Cut and Run

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It's always heartwarming when private school parents lecture us about what's wrong with public schools without bothering to mention how public schools are affected when parents pull out their own kids and send them to private schools. So naturally as a public school parent, I found former Scene editor Bruce Dobie's oped piece in today's Tennessean touching in the extreme.

Dobie says if public schools are underfunded (which it's not clear he really believes) then the city should emulate private schools and get rich people to pony up in a capital campaign. Perhaps that would spare individuals like him the legal obligation to pay more for the public schools they elected to abandon, but he offers no explanation for why a fund raising drive is preferable to progressive taxation as the appropriate way to fund this or any other public service. Another of his proposals is to blackmail teachers into giving up their rights -- blame their legal right to unionize for everything wrong with public schools and hold teacher raises hostage for the elimination of the due process rights that go with tenure. If only the problems faced by public schools were as simple as the fact that teachers can't be fired without cause.

He describes expanding school funding as throwing good money after bad. When the per pupil expenditures in Metro come even remotely close to what they are at USN, MBA, and Harpeth Hall (and not just tuition -- don't forget to factor in those building fund and capital campaign dollars), and when those schools start assuming the kinds of programs addressing remedial learning and special needs in a diverse urban public school population, then maybe we can begin to talk about whose good money is chasing bad.

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