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Educational Malpractice, Pt 2: Failure of identity politics on display

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“What a snake pit.” Those were the words of one teacher, commenting on Twitter in response to my February 6th article (detailing the malfeasance uncovered after a local principle blew the whistle in a fiery letter released to the public), to describe the Shelby County Schools system (SCS).

Another person commented, “I would wager there are more instances of this sort of behavior going on across the country in similarly-positioned school systems.”

Neither comment brought me any joy, but I suspect both are correct.

For this, I continue in my examination into my local school system, an examination of issues which are often diluted in reports published by our compliant, local press. Perhaps removing the veil can bring positive change to other school systems.

What hasn’t been said in the press, I intend to say.

The Death of a Successful School System

Shelby County Schools, headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee, has not always been embroiled in scandal and failure. In fact, Shelby County Schools has a record of proven success, earning high ratings year after year.

That all ended, just 5 years ago, with the largest school system consolidation in American history: the Memphis City Schools (MCS) system was completely dissolved and then merged with the Shelby County Schools (SCS) system.

Historical Corruption and White Flight

In Memphis, history repeats itself: politicians who have been convicted of criminal corruption are routinely re-elected.

Take Rickey Peete, for example. Beginning in the 1980’s, Rickey Peete served on the Memphis City Schools Board, and was then elected to the Memphis City Council.

  • In 1989, Peete was convicted of taking bribes and extortion, and served a 2 ½ year prison sentence.
  • In 1995, Rickey Peete was again elected to the Memphis City Council, and was later re-elected 2 more times!
  • In 2007, Peete was, once again, convicted for extortion and accepting bribes, earning himself a 4-year prison sentence. “He and fellow council member Edmund Ford were charged in late 2006 with taking bribes from former County Commissioner Joe Cooper, who was recording their conversations for the FBI,” (Memphis Flyer).

Then there are the Fords; a family of politicians that could be described as a criminal enterprise. And, lest we forget, the FBI’s Operation Tennessee Waltz offers a sobering reminder of the corruption that has haunted the area.

Thus, plagued by decades of political woes and poor policies, more and more people moved out of Memphis – often incurring debt in order to do so – and into the surrounding cities hoping to escape the rising crime rates and the downward decent in quality and safety of the city’s troubled schools.

Although the areas of Shelby County which are outside of the City of Memphis are just slightly over 50% white, the departure of city residents away from Memphis is pejoratively called “white flight.”

The Funding Structure  –

All county residents’ county-wide property taxes were divided between the Memphis City Schools and the Shelby County Schools based on the number of students. This structure allocated more funds to the City of Memphis since the city’s schools had a higher number of students than the county’s school system.

The Memphis City Schools operated as a special school district. Residents of Memphis paid additional property taxes that were allocated to the city’s schools. As such, Memphis City Schools operated with a larger budget; funded by county and city residents, allowing for significantly higher per-student spending than that of Shelby County Schools.

In addition to various special programs, Memphis City Schools students’ athletics were publicly funded, while Shelby County students’ athletics were funded entirely by their parents.

Yet, Memphis City Schools were constantly facing funding difficulties, and threatening to dissolve the school system entirely became a norm.

In an act of desperation, hoping to keep the crooked fingers of Memphis corruption from taking over the county’s high-functioning, successful school district, the Shelby County Schools board began exploring legal ways of obtaining special district status for the county system, the same special district status that Memphis City Schools enjoyed.

A Hostile Takeover

By 2010, due to mismanagement and corruption, the City of Memphis had defaulted on tens of millions of dollars designated for the city’s schools. In a rushed vote brought on by funding woes and by the efforts of SCS to obtain special district status, the MCS school board hastily threw in the towel, voting to dissolve the charter of Memphis City Schools altogether.

A referendum vote was then scheduled for Memphis residents to approve the council’s choice for system dissolution. County residents did not have any voice in what was to happen to their school system should MCS merge into it.

If the referendum passed, Memphis representatives, based on population, would then secure the majority of SCS school board seats.

It passed, and the Memphis City Schools system officially ceased to exist.

Those Rich, Racist Bastards!

Leading up to the referendum vote, “journalists” and education “advocates” and politicians repeatedly put forth the premise that education in Shelby County was unequal, despite the higher public spending per pupil and the public funding of various support programs in Memphis City schools which would disappear should the city schools be dissolved.

