focus on the fundamentals and no more 'pre-literate teens', fewer remedial college courses, and higher TCAP scores it will become clear that the voters were right. But it doesn't really matter if they're right or not. It's their money. They do have a voice in how it's spent. If they won't hand it over for pet projects those pet project proponents will have to fund them from other sources.

Finally, we need to seriously discuss how much and what sort of a 'free' education is required of government. If we've learned anything from TennCare it's that taxpayers cannot afford to give away Cadillac heath care. And while I'm certain not all our schools are giving away anywhere near a Cadillac education, I don't think that should even be the goal. It ought to be a practical, no nonsense and reliable educational vehicle. Something that can get you from point A to point B. But if you want AC, tilt steering, cruise control and white walls take what we've given you , head to the dealership and start trading.

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