Can you hear it?
Can you hear the faint, deep reverberations of thunder… the low grumblings of an angry sky?
There are storm clouds on the horizon.
The movement to strip away citizen-control over local schools is coming to a school system near you!
Spoiler alert: The power-hungry, equity warriors and distributionists are gearing-up to use the courts against you!
I won’t waste my word count on a lengthy recap. Thus far, I’ve been examining the issues of my local school system in hopes of raising the veil on educational malfeasance, bringing issues to light that likely occur in school districts around the county.
This is the last, and perhaps the most important, of a three-part series on education, covering the actions of a well-funded, collectivist army of adherents to the sustainability cult aiming to strip your community of local control of your schools.
You can read each of the previous parts by clicking on the links below:
Part 1: Fraud, Sex, & Football
Part 2: Failures of Identity Politics
A “hostile takeover.” That’s how Tennessee Senator Mark Norris described the takeover of the then-acclaimed Shelby County Schools (SCS) system after the Memphis City Schools (MCS) system chose to dissolve their schools and consolidate with SCS.
He was right on the mark.
(I summarized this hostile takeover and its roots in racialized politics in Part 2.)
For one year, the Shelby County Schools district was the largest school district in America.
Shortly thereafter, in hope of removing their children from being under the control of notoriously crooked Memphis city management, six Shelby County cities held voter referendums so that their citizens could choose whether they wished to incur property tax hikes in order to form and, subsequently, to financially support locality-controlled municipal school districts.
The voters of those six cities voiced their approval at the ballot box, and six separate municipal school districts were formed.
This revolutionary, grassroots educational reform movement (which the Memphis media pejoratively termed an “exodus”) has spread beyond the borders of Shelby County. Cities across the state of Tennessee are studying the various municipal school districts in Shelby County in hopes of forming their own smaller districts.
This has prompted pushback from control-hungry collectivists, and has rekindled a fire of racist and classist accusations toward the citizens of the six Shelby county municipalities.
This defamation is once again taking place on a national scale, with big name media outlets joining the fight against the citizens of Shelby County.
The deconsolidation movement is picking up steam both across the state of Tennessee and across the Country partly due to longitudinal studies detailing the negative impacts upon students which have become so characteristic of large school districts, accompanied by the statistical benefits which smaller districts offer students of every race and socioeconomic background.
According to the National Conference of State Legislators:
“The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that in the 2008-09 school year there were 100,713 public schools in 13,976 school districts serving 49.3 million students. That compares to an estimated 271,000 schools in nearly 130,000 school districts in 1920 serving 23.6 million students (Berry, 2004; Fischel, 2009).”
District consolidation actually began “as a duplication of the economy of scales models used in the automotive industry that saved production costs and delivered a quality product at a low cost (Howley 2011). However, as district consolidation grew tremendously and increased education’s accessibility, the price of education only increased (Howley 2011)” (Kennedy & Tolbert, 2012). Now, years after the trend toward school district began, “sources have revealed that there is no significant difference in costs (Cox & Cox 2010; Groan & Murray 2004; Streinfel, Foldesy, & Holman, 1991),” (Kennedy & Tolbert,2012).
In fact, some researchers now assert:
“Maybe school consolidation ‘worked’ for a while, but to judge from the size at which operational costs are minimized (3,000 students for an entire district and with serious inefficiencies becoming evident at 15,000 students), district consolidation has proceeded to a scale at which the claim of ‘working’ appears hollow.”
A study by Duncombe & Yinger (2007), concluded that large school districts (due to consolidation) incur the following disadvantages, often referred to as diseconomies (Howley, Johnson, & Petrie, 2011):
(1) higher transportation costs;
(2) labor relations effect (i.e., seniority hiring);
(3) lower motivation and effort from educators (i.e., working for a large bureaucracy is demoralizing);
(4) lower motivation and effort from students (i.e., being housed in a large bureaucracy is demoralizing);
(5) lower parental involvement (i.e., dealing with a large bureaucracy is demoralizing).
On the topic of student achievement, broken down by demographic categories (race, socioeconomic status, etc.), the benefits of smaller school districts are clear. As one report (compiled for the state of Ohio) states:
“Currently, there are many studies comparing district and school size to student achievement. Many of the studies indicate that students, especially lower income, perform much better in smaller districts (Howley 2011). A study, analyzing students in Ohio – concluded, “Smaller districts reduced the influence of poverty on achievement in the range of 20 percent to 70 percent across grade and unit levels,” (Howley 2011). Therefore, consolidating these districts would likely negatively affect their students…. More than anything, the policy report believes that deconsolidating would be the best option for urban school districts.”
“In addition, multiple studies found negative correlations between low-income students and large school district size. Martin L. Abbott’s research found that large district size strengthens the negative relationship between low socioeconomic study and student achievement (Abbott 2002). Independent variables such as median household incomes and percent of students receiving free or reduced lunch supports the argument that the low-income students receive the most negative effects of large school district size. Craig Howley’s The Matthew Project: State Report for Ohio analyzed district performance on state achievement tests. Using school size, district size, and percent of free or reduced lunch as the independent variables, Howley discovered reducing school and district size will reduce the negative influence of poverty on performance (Howley 1999). In support of this argument, Jerry Johnson’s research on reading and mathematics scores in the state of Nebraska concluded smaller school systems in Nebraska reduce the harmful effects of poverty on student achievement (Johnson 2003).”
