Thursday, November 27, 2008

Battle between mayor and school board for control of schools is one I hope both lose

The Tennessean tells the citizenry that Mayor Karl Dean and the school board are in a fight for control of the direction of Metro schools.

This battle is one of the blind fighting the blind, flailing about with no definitive action that would rescue children being left behind in droves in the supposed "Athens of the South".

It is an embarrassment of massive moral dimensions, no matter how many Monday Night Football games are held here.

Dean is a protege of former Nashville Mayor Phil Bredesen, who implemented a political curriculum based on keeping white parents from fleeing in greater numbers to the suburbs. But Core Curriculum failed, and it put the district in its position now of failing to meet No Child Left Behind standards and being put under state control.

Dean, however, believes he can run Nashville schools like New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Dean is not even in Bloomberg's league. He has the clout of billion-dollar portfolio to back his demands. And he used it to get rid of term limits recently so he could run for a third term.

The board in turn is owned by Chamber of Commerce. And its concern for the children of Nashville is based on keeping taxes low first. The school board now must deal with cutting $1 million from its current budget, which means employees including teachers may be laid off or their salaries cut. Schools may be closed. Programs like music may be eliminated.

Dean has brought in a much ballyhooed Teaching for America(TFA) program, which recruits teachers for three years to stay in a school district's toughest schools. Yet how many of those educators will want to come here if salaries are being cut? In addition, TFA has only a 40 percent retention rate for its teachers after three years in a school district. So the child gets left behind again, this time with abandonment.

But the city is going to put millions of dollars in tax money to save the Music City Bowl, which has been a financial failure since its inception 10 years ago.

Nashville is a city woefully out of balance when it comes to its priorities. And its mayor and school board will engage in a fight in which the children -- usually black, Hispanic and poor -- lose once again.

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