The residents of the suburbs and of unincorporated Shelby County were labeled racists and their genuine concern for their children was painted as an attempt to maintain boundaries of segregation. County residents were framed as rich white people who hate black people and who are inexcusably greedy, selfishly hoarding their riches in hopes of keeping black children in poverty.

In the county schools, technology such as Promethean Boards and learning programs such as Accelerated reader were entirely funded by parents. This technology was absent from Memphis City Schools. The stark contrast in parental involvement the positive effects of high levels of parental involvement on student achievement was brushed aside, as if invalid.

With complete disregard for the studies highlighting the negative effects of system mergers on students, especially low-income minority students, the “advocates” persisted.

The gross failures of the Memphis City Schools system which had persisted because of systemic corruption, a climate of mediocrity, and vast ineptitude was simply re-framed as “separate and unequal education.” 

City residents swallowed this racist, classist, shamefully dishonest ploy hook, line, and sinker.

Memphis City Schools system officially merged into Shelby County Schools in 2013; representatives from Memphis secured majority rule of the SCS board, effecting every single public school-attending child in the county.

Shelby County Schools became the largest school system in the country.

Curiously, and reeking of Memphis politics, the attorney representing the Memphis City Schools during the years-long merger process then became the superintendent for the new, unified Shelby County Schools system.

The Results

Predictably, the endemic dysfunction that characterized Memphis City Schools now characterizes the Shelby County Schools system. The same failing schools are still failing. The same inept leadership keeps on leading.

Even rumors of school board corruption still persist.

The worst result, which was completely predictable I must add, was the phenomenon of once high-performing schools across the county subsequently dropping precipitously in quality.

For example, what was once a top-performing elementary school around the corner from my house is now a level 1 school (at the bottom of the rankings).

The problems that plagued Memphis City Schools were never addressed.

 It was far easier to feign virtuous, employing the abhorrent politics of identity, than it was to seek genuine solutions. So, it should be absolutely no surprise that the results have been, in a nutshell, the spread of failure.

Thankfully, for at least some of Shelby County’s children, the story doesn’t end here. There was a great divorce that took place, benefitting thousands of students.

Yet, it is because of this “divorce” that the residents of Shelby County are once again being plastered as racists and classists, rich whites, on a national scale; and residents have become the target of well-funded, Marxist proponents of the “sustainability” movement.

This, I will discuss in Part 3 (the final part).

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Democrats

Justin Fairfax let off the hook by Virginia Democrats, but not accusers

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Justin Fairfax let off the hook by Virginia Democrats but not accusers

Democrats in Virginia’s House have ended calls for Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax to resign following two accusations of sexual assault. But his accusers continue to speak out, saying they want to testify against Fairfax in an effort to both remove him from office and possibly bring him to justice.

The excuse Democrats are making for ending their calls for impeachment or for Fairfax to step down are because they want a criminal investigation to proceed unimpaired. This is a solid argument, but one that doesn’t echo the sentiment from the around the country or in Virginia itself.

Calls were relatively universal just a week ago following the second sexual assault accusation against Fairfax. The sad part is the calls for Governor Ralph Northam to step down over a photo on his yearbook page depicting one person in blackface and another person in a Ku Klux Klan outfit were also very heavy before the first Fairfax accusation. It’s as if Democrats were all gung ho about making an example out of Northam until they learned his successor had problems of his own.

If there is to be consistency within the #MeToo movement, the Democratic Party, and American politics in general, then there needs to be an understanding of what is considered sufficiently acceptable evidence in the court of public opinion to demand a resignation. This is impossible, of course, as each situation is different. Would Al Franken have been forced to leave the Senate if there weren’t pictures of him groping a sleeping reporter? Probably not. Is the presence of two credible accusations the tipping point, since following the first accusation the responses were muted? Perhaps.

If that’s the case, though, does that mean if someone commits a single sexual assault, that they’re still morally qualified to lead? Of course not.

These are the conundrums that face a society bent on finding the moral high ground but unable to come together on how that moral high ground actually manifests. Should Fairfax step down? That question may be asked for another three years if he doesn’t.

 


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Democrats

Beto O’Rourke is throwing crazy ideas against the wall and some seem to be sticking

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Beto ORourke is throwing crazy ideas against the wall and some seem to be sticking

Ever since the 2018 midterm elections, I’ve considered Beto O’Rourke to be one of the biggest threats to President Trump in the 2020 election. The obvious counter to this notion is that he lost his race for Senate to Ted Cruz, but here’s the thing. He got close, much closer than anyone would have thought possible a year before, and he was able to raise more money than any Senate candidate in our nation’s history.