Nevertheless, these studies are of little interest too venture “philanthropist” organizations and big-money donors with dreams of widespread control, like those who fun “Edbuild.” (Details below.)
Venture Philanthropy Quietly Declares War on Local Citizen’s Control of Schools:
According to its website, “EdBuild is a catalyst organization, working to fundamentally disrupt the status quo of illogical & inequitable school funding.” The goal of Edbuild’s “national voice work” is to “build a public narrative around the illogical and detrimental construct of local school funding policies that create the incentive and ability to segregate along socioeconomic lines.” Edbuild’s “public narrative” work is “entrusted to a social justice organization to pursue greater systemic equity in the system via the judicial branch.
According to its website, Edbuild’s funders include the Center for American Progress, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Walton Family Foundation, and a host of other left-leaning venture philanthropies.
The state of Mississippi has hired Edbuild to completely re-image the state’s entire educational funding structure. Half of Edbuild’s fee for this job is being paid for by the state of Mississippi.
The other half of “the cost is being paid by the numerous entities that have contributed to the non-profit company” (Daily Journal). Edbuild “did not provide additional information about the private sources.”
Edbuild’s “Public Narrative”:
In June of 2017, Edbuild released a report on school system “deconsolidation” entitled, “Fractured: TheBreakdown of America’s School Districts.”
Edbuild specifically targeted the school system deconsolidation which occurred here in Shelby County, Tennessee, claiming:
“The case of Memphis and Shelby County is an extreme example of how imbalanced political power, our local school-funding model, and the allowance of secession can be disastrous for children. In 2014, six largely white and wealthy Tennessee suburbs broke off from the impoverished Shelby County school district after nearly a decade’s struggle. The county’s suburbs had long sought to keep their tax dollars from benefiting the more needy student population in Memphis…”
Ahhh, yes… Those greedy, stingy citizens of Shelby County, every single one of whom is an incarnation of Ebenezer Scrooge, fought long and hard to deprive poor, starving, needy children of the life-saving funds so desperately needed to survive in this cold, cruel world (sarcasm).
(Isn’t that what motivates you?)
“The repeal of the ban on new districts cleared the way for almost any Tennessee community seeking to segregate itself from its poorer neighbors,” the report claims. “Tennessee has some of the most permissive secession laws on the books, due entirely to the legislature’s solicitude toward the interests of these wealthy suburban areas.”
Edbuild’s CEO and founder, Rebecca Sibilia, who “holds a Bachelors degree in Political Science,” has since stated:
“This isn’t a story of one or two communities. This is about a broken system of laws that fail to protect the most vulnerable students.”
“This is the confluence of a school funding system that incentivizes communities to cordon off wealth and the permissive processes that enable them to do just that.”
“What we’re talking about here is the notion of people pulling out of a tax base that’s for the public good… That’s akin to saying you’re not going to pay taxes for a library because you’re not going to use it.”
However, Ms. Sibilia failed to mention, whether purposely on her part or perhaps out of a lack of knowledge, that every single property tax paying citizen of Shelby County continues to fund the large Shelby County Schools district regardless of which city one resides. The residents of the six smaller cities, who each formed municipal school districts, then pay additional property taxes – taxes on top of their Shelby County property taxes – which subsequently fund their own city-bound schools.
Nevertheless, the report maintains the stance that “…these better-off neighborhoods transform public education from the public good it’s meant to be—providing the same opportunities to all of America’s children—to something far less accessible.”
Nowhere does the “report” ever address the financial states of the Memphis City Schools system prior to its dissolution, in 2013, into the Shelby County School, nor does the report address the racial and socioeconomic “segregation” between the Memphis City Schools system and the Shelby County Schools system prior to the merger. I discussed both in my last article, including the funding superiority that MCS had over the SCS; funding which Memphis residents forfeited by choice.
Having smaller school districts, the “report” erroneously states, is “bad financial management. Creating new, duplicative bureaucracies to educate a small number of students in a secession district is inefficient, and it’s wasteful of the state tax dollars paid by all citizens.”
“The financial impacts of the secessions were immediate. In just one year, Shelby County’s budget was slashed by 20% [source #133, as listed in the report]. Declining enrollment has forced drastic measures: Seven Memphis-area schools have closed since the 2014–15 school year alone,134 and the district laid off about 500 teachers in both 2015 and 2016 [source #135, as listed in the report].”
(Hmm…. Something doesn’t smell right…)
Edbuild, it appears, suffers from a bias-induced proclivity toward misstating information for political expediency. For example:
- By reading source #133 (linked above), we learn that the SCS budget decreased because:
(A)“Much of the cost-cutting is being driven by shrinking enrollment.” – The drop in enrollment was due to three factors: the formation of municipal school districts; the state of Tennessee took of over 27 failing schools, adding four more schools the year this article was published; and the high rate of mobility in the City of Memphis. (In other words, the 20% stated in the “report,” which wasn’t even stated in the article sourced, was due to a combination of factors, rather than being the sole result of school system deconsolidation as the “report” claims.)
