Yes, I'm very aware of the terms. I think the concern that Bruce is bringing up in this piece is that Gov. Haslam is violating the state's responsibility to public education by funneling taxpayer money into private institutions. The very part of Tennessee Constitution that you quote may be critical to future lawsuits over vouchers.
Also, I would like to bring into play that Gov. Haslam's point person in the Tennessee House in the voucher debate is one Rep. Dunn (R-Knoxville). This is the same Rep. Dunn that has tried to put the breaks on the MSD Bill. As someone who studies and teaches Game Theory, I find Rep. Dunn's motives very interesting. He is the one pushing the voucher bill, but also appears to be the only Republican fighting against MSDs. I keep asking myself why is he acting this way? Why the conflict?
I may have to put that all on the back burner till next week, because I'm heading out of town to cheer on my alma mater in the tournament.
Everyone had a wonderful Easter weekend!
All of this revolves around Taxes - how they are used for Funding and who may control those Taxes and / or Funding. Don't believe me, let's sum up each of the key players in the school debate.
Municipals - "We are willing to raise our TAXES, to support the funding of our schools, as long as we control them (local control)."
Former MCS Board - "We may have a funding problem, the City of Memphis is not likely to raise their TAXES to cover the shortfall, therefore we give up control of our charter (even though we will control the new Board)"
Shelby County Commission - "We are in control of how schools are funded in this county and may have to raise TAXES if there is a shortfall."
Each one of the players in this game are trying to get maximum benefit for themselves, how TAXES play out is a part of their decision matrix to get to their desired result. You state that you don't mind paying more in taxes, your concern is that you want specific people controlling the funds those taxes raise. To flip this, what would the municipals be thinking if a future Unified School Board was dominate by the County? Would they be pursuing MSDs so badly? I highly doubt it.
If Memphis were the size of Germantown and had all of the same problems and surrendered its charter to a larger school district, would the people of Bartlett be outraged and call for an increase in taxes and independency even though the larger district would still be the dominate player? I doubt people would increase their taxes because control would not change.
No one should be surprised about how the County Commission is acting, each commissioner is acting on how they think the Commission should act, because at the end of the day it will be them that may have to raise TAXES to cover the schools. Ritz believes that the Commission is going to be forced to raise taxes down the road. Many of the commissioners think they will not have to raise taxes if they let the MSDs form. It ALL comes back to TAXES.
It will also be taxes that will either make any future MSDs successful our not. The willingness of the municipals to continue to tax themselves as costs to fund the schools change will determine their future. Remember, that even though many voted for MSDs, fewer voted to increase their taxes to fund them. This indicates that there are some already that are tax averse to shelling out more money. If the municipals have to come calling for more taxes, they may find fewer willing to pay, especially if they see no benefit to themselves.
Bruce's piece here is also about taxes, because it questions taking public funds that are collected through taxes and giving them to private institutions and not the public institutions that we believe our taxes should be going to.
This whole thing is about taxes.
People need to look at how Public Education directly and indirectly impacts their lives and then make a judgement call how much keeping it funded is worth to them.
I for one am thankful that people funded the public schools I attended in my youth. From kindergarten to 12th grade, I attended public schools funded by those in my community. That education allowed me to attend a state-funded university, where my tuition was kept low by statewide taxes that covered us in-state students. This lead me to attended a private school for my graduate studies on a full ride, but I remember that it was the taxes of others that got me to the final phase of my overall education. So now, per the societal contract, I should not complain about paying taxes into an educational system to fund the current and future generations even if I don't have children currently or have children that are no longer in the public schools.
Also, I understand that if I have children and send them to public schools, that unless my property taxes exceed the average cost per student, I am relying on the taxes of others to help educate my children. This also means that my fellow taxpayers are saving me money and allowing me to spend money on other items in my life and not a private school education. In other words, the community is allowing me to live a better life because they are subsidizing my child's education.
How many middle class families would be able to afford their current lifestyle if they had to pay over $10,000 to Briarcrest each year? Better to have them go to Germantown High on the taxpayer's dime for $7500.
The County provides around 44% of overall funding - so $3300 to $3600 - per student. So unless I own a house in the $300,000+ range, my Shelby County Property taxes won't cover my child's expense to the County. Oddly, I may be able to afford that $300,000 home because I am not paying the $10,000 to Briarcrest each year.
Finally, I have a vested interest in my fellow citizen having some level of education. We rely on each other to make our foods, drive safely in the car next to us, and not being a complete idiot that could kill us some other exotic way because they could read a sign.
People need to realize that we all benefit from a healthy Public Education System either in our own education, or by subsidizing our own lifestyle, and that we understand each other and not confuse a bottle of bleach for bubble bath.
As for the Charter School threat, I suggest everyone read up on why the Charter Authorization Committee Bill is going through the Legislature this year.
Great Hearts, a charter school company based in Arizona, wanted to open a Charter School in a wealthy neighborhood of Nashville. This was not about replacing a failing school, it was a Charter School For Choice, meaning they wanted to offer their services to those who had children in non-failing school - the true letter of what School Choice should be all about, Choice for Everyone.
The Nashville Metro school board rejected the application on the bases that the school may become an all-white school for affluent families. The state told the Nashville Metro BOE that they couldn't reject the Charter School and with held state funds to "punish" them.
