Archive for the ‘Schools’ Category

NO-YES-NO

Tuesday, September 18th, 2018

 

September 18, 2018

 

NO-YES-NO

 

There are three interesting proposals at the end of the upcoming November 6th ballot here in Memphis.

These three are very interesting and particularly difficult to understand but I will try to explain them to the best of my ability and research.

 

City of Memphis Ordinance #5676 Vote yes or NO

Shall the Charter of the City of Memphis, Tennessee be amended to provide no person shall be eligible to hold or to be elected to the office of Mayor or Memphis City Council if any such person has served at any time more than three (3) consecutive four-year terms, except that service by persons elected or appointed to fill an unexpired four-year term shall not be counted as full four-year term? Vote NO

 

 

This is an attempt by the political class to undue the terms limits put on the City of Memphis by voters. You can see what happens when politicians get too many terms in office. Look at the 2001 pension resolution by the City of Memphis when they approved elected and appointed officials to get immediate pensions after 12 years of service regardless of age. This cost the city of Memphis millions until finally rescinded. More recently the Shelby County Commission tried a similar plan which was vetoed by the outgoing County Mayor and may come up again with the new County Commission and new County Mayor. VOTE NO!

 

City of Memphis Ordinance #5677 Vote YES  or no

 

Shall the Charter of the City of Memphis, Tennessee be amended to repeal Instatnt Runoff Voting and to restore the election procedure existing prior to the 2008 Amendment for all City offices, and expressly retaining the 1991 federal ruling for persons elected to the Memphis City Council single districts?

 

Instant runoff voting is a very bad idea and it is being sold to save money by not having a run off election. Nationwide it has proved to not work and to cause confusion with the electorate. More importantly it does not necessarily lead to a candidate winning with a majority as is required in the single member districts of the City Council. A good example is the 2015 election to the City Council. City council races for Districts 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7 required runoff elections on November 19, 2015, with no candidates receiving majorities of the general election vote. A particularly bad example was the race eventually won by Worth Morgan.  There were 4 candidates in the first round that won 90% of the votes. In the runoff between Morgan and Springer, Morgan won by only 136 votes. If we had had instant runoff voting it is probable someone else would have won and that person would have won without a majority of voters thus violating the 1991 federal ruling. 2nd and 3rd choices do not count as a majority decision and you end up with a winning plurality candidate. Only a one on one runoff election insures a majority winner. VOTE YES!

 

City of Memphis Ordinance #5677 Vote yes or NO

Shall the Charter of the City of Memphis, Tennessee be amended to provide that in any municipal election held as required by law, the candidate receiving the largest number of votes shall be declared the winner, thereby eliminating run-off elections?

 

This is an attempt to change from a majority vote system to a plurality vote system. This goes along with the instant runoff voting and should be defeated. Vote NO

The New Shelby County Government Is Looking Like the Old City Government

Tuesday, September 4th, 2018

September 4, 2018

The New Shelby County Government Is Looking Like the Old City Government

 

The new Shelby County government is just beginning and we all wish them well. We all want and need low cost and efficient government to furnish fire and police services, bring us our utilities, repair our roads, run our legal system, furnish medical services and educate our children.

 

Shelby County government has been well run for many years as compared to the City of Memphis. Let me give you several examples.

 

In 2007 the Governmental Accounting Standards Board issued GASB 45 which required that other post-employment benefits (OPEB) must be recognized as the benefits earned rather than as they are paid. The county in 2008 made certain positive changes as shown on the attached document. The City of Memphis did nothing until 2017 when they made changes to the benefit plan. The County OPEB unfunded liability went from $319 million in 2008 to $46 million today. The City of Memphis did nothing until 2017 when the benefit changes brought the unfunded liability from $857 million to $417 million, due to plan benefit changes.

 

The City of Memphis pension board regularly approves line of duty liability at 10 times the rate per employee as the County and the MLGW. This has led to an annual cost for LOD disability for the city of Memphis of some $17 million dollars per year, 10 times that of the County and the MLGW. The problem is the makeup of the pension board membership that grants these LOD disability pensions.