(B) “The $90 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is [was] scheduled to dry up.” (*This did not end up occurring after all.)
- By reading source #135 (linked above), we learn that the “district, which is one of Memphis’ largest employers, already has rehired or replaced at least half of the displaced teachers and expects to find placement for most of the rest.” (In other words, the “report” cites outdated and irrelevant information regarding teacher employment, because the layoffs, in the end, did not actually occur.)
I suppose this type of bias shouldn’t be surprising for an organization who’s methodology for “research” largely depends on “new stories.”
“We searched the internet for news stories, meeting minutes, legislation and any other pertinent material about attempted or successful school district secessions…”
“Using internet search engines, we found news articles, meeting minutes, legislation and other pertinent material…”
We all know how unbiased the news media is, after all.
Finally – and here’s the kicker – the “report” asserts:
“Calls for ‘local control’ carry a troubling historical resonance, especially in areas like Birmingham, Memphis, and East Baton Rouge. It may no longer be legal to segregate school systems by law, but school district secession allows states to exploit the legal loophole created by Milliken to resegregate their schools, and state funding laws provide explicit and numerous incentives to do so.”
The non-profit has set big goals, all of which at to be achieved at a rapid pace. “EdBuild’s workstreams were constructed with actionable end goals in mind, meaning that we have made a strategic choice to achieve our mission within 5 years, and then close our doors.”
Edbuild’s “report” lists the following “solutions” to the menace of school district deconsolidation (also referred to as succession):
- “Disallow secessions entirely” using a “blanket ban.”
- “If states are unwilling to enact blanket rules prohibiting secession,” legislation “must be carefully crafted to ensure” racial and socioeconomic equity of both the new district and the district being left behind. Otherwise, succession must not be permitted.
“[D]istricts must consider the fiscal effect of the reorganization, the socioeconomic and racial composition of the new and old district, and the geographic characteristics of the affected district.
- School funding should no longer be generated from property taxes, and unequal property taxes between localities but end: all cities’ property taxes must be the same.
- Remove local control of the schools and disallow voters’ rights;
- End locally governed funding structures.
- Overturn, repeal, or otherwise work around (to undermine) the Supreme Court ruling in Milliken v. Bradley.
“The only way to truly ensure that school district borders are not used as a tool of segregation and inequity is to revisit the Supreme Court case that created this problem: Milliken v. Bradley. In granting school district boundaries such exalted status that state governments cannot enforce desegregation plans across them, the Court valued those borders above the fairness and equity of states’ education systems. As a result, every new boundary that is drawn—whether for legitimate or discriminatory reasons and whether in the interests of students or not—immediately takes on this near inviolability. This, combined with state funding formulas that allow for inherently inequitable local property taxes ensures that boundaries can be drawn to specifically disadvantage our most vulnerable children.”
Milliken v. Bradley:
This SCOTUS ruling is the thorn in the side of every power hungry, collectivist, social engineer there is.
In 1974, a district court, via court fiat, instituted a desegregation plan for Detroit schools which included busing rural/suburban white children who attended non-Detroit school district schools into the inner-city Detroit School district.
The Supreme Court ruled that school district borders were sovereign and, thus, this desegregation plan failed.
As briefly described below:
“Issue: Whether the racial composition of the schools at issue amounts to racial segregation in violation of constitutionally guaranteed rights to equal protection? Whether the District Court had the authority to craft a remedy to the problem that encompassed the operations of school districts that were not parties to the litigation and had not been presented with the opportunity to be heard?
Holding: No, the policies at issue here do not violate constitutional guarantees as Court-ordered desegregation does not guarantee any particular racial composition in public schools but instead bans intentionally discriminatory policies. The district court judge, even if he had been correct on the underlying claims, exceeded his authority by adopting an overly broad remedy that significantly diminished the local control of schools without affording those schools the opportunity to be heard.”
You can read more here and here.
However, Edbuild, in its “report,” laments this SCOTUS decision. Edbuild supports instituting desegregation across school district borders to achieve “Edbuild-approved” race quotas.
While it sounds implausible, this movement is gaining momentum, especially after the recent court ruling in Alabama which has officially stopped school system deconsolidation in the Birmingham area.
So, here we are, America.
To spite the stats supporting school deconsolidation, there are wealthy groups, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation, etc. (who fund Edbuild), who seek to continue to socially engineer America all the way down to our local school systems. These people and groups are supported by the media and present factually inaccurate “reports” that go entirely unquestioned by local media outlets and news providers (like the Commercial Appeal in Memphis, as blatantly obvious here and here).
The five-year plan is already in full swing.
If you want to keep local control over your schools, you’ll have to be prepared to join the battles ahead, the looming courtroom wars. For the sake of your children and for your community, don’t sit idly by only to become a sitting duck.
A storm is coming.