Monday, December 18, 2006

Cutting line

Great news for the students at Julia Green Elementary in Green Hills--a Frist family donation of several million dollars will allow this school to cut to the front of the capital improvement budget and move it from 68th on the list for repair/renovation to near first.

I'm looking at the Capital Improvement Budget for 2006-2012 provided to me while on the School Board this summer. This document has a renovation score included in it. A survey was done of facilities and each was given various numerical scores based on its condition. Julia Green Elementary was very near the end of the list at 68 of 76. 67 other buildings were in line before Julia Green Elementary. In the first 8 most needing of repair were 4 schools in East Nashville's District 5 alone-Isaac Litton Middle School whose recent lead levels in the drinking water has made headlines, Rosebank Elementary whose electrical problems literally blew out light bulbs and sent shards of glass showering down on people, Maplewood High and Stratford high where I witnessed a serious water leak in a computer lab among other things. On this chart District 5 schools (BOE member Gracie Porter's responsibility) are highlighted.

And so here we have a perfect example of the tension between the haves and the have nots in what is supposed to be a free and equal public education system. Your mileage will vary. This is what makes suggestions like Councilman and mayoral candidate Buck Dozier's to create a billion dollar endowment for the public schools an idea worth discussing. We have got to seriously consider long term funding for maintenance and building projects. Here we have a school in a wealthy section of town, with merely a 25.7% economically disadvantaged population leap frogging ahead of dozens of other schools with thousands of children who have parents who could never dream of cobbling together $30,000 let alone $3 million.

I know full well that the Frist family has been at the forefront of many worthy public projects--my children have benefited from their donations to the zoo and the museum. I do appreciate their generosity, however, I know full well that we have schools with more serious and immediate needs. Julia Green parents may be rightly concerned about the condition of their school but I challenge them to cross the river and see what other people's children are having to live with and without.

This is good news for 37215 but sobering news for 37206 as we wait in line for our turn.

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