 

And finally, the new County pension scam allowing benefits for life with 12 years of service looks much like the January 2001 pension scam of the City of Memphis. That disastrous action allowed elected and appointed employees with 12 years of service to receive their lifetime pensions immediately.

 

It is noteworthy that the new county resolution passed with an 8-2 majority. Commissioner Walter Bailey sponsored the resolution saying that “since elected officials with term limits shouldn’t be penalized for their public service”. Commissioner Walter Bailey was term limited after his first two 4 year terms and then reelected later after laying out for a term for another term.

 

Now some politicians want to do away with term limits. The above scams only make me want to tighten terms limits so that term limited politicians do not twist the rules to feather their nests. We need term limits pension scam rules not only locally but also for the US House of Representatives and for the US Congress.

 

What are your thoughts?

There Is No 4 Or 8 Year Solution To Poverty

Monday, August 20th, 2018

Lee Harris will become the new Shelby County mayor on September 3rd of this year. In a recent article in the CA he stated that he would use the borrowing power of the state’s most populous county to spur regrowth in old Memphis neighborhoods and ease poverty. A graduate of Yale law school, he wants blight and poverty eased, and favors building four or five public schools (each costing $100 million) in humble neighborhoods.

 

He states that better schools would help children climb out of poverty. Improved education and could draw new residents in waves. They’d repair blighted houses to live near the schools, bring new life to entire neighborhoods. He’d have the county borrow the school construction money.

 

I have several thoughts about his vision.

 

  • A fancy $100 million-dollar school building does not guarantee a great educational institution. It is the eager to learn students and great teachers that make a great learning place.
  • How do you pay for $500 million dollars in bonds for education services without raising property taxes or cutting other county obligations such a health services, law and fire services, pension and OPEB obligations?

 

These short-sighted political solutions to a long-term problem is typical of many politicians. The real problem of poverty lies in a lack of education in the population that Mr. Harris wants to help but his solution will not work and could be counterproductive. Poor education is a generational problem caused by the destruction of the family and children growing up without the support of two parents who demand that their children learn principally at home and also in school. A demand for learning at home and for discipline is what is missing and fancy schools will not help.

What is your opinion of Mr. Harris’s plan to end poverty?

ELECTIONS ARE COMING

Wednesday, July 11th, 2018

Elections Are Coming

 

July 11, 2018

 

There is an important election coming up on August 2, 2018. Let us look at some of the important elections.

A new Tennessee Governor will be elected as our current governor is term limited. You will be asked to choose whether to vote in the Republican or Democratic primary. I am voting in the Republican primary. For me it comes down to Diane Black or Randy Boyd. I met Ms. Black recently and was impressed. Mr. Boyd has the support of Mike Huckabee. Take your pick but I am voting for Ms. Black.

Another important election is the United States Senate because of the retirement of our current senator, Bob Corker. I am voting for Marsha Blackburn. She will have a tough fight in November against Phil Bredesen, the Democrat.

The most important local election is the County Mayoral election. Shelby County has been well run under Mayor Luttrell and David Lenoir is the best candidate and I will be voting for him.

Another important election is the District 8 United States House of Representatives between the current representative, David Kustoff, and George Flinn. I know and like George and while he has a high hill to climb I would vote for him, but I am not in his district. In my district I am voting for Charlotte Bergmann.

I am in Tennessee Senate District 31 and will be voting for Brian Kelsey.

I am in Tennessee House of Representative District 93 and there is no Republican running, so I will not be voting on this district.  I used to vote in District 83 and if I was still there I would vote for Mark White.

Another important election is the Shelby County Commissioners. I am voting in District 7 and will vote for Samuel D. Goff. I recommend the republican candidates where they are running.

I have listed a complete ballot with my choices listed in red. Vote your convictions but please vote.

The True Greatness Of America, Will We Lose It?

Monday, July 2nd, 2018

July 2, 2018

The True Greatness Of America, Will We Lose It?

This Wednesday is July 4th, the anniversary of the declaration of Independence, I worry for our country. The country is divided, and I hear things from people that I cannot believe I would ever hear from people who have benefitted from living in this great country. What is wrong with these people? Do they not see what is happening in other countries like Venezuela, North Korea, Syria, Iran and many other countries?

