by Mel Griffith
Recently there has been a good bit of discussion about school funding in Bradley County. Some parents seem concerned that their children may not be getting a good education, despite rising test scores, increased graduation rates, and decreased dropout rates. Some of this concern may have been caused by some political propaganda (possibly produced at taxpayer expense) sent home by some of our schools.
The present situation is much like an auction. At an auction, no matter how much money the auctioneer is getting for an item, he keeps telling the audience that it is dirt cheap, that it is a great bargain, that he can't believe how low the bid is, and that if you don't bid on this great item, you will be sorry later. His employees work the audience, acting as spotters, assuring everyone that what the auctioneer is saying is correct and you really need to act before it is too late. You must understand that he is not looking out for you, he is looking out for the people he represents. If he talks you into paying too much for something, you should not blame him. He is just doing his job. You are supposed to look out for your own best interest.
In school funding issues, the director acts as the auctioneer. No matter what the funding level is, he constantly tells you that the schools are grossly underfunded, that they really deserve more, and that you will be sorry in the future if you don't give them more. Sound familiar to those of you who attend auctions? Just as the auctioneer continues his chant as bids go up, funding increases, including about $4 million last year alone do not interrupt the "underfunded" chant. Employees act as spotters, working the crowd, trying to convince parents to pressure the County Commission to give the School Board what it wants. Just remember that the auctioneer works for the seller, not you and the director works for the school system and doesn't have to worry about being elected by the taxpayers. You are supposed to use your own judgment about what is in your own best interest. Of course, its all for the "kids," which according to the dictionary means "young goats." The proper form of address for a person enrolled in school is "student."
School Board members are elected to strike a proper balance between the wants of the school system and those of the citizens who elected them. (That goes for dress codes, too, by the way.) Unfortunately, all too often, Board members just become additional spotters, shirking their duty to manage and control the system, and instead being managed and controlled by it. Some Board members have criticized the Commission for doing its proper job and balancing competing interests. They should realize that if they were doing theirs properly, unrealistic requests wouldn't make it all the way to the Commission in the first place.
The next time somebody tries to impress you with a "ranking" carefully contrived in a way that ignores millions of dollars that the Bradley County taxpayer is pouring into the Bradley County School system, just remember that when the auctioneer gets a $6000 bid on a $5000 item, he keeps right on saying that it is dirt cheap.