For a hyper-leftist Democrat to come within a few percentage points of victory in deep red Texas tells us this is someone who knows how to campaign, raise funds, and draw a crowd.

Lately, he’s been acting like a lost puppy trying to get back some of the attention he lost when others announced their candidacy. Before Senators Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Amy Klobuchar announced their candidacies, O’Rourke was being played up as the guy who could challenge Senator Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden if they entered the race. Now that Sanders has, O’Rourke finds himself on the outside looking in.

I still consider O’Rourke to be one of the four candidates who should concern President Trump the most, but there’s a caveat I must add. If he continues to throw out ideas that make no sense, such as taking down the 700 miles of wall currently built along the southern border or offering amnesty to pretty much everyone already here illegally, he may fade quickly.

Then again, it may propel him to the top of the list.

It’s important for conservatives to never underestimate the leftward lurch that’s happening across America today. The combination of scholastic indoctrination, media propaganda, and a strange spirit of deception spreading across the nation have resulted in a growing American populace that is open to the untenable ideas of socialism, open borders, and expanded government control over our lives. This is why instead of counting O’Rourke as being down for the count, we should probably watch the responses and start taking him more seriously.

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There seems to a trend emerging. The crazier they get, the more they’re loved.

A decade ago, it would have been unfathomable for even half of the Democrats to embrace taking down portions of the border wall that are already built. It’s one thing to not want to spend money on more wall, but to spend money on taking down current walls is pure stupidity. And yet, there’s no rebuke from the left. No Democrats are saying, “stop this lunacy.” No Democrats are out there calling for common sense to prevail.

Instead, they’re saying, “Yes, that might work.”

Do not get caught up in the notion that socialism, open borders, and oppressive government could never happen in America. Three or four years ago, I might have thought that. Today, it seems more than possible. It must be stopped.

 


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Conservatives railed against the NY-Amazon deal before Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez thwarted it

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is partially right about the Amazon deal

When New York Governor Andrew Cuomo wrote an op-ed in November defending the decision to offer Amazon $2.8 billion in incentives to build their second headquarters in Long Island City, there was an interesting condemnation you don’t often see.

“The extreme conservatives and the socialists both now vehemently oppose incentives for Amazon,” Cuomo wrote.

Of course, “extreme conservatives” and “socialists” are on the opposite ends of the political spectrum, so what was it about the deal that made it so unappealing on both sides of the fence? It comes down to the incentives that were being offered and the inherent “quick fix” mentality of politicians near the center of the ideological spectrum.

Where conservatives and socialists split on this issue is in how the money should have been used, but both extreme sides agree that using it as an incentive for a company like Amazon is simply lazy governance. Fiscal conservatives understand that in a city like New York City, there’s less of a need for big companies to come in and a much bigger need to plant small businesses throughout. Crowded cities that already have multi-billion dollar corporations get much less benefit from another multi-billion dollar corporation setting up shop than they would from a similar infusion of small businesses. From a fiscally conservative perspective, it’s better to use incentives to bring 250 companies that employ 100 people each than one company that employs 25,000.

Smaller cities without infrastructure or housing issues are the opposite. It makes sense to try to get an Amazon to become a central hub to attract other businesses. These smaller cities do not have to suffer through the same problems a city like NYC has to contend with when there’s such a massive infusion into an already-crowded housing market and an already-crumbling infrastructure.

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez skips a few steps when she says the money for Amazon could be used to fix other problems already facing New Yorkers, but technically speaking she’s correct. If New York utilized incentives to bring in smaller companies that would generate more tax dollars in the long run, her programs could be initiated as a result if properly earmarked. That’s not to say I agree with all of the programs she’s referring to and the money “saved” from the collapsing Amazon deal couldn’t be used directly for them, but combined with conservative fiscal principles and a focus on small businesses, her ideas are doable.

Conservatives balked when the deal was announced. Now, suddenly, many of the same conservatives are laughing at Ocasio-Cortez for being the catalyst that made the deal go away. This is disingenuous. We can debate with her the semantics of how the incentives should be used, but let’s not switch sides and call the deal a winner when we were universally calling it a loser three months ago.

As always, conservatives should stay consistent and not do as the leftists do by picking a side against a politician for the sake of that politician. Conservatives were complaining about the Amazon deal well before AOC became the face of the opposition.

 


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