Giving Up Too Much 

Giving Up Too Much

It is hardly reassuring that state Senator Marsha Blackburn of Williamson County has now issued a formal statement of approval concerning the Sundquist administration's proposed TennCare changes. This is the same Marsha Blackburn, after all, who wrote the infamous e-mails asking for "troops" which initiated the crowd disturbances at the capitol on the night of July 12th.

As a dedicated spokesperson for the poshest suburban communities adjoining Nashville, Blackburn has never wasted any tears on the less prosperous and fortunate. And what she finds so commendable in the suggested new TennCare regulations -- offered by the governor as a concession on behalf of tax reform -- is the very premise that we find so lamentable in them.

What Sundquist has done to accommodate his critics on the right is bow to their demands to "fix" TennCare by pruning away large numbers of those currently being cared for. In essence, the TennCare population would be divided into two groups, with not quite half -- predominantly children and uninsurables whose prior medical history had prevented them from being served by private insurers -- being relegated to limbo status.

Or, as Blackburn's press release puts it: "Appropriately managing the group of insured and uninsurables and children that have been added to the program should lead to a reduction in the total program cost. "

That's right-wingerese for "Cut 'em loose so we can save a few bucks." Never mind that Governor Sundquist has argued in the past that these patients have attracted federal funds which more than offset their expense and that letting them go would constitute a burden on the state's emergency rooms and thereby incite an increase in local jurisdictions' property taxes.

The governor was right in the first place and is wrong now. Marsha Blackburn's quick endorsement should have told him that.

Fields' Opportunity

Richard Fields wasn't about to let Duncan Ragsdale have all the fun and get all the headlines.

The veteran civil rights attorney says he's going to court to prevent Shelby County from building a new high school in Arlington.

"I think I [can] stop construction," Fields told the Flyer this week. "They cannot build a $40 million all-white high school. That is just not gonna happen."

He could be right. Fields has some 30 years of experience with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in school desegregation cases in Memphis and other cities. It wouldn't be the first time he has said, "No way" and made it stick.

Fields can shed light on two things. One is the relationship between schools and real estate developers and homebuilders. The county is in a funding crisis partly of its own making because it approved all those suburban subdivisions. If they want to repeat the process in distant Arlington, let them do it openly and publicly, and tell us who is selling all the land and building the new homes and in what price range.

The second thing Fields' entry does is clarify the difference between funds for construction and funds for instruction. The formula that ties new schools in the county to new schools in the city means construction dollars, but city school buildings are in reasonably good shape. What is needed is more money for classroom teachers and classroom instruction in order to bring Memphis and Shelby County in line with peer cities.

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