Blowing the Deal 

Editorial

We don't understand why county commissioners Walter Bailey, Cleo Kirk, and Julian Bolton, all longtime stout defenders of the established, state-ordained A.D.A. ("Average Daily Attendance") formula, voted on Monday against a different formula agreed upon by representatives of the city and county school systems.

The agreement, as both county school board chairman David Pickler and city school board president Wanda Halbert pointed out on Monday, guarantees a long-run fulfillment of the A.D.A. formula and its built-in 3:1 spending ratio favoring city schools. That's because the new and long-overdue school that would be built in southeast Shelby County would at some point in the relatively near future lie within the city district's boundaries. Meanwhile, enough of an impasse would be broken that both districts could attend to immediate needs.

But after several preliminary votes favoring the agreement, some invisible switch evidently got thrown and enough votes were changed, allowing a last-minute decision - by a single vote - to recommit the question to the commission's education committee. This was despite an eloquent plea from city-side commissioner Joe Ford not to let the opportunity for an unprecedented meeting of minds go to waste.

Ostensibly, the de facto deferral was based on Bailey's rather disingeuous suggestion that a more complete funding for both systems' needs, all based squarely on the traditional A.D.A. formula, might emerge from further discussion.

There was a lot of simmering discontent and wondering out loud on the part of both systems' contingents after the vote. Among their questions: Why did Commissioner Bruce Thompson, presumed to be pro-agreement, recuse himself? Why was there a change of votes on the parts of commissioners Joyce Avery and John Willingham (the latter of whom had at one point said aloud to Bailey that his attempts at delaying the agreement amounted to a "mistake")?

Meanwhile, county students continue to study in portable classrooms, and city school facilities are allowed to deteriorate. And meanwhile too the mystery of the last-minute vote change lingers - and begs for a straight answer.

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