Saturday, April 25, 2009

Mayor, school board on collision course: How can Nashville build a $1 billion convention center when it is cutting teachers for failing schools?

In this ongoing tale of two cities, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean on Thursday described the "about to wet his pants" need for the city to build a $1 billion convention center with a hotel.

Entertainer Keith Urban, who provided entertainment for the State of the City speech, even chimed in about the need. I didn't even know he and Nicole Kidman lived in Davidson County.

Yet a day later in what is supposed to be the Athens of the South, the Metro school board was forced to pass $15 million in cuts on the working poor employed by the district and teachers. Yes, teacher positions will be cut in a school district that has failed to meet No Child Left Behind Act standards for five years.

More, the board discussed the need to cut another $20 million because the mayor does not want to do the politically unpopular thing of raising property taxes. And with the recession, there certainly is not enough sales tax to go around. So let's get rid of textbooks while we're at it.

How can teachers bet cut when the district is out of compliance with federal education law? This is a gross civil rights violation. Is there any attorney and organization out there willing to go to federal court to ask this question and slap a TRO on Dean's budget and his convention center plan?

The gross immorality of pushing a convention center -- that the Nashville Scene in its most recent edition proved would not meet pie in the sky economic projections -- while cutting teacher positions and boosting class sizes is truly Bredesen-like. And it is appropriate that Dean is Bredesen's student when it comes to compassionate government.

But the movers and shakers in this community don't send their kids to public schools anyway, or manage to get them into magnet ones while the majority of Nashville children flounder in a dysfunctional education system.

If the people of Nashville allow this tale of two cities to continue, they'll pay the price with higher crime, more exodus of families and schools that never will be turned around. Folks, you only get one chance to do the right thing.

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