Well they had their 'give the BOE taxing authority' rally yesterday and surprise, surprise (not) the news is full of how this would be a good thing for MNPS. Less politics, more accountability, less bickering, yadda, yadda.
I don't understand how having the Mayor, in consultation with the BOE, suggest a budget amount for MNPS and then the Metro Council passes the budget, after budget hearings asking about the needs of MNPS and its past performance (to include how they spent the money they got last time) is LESS accountable than handing over taxing authority to the BOE directly. Please remember, once the Council passes the budget they hand over a lump sum to the BOE who then has the freedom to spend that money as they see fit.
"The public is left out there with no idea which authority to hold accountable,” said Stephen Smith, assistant executive director of the Tennessee School Board Association." City PaperSo the School Board Association instead of educating the public about the process so that we can make wiser decisions about who to hold accountable will "dumb down" the process to ensure this homework isn't too hard for us. Bonus for the education system is they only have to persuade nine people that their pet project is worth reaching into your wallet. Remember, this is all about making it easier for the BOE not easier for taxpayers. I've absolutely no doubt that the BOE doesn't enjoy have to go hat in hand to the Mayor or the Council but that's part of accountability--having to answer for what you've done with what you got before.
And where should it stop? Maybe the police and fire departments should also have taxing authority. The same bogus argument about accountability could be made for them too. Personally, I value public safety over public education. And speaking about public safety...what about the health department? Maybe they shouldn't have to suffer the inconveniences and embarrassment of making a case for their expenditures.
This from the Tennessee County Commissioner's Association back in December of 2008:
"As things stand right now, the Tennessee Constitution would have to be changed in order to directly give school boards taxing authority. That takes time as such a proposal would have to pass two separate General Assemblies and then be approved by the voters. What could happen right away is that the General Assembly could lift the ban on existing school districts converting to special school districts. We have about 14 special school districts in Tennessee currently, but the law has prohibited the creation of any new special school districts for some time. Special school districts levy a property tax pursuant to a private act adopted by the state legislature that sets a tax rate for the school system. So it would take taxing authority away from the county commission, but would give it to state legislators who usually act based on the recommendations of the school board for the special school district." (emphasis added)How does moving this taxing authority up to the state level make our neighborhood schools and our school board more accountable? Looks like they'll have the same excuse they've got now "Well, we could have done better but the Council/Legislature wouldn't let us have the money we needed."
And what we know about education spending is that the BOE will raise taxes to the maximum the Legislature will allow as quickly as it can with nothing but an election every other year for half of the board to slow it down. You'll have nine folks, most of whom are less financial geniuses than the Metro Council, deciding how much of your money you'll have left to feed and clothe and house your family because they see what they do 'for the children' as more important that what you're trying to do for your own children with the money you earned.
According to the Tennessean the MNPS is 40% of the Metro Nashville budget. 40%! We're getting close to the tipping point. This year the BOE wants $620 million dollars to education about 75,000 children. That's about the current quote for the new convention center. And they've been spending about half a billion dollars for several years now. That's $8,000+ for every one of those 75,000 students and that doesn't include state or federal dollars. They've got enough money.
No matter how many times the Chamber and its partners say 'accountability' this plan is less accountability. They are calling black white and white black. They're going to repeat that often, loudly and in full color brochures as long as we'll let them. I say no. Absolutely no. If the goal really is accountability...how about we see those teacher value added scores AND we put the MNPS check register on-line?