The Bill will allow any Charter Schools that the local BOE turned down to go to the State and get approved. I can see why the Legislators from Bartlett are against this. Bartlett has one Charter school with currently one grade and 35 students, but each year will add one more grade until they are a full 7-12 school, so 210 kids. That is 210 kids who get their share of ADA money that may have gone to Bartlett schools.
What are the MSDs going to do as more Charter School companies come calling wanting to set up shop within the borders of the MSDs? If the Charter Bill passes, Bartlett or Germantown or Collierville may turn them down, but the Charter School just needs to run to Nashville to get a pass. That is more money being taken out of the MSDs.
Again, I applaud the Representatives from Bartlett for objecting to that Bill, they know what it could spell down the road for the MSDs.
Please read the report my colleagues at the University of Memphis' Regional Economic Development Center prepared for the Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools in 2008 per their request. So a study was requested by Mr. Pickler, that should be enough to see what his intent was.
I'm very aware of TCA 49-6-3104, that is the same part of the code that allows for Memphis to have Optional Programs and allowed those living in the county and even outside of the state to attend schools like White Station High. It will be the same part of the code that will allow the IB Program at Germantown to battle White Station for the brightest students in the county. I look forward to see how that plays out, because I know for a fact that they were going after some of the same students this year.
The same code, though, also allows districts to charge tuition if they want to. Also, it allows the districts to deny transportation to the school if they want to because it is cost prohibitive.
So here are more issues the MSDs needs to prepare for - they told the House Tennessee Education Committee that they have no plans to charge anyone tuition to any student regardless of residency. How much money did the MSDs just verbally cut themselves off from? How many municipal parents are going to like knowing that they are being taxed at a higher rate while parents of those outside the district get to attend by don't have to pay the higher rate? What do you think the those that have no children but are paying more are going to like that?
Finally, how many parents are going to be able to provide transportation if the MSDs can't afford to drive out of their city limits to go get them?
I think it is a great idea for the MSDs to invite all the students they want, but let's look at reality, either the MSDs will have to pay to bus them in or hope that those parents have the ability to drive them to school everyday.
Everything is a game. It can be a zero-sum game or not, but everything comes back to the tenants of Game Theory. Everyone is looking out for their own best interest even if that may help someone or screw them.
Let's not be naive, this whole thing is about money and power. The reason that Memphis surrendered their charter in the first place was the threat of them losing funding monies from the county areas if the county areas became their own special taxation district.
The argument that the municipal's own consultants make is that there is enough money per pupil to fund municipal schools. However, they do make the stipulation that many of those students living outside the Munis need to continue to attend to make their numbers work.
So the Municipals have a vested interest in keeping those kids because then more money goes into their pot to use. The Unified System has a vested interest in taking those kids, so they get the money to fund their operations.
So if I'm on the Unified School Board, if I have room in the schools still outside the Munis, I can make the case that those kids and their money belongs to me. What is the municipal's argument? The argument Rep. Dunn was raising yesterday was that there is nothing in the current Bill that specifically states those kids that are currently going to Muni schools have the right to continue that.
So, in theory what the Unified Schools District can start to do is bleed the MSDs of money, thus making it harder to cover their expenses. In turn, forcing them to raise their taxes more or going back to the County Commission asking for more money. Which is fine with the USD because they would have to get the same amount, thus raising county taxes on everyone.
Funding is the next landmine that MSD supporters need to pay attention to. Rep. Lollar and Coley of Bartlett know this. They are very much objecting to the Charter Authorization Board Bill that is also moving through the Legislature right now. Why? Because it would allow Charter Schools to go to Nashville and over-ride a local board and set up shop. What is going to happen in the MSDs when Charter Schools by Choice start coming in? Bartlett already has one charter that is taking money away from the County, how many more may follow?
For those that are wondering if the Unified School system could absorb the non-municipal students that the municipals current service look at page 110 of the Transition Plan.
It shows the location and the utilization rates of all the schools in the county. Now it doesn't mark what they are - high school, middle school, or elementary. So one has to make an educated guess of what is what.
I think that the concern for Germantown would be the schools south of them appear to have the extra capacity to take students that may be served within Germantown currently. The big question would be the utilization of Southwind (in the county) and Ridgeway (in Memphis) and could those two split the Germantown non-resident high school students between them.
For those in Lakeland, Bartlett, and Arlington, the big question would be the future of Bolton High School which is not in anyone's annex reserve and according to this map is not 100% utilized. Also there is another school in that northwestern county area that is under 70% utilized.
For Collierville, the issue would be that the Unified Schools District would get the two underutilized schools in the Bridgewater area (Dexter Elementary and Middle) - the donuthole in the middle of Memphis. Those two schools would allow the Unified District to shift students in the annexed part of Eastern Cordova over to them, freeing up space in the schools at capacity in the Eastern parts and thus go after the kids in the county area north of Collierville.
Again, this post is not anti-municipal schools, it just shows where the Unified School system could take students and the money that follows them away from municipal schools and thus lay more landmines for the MSDs.
Being a good chess player is understanding where your opponent may move his pieces and countering.
All Comments »
By Flyer Staff
download this issue
click here to see more »