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Monday, October 29, 2007

Addressing Criticisms & Shortcomings in School Bond Package

By Eddie Griffin

Monday, October 29, 2007

The needs of our Fort Worth school children are ABSOLUTE, not RELATIVE. Any time our children turn on their Windows 95 based computers and the lights in the schoolhouse go out, we know it is be time for a major overhaul of our infrastructure. It is evident that the FWISD curricula delivery system is so antiquated that our schools are not able to utilize the latest multimedia teaching and learning tools.

Therefore, our first priority must be to get our children as much educational resources as possible- and do it ASAP.

Even with a price tag of $587 million, we recognize there will still be needs unmet. As I noted in my article supporting the November 6 bond package, this is not a panacea for all the deficiencies in our assets of educational resources. The learning gap between different school districts directly correlates with the disparity in resources. The bond package attempts to bridge that ever-widening gap, in a thoughtful, foresighted way- with built-in contingencies for the life of the bond cycle.

Of course, I am disappointed that we will not have students coming out of school, with machine shop technology skills, knowing how to set up machining operations and how to read measuring instruments, and using scientific calculators. Also, someone else has pointed out that there is no budget for upgrading alternative schools to put them on par with regular schools. These are terrible, terrible shortcomings for the critical needs of our students and local job market.

But shortcomings cannot be the basis of rejecting the bond package, when the overriding needs of our children are so high. If we reject the bond package this time around, we will only come back with a much larger bond package proposal next year, or the year after. In the meantime, another year or two is lost for the students. It would be better to take part now and part later. Therefore, I agree with Black Chamber Dee Jennings. Approve this bond package and come back with another one in the near future. In the meantime, we would hope that our local industries make financial investments and commitments to supplement the education of our future workforce in the local FWISD.

We realize that, historically, minority schools receive the short end of the stick, in terms of educational resources and quality teachers. But Superintendent Melody Johnson promised “parity” in distributing resources coming out of the bond package. And, the budget itself is transparent.

The question can only be: If everything is done according to the bond’s proposal, will the ISD achieve “parity”? Maybe not as we hope, but it provides a measuring rod to determine which schools are better equipped. Therefore, we must insist that, at a very minimum, inner city school children get every dollar allocated to them by the state. It is up to the school district to repair the breach created by previous disparities.

Secondly, there is the question of leadership- at the institutional and board level. Now I can criticize leadership from here to Washington, but in the final run we must dance with the one that “brung” us. Always get as much money as possible for the kids first. Then, if leadership is lacking, at least we have the money. We can replace the leadership, if necessary, without ever disturbing the pot.

Pastor Kyev P. Tatum writes: I am dazed and confused by your support of the over half billion dollar school bond.

As I said above, it is not necessary for the bond package to be perfect in order to support it.

Tatum further writes: How can you ask us to boycott and call for a "Sliver War" on November 2Th and then turn around and ask us to vote for the "largest" tax bonds increase in the history of Fort Worth ISD on November 6Th... Double standard and message

This is not a ‘double standard” nor a mixed message, unless there is a misconception between “Silver War” and “Civil War” (spelled with an S). The objective of a civil war by economic boycott relates specifically to issues of injustice carried out by the state against our youth and the hate crimes that have followed. The presupposed tax increase from the bond package is a different issue, altogether.

According to the graphic rendition, actual property tax rate is supposed to go down over the next few years as a result of a previous legislative measure. To compensation for loss revenue from reducing property taxes, the state raised cigarette sales taxes- an unwise tax swap, seeing the number of cigarette smokers are declining. Nevertheless, we were very conscientious of how the state robs Peter to pay Paul- in this case, by inflating property values. If memory serves me correctly, we put a cap on how much property values can be appraised from year to year. Of course, this means we have to stay vigilant.

Again Tatum says: We are tired of not receiving our "fair share" and equal justice for our children... You are asking people to give FWISD more money to "refinance" debt from the last bond which you and I both know was grossly mismanaged.

For sure, we can do nothing about past mismanagement other than send the crooks to jail (which we did). A portion of the new bond package will liquidate the balance of the previous bond, which is the normal course for any new bond package. Does that say we condone the previous schemes and scams? With the old bond package balance from the Toco administration out of the way, Dr. Melody Johnson can start with a clean slate. There would be no vestige of the past affecting her administration’s performance. After all, Dr. Johnson has been stuck with “old baggage” from the day of her arrival.

Low performing and unsafe schools are NOT ABSOLUTES either. They are as RELATIVE as the politics involved in school administration and oversight. Things can and do change. I agree: We need more education for our money rather than more money for our education. But wherever there are largest sums of money being spent, there will be sales people “selling the Brooklyn Bridge”. I believe that we are already paying too much for the new accounting system and that we underestimate the learning curve for assimilating new hardware and software.

But then again, if we were looking for perfection, we would just put God in control and let the system run on its own. Otherwise, we have to made do with partial solutions and imperfect people.

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