VOL. 131 | NO. 41 | Friday, February 26, 2016
Thanks, But Go Save Someone Else
By Dan Conaway
COMING TO SAVE US IS STARVING US. We recently dodged the state Legislature’s latest effort to save us from ourselves, reaching into Shelby County to raise our poor and pitiful children from the depths of despair – Shelby County Schools.
This time around, failing to get vouchers passed statewide, they attempted to pass them just for Shelby County, trying to take 5,000 students out of our lowest-performing public schools and send them, and the $7,000 or so per student that goes with them, to private schools. Ones you’ve heard of, they say, not like the ones that sprung up in double-wides behind and beside churches right after busing. The money will come with oversight, they say, for this private use of public education funds, an offering plate also extended to religion-based schools with the state’s blessing.
Whatever they say, the money would come straight out of already strapped Shelby County Schools.
“All we were doing was trying to help them and unfortunately for another year they’re going to be on the path to failure,” said voucher sponsor Rep. Bill Dunn of Knoxville, 400 miles and another time zone away from this city’s particular public school challenges. Our own Brian Kelsey has been pushing vouchers in the state Senate; always thinking his suburban view is the way the inner city should see things.
Thanks, Bill and Brian, but instead of taking millions more from SCS, just give us the tens of millions you already owe us that we’ll probably have to sue you for, and see what we can do to help 100,000 kids instead of 5,000. Instead of opening new charter schools with the frequency of fast food outlets, let’s keep the ones that are working and cook up something new and exciting in existing kitchens.
When the city and county tried to create one public school system for our kids – all of them – the state passed special legislation only truly applicable in Shelby County, effectively creating seven school systems siphoning off state money, the most involved parents, the deepest pockets and – obviously – the political support leaving the poorest and most challenged even poorer and more challenged.
Then they took even more away, trying to clean up their own mess throwing millions at charters, getting virtually nothing from millions thrown into virtual schools, and they keep trying to spend millions in vouchers to send a few thousand to private schools leaving tens of thousands behind.
SCS is quietly making progress, trying new things and drawing private support in their iZone schools, achieving more than the Achievement School District – another state mandate bleeding millions. Just give us back our students and the money you’re spending on those schemes. Your solutions are simply feeding the problem. We can make a home-cooked meal with what you’re wasting and feed the future.
I’m a Memphian, and I’m asking the Legislature to give our schools resources.
Dan Conaway, a communication strategist and author of “I’m a Memphian,” can be reached at email@example.com.