IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT THE CHILDREN. THEY’RE IN CHARGE. I should thank the city council for this opportunity to repeat a column instead of come up with something new. With these folks, it’s the same old stuff. I wrote the gist of this two years ago when we were three years in arrears paying our school children the $57.4 million we owe them.
Now it’s five years and seven new school systems in the works later, and we still haven’t paid our kids back. After the court – and the appeals court – said we had to, what’s it going to take to make us stop acting like snot-nosed little brats and behave?
It’s a good thing they’ve outlawed paddling because it would be a real spectacle to see the whole council chamber get one.
When I was about 8, Johnny Edgar swung upside down on our chinning bar and, unbeknownst to him, 75 cents fell out of his pocket. A fortune. Found money. He went home. I went to McLaurine’s Bakery – éclair, 8 cents – then to Normal Drug Store – root beer float, 10 cents – and then a one-horn-blast, two-brake-slam dash across Highland to the Dairy Queen – banana split, 50 cents. After tax, a balance of 3 cents. After three jawbreakers, zero balance.
I had earned a stomachache that I thought would prove fatal so, with nothing to lose, I confessed to my mother. When you hurl in front of your mother, the evidence is undeniable.
I was marched to Johnny’s house, apologized in front of his family, and gave him his 75 cents back out of Mom’s purse. I was sent to my room to, “Just wait until your father gets home.” The stomachache was then replaced with one a bit south and to the rear.
In 2008, the city council took $57 million, give or take a jawbreaker, of the schools’ lunch money. Then they gave all of us a big banana split of a property tax cut and root beer float raises all over town – and a public education stomachache so big the county’s been hurling ever since.
It’s time to say to the city council, “Just wait until your father gets home.”
The courts told them to march right over to the school board and give them their money back. They haven’t. Yet they have third grade hissy fits, full of overacted righteous indignation, saying, “Trust us, we’ll pay.” The new unified school board is unified in one regard. They don’t trust the city council.
Because of their childish gesture to avoid responsibility by simply ducking it, the city’s had to endure budget crisis after budget crisis just trying to get back to where we were before the council stuffed themselves with school money.
I had to pay my mother back that 75 cents out of my allowance and I never had another banana split from the Dairy Queen. And it wasn’t the amount that got me spanked; it was the taking of it.
Paying it back is simply right. Painful. Sacrificial. And right.
I’m a Memphian, and we need adult guidance.
Dan Conaway is a lifelong Memphian, longtime adman and aspiring local character in a city known for them. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.