Monday, December 18, 2006

The Dobie-Dozier Cosmetic Cafeteria Solution to Funding Schools

If it weren't enough that Metro Council is on track to spend millions of tax dollars on private initiatives, now comes the mainstream touting of Bruce Dobie's education endowment idea channeled by mayoral candidate and at-large councilman Buck Dozier. Dozier, in turning attention to non-profit answers to public problems, is en vogue. But there are plenty of opportunities for foundation development in the private sector; if Dozier wants to start endowment-mongering then a mayoral run is misplaced diversion, because public servants should worry more about managing government than about privatizing the purse strings.

The merits of the foundation idea are low, to begin with. It is a ball of yarn for us to bat. It is the next flashy blue plate in this cafeteria line that we imagine ourselves in. It is a head-in-the-clouds novelty that takes us away from harder discussions about school board priorities and actual tax dollars (which is what mayoral candidates should be focused on). After all, why not just create private foundations for taxing for electricity or water services? In that case those who agree that electricity and water are vital to our community can vote with the private donations of their choosing. Oh, wait. Everybody agrees that basic utilities are vital. So, why do some of us think that generating an educated citizenry around us is any less vital for our welfare?

I'm not vehemently opposed to setting up a private endowment for public education (although private dollars always come with their own strings, so it should be regulated and overseen by those vested with the public interest). Buck Dozier may be just the leader to spearhead that initiative. But he should not be doing so as Mayor of Nashville.

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