Monday, October 08, 2012

Hizzoner casts his lot with the state: not exactly a profile in courage

Apparently, Mayor Karl Dean could not put aside his own personal fondness for the Great Hearts charter school company in order to lead a Metro agency out of a mess the State of Tennessee engendered. A Tennessean reporter tweeted Hizzoner's response to state action in September:

Mayor Dean said in interview that loss of state funds [due to declining one application for one charter school] is [Metro school's] problem. "They created it, and they need to figure it out."

Gadzooks. For the sake of argument, let's assume that the school board made a mistake. If you were the elected head of Metro government, the person who makes all of the budget decisions for all departments and agencies, is it the wisest course of action to cut loose an entire department or agency for a misstep? The alternative expression--"Regardless of what happens, we will find a way through this together. Let's pick up the pieces"--seems the proper course for those looking for a high road even when one has the opportunity to say, "I told you so."

Consider the fact that those adversely affected by the actions of the State of Tennessee are not powerful business interests who should be able to weather the lack of state funds, but the most vulnerable segment of the population: Nashville's public school children. Was it prudent for Hizzoner to take an adversarial posture with the state against a Metro agency when the latter had not violated anyone's civil rights and had not conducted themselves in an unethical manner? Was it wise to endorse the idea that the state should be spending less money on all Nashville children because a few middle class parents, who already have charter options, did not get the plum charter school they wanted close to their predominantly white neighborhoods?

How many times has this Mayor attempted to be our local Oprah with efforts like encouraging us to lose weight or to join his book club? He can weigh in touchy-feely over our personal lives, but he cannot have some compassion over the real risk to kids of red-state action?

And let's not forget one more thing: Karl Dean's campaign claims to fight tirelessly for full funding of Nashville's schools is fundamentally compromised by his stubborn willingness to side with the state and punish Nashville's school kids over a charter school application.

But let's end the dumb assumptions and let's get one thing straight: the school board made no mistake. For once, they did something right with a charter school application. And how much worse does Hizzoner's callous indifference appear in that light?

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