 

I would like you to read a history written by my Uncle Vern Laughter. He was born in Desoto county on a farm in 1902. He was a remarkable man with a genius level of memory and observation. He worked for the City of Memphis in the engineering department for years and after retirement wrote this remarkable history entitled “An Ordinary Family’s Changing Life-Style: 1902-1982.”

 

It is the story of America and the genius of our founding fathers and their Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Make no mistake, there are forces in America who would change our founding documents and our history. I ask you to read the history written by my Uncle Verne as it is the history of hard working Americans who built this country with their work, religion, integrity, charity and love of country.

 

Here below is an introduction to his history and it is charming with his sketches of his youth.

 

http://www.memphisshelbyinform.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Laughter-drawings.pdf

 

 

The over 500 page history can be read on my website. Go to http://www.memphisshelbyinform.com/?page_id=4

 

I hope that you will go and read this history over the fourth of July week and reflect on this country and thank God that you are part of this great country.

 

GOD BLESS AMERICA AND THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE AND THE CONSTITUTION.

Make Memphis Great

Monday, May 28th, 2018

May 29, 2018

Make Memphis Great

What is great about Memphis?

It is a beautiful city with wonderful trees and flowers.

I has wonderful weather. Many believe that because it is built on a series of bluffs along the river, that most of the bad weather goes north or south of the City.

It has a treasure trove of drinkable pure water.

It has a relativity low cost of living compared to many comparably sized cities in Tennessee and especially nationwide.

It has good local healthcare facilities including a fabulous St Jude cancer facility.

Then what is keeping Memphis from being better?

A larger than normal poverty level caused by a lack of qualified and trained workers for better than minimum wage jobs that require certain skills. These better paying jobs are available but are going unfilled.

An educational system that separates students into those that can afford private education schools with good outcomes and those forced into public education with poor outcomes.

A lack of the traditional family structure based on a two-parent home with values taught at home and in traditional churches. This previously prevalent and proven successful family and church structure has been destroyed by years of failed government poverty programs that encourage welfare dependence and lack of initiative.

Local crime encouraged by gangs and drug culture.

How can we change the above? We encourage your input, suggestions and debate.

Real World Workforce Development

Saturday, May 5th, 2018

May 2, 2018

 

There was a recent article in the CA titled “Putting a new sprout on technical education”. The article went on to talk about a new Shelby County School Program that will cost $8 million dollars. The article went on to say students will learn hands on skills that lead to an industry certification. This program is part of a massive overhaul of the Shelby County School’s offerings for career and technical education. District leaders say it’s an effort to increase the number of students earning a work certificate before they graduate high school and aligning programs to high-need and high-paying jobs in Memphis. The article talks about various Workforce Development programs which do not seem to produce the trained students for the good paying jobs available. For instance Bolton is adding an agricultural science, technology, engineering and math program, shortened to “agri-STEM.” Students will learn hands-on skills that lead to an industry certification, like flying a drone to survey crops with technology that maps where more water or fertilizer is needed. This sounds high tech and sexy but are these jobs out there in abundance?

 

 

I remember going into the old Memphis School system building and seeing the prominent sign saying, “Every Day, Every Child, College Bound”.

 

 

Now consider that the State of Tennessee funds tuition free education at SW Tennessee Community College for high school graduates funded by over $50 million with a below 10% graduation rate basically for low skilled job training.

 

In this election year we need a candidate for governor who will allow the Tennessee Promise program to pay tuition not only for SW Tennessee Community College but for other non-profit training programs that have a proven record of over 80% graduation rates and a record of good wage job placements for the local employers looking for trained and certified employees. I cannot understand the reluctance of past governors to look at what works based on proven graduation rates but also on proven job placements taking into consideration the wage rates paid after rigorous certified job training programs. Ask your candidates for governor about the issue of allowing the Tennessee Promise money to go where it produces provable results. So much money is now being wasted on workforce development programs that hand out worthless certifications for low paying jobs. To be somebody you have to study and train to do something needed in the real world of available high paying jobs. A worthless certificate after minimal training does not fill the bill.

Voting In the May 1, 2018 Primary Elections

Friday, April 13th, 2018

Voting In the May 1, 2018 Primary Elections

 

April 13, 2018

 

Early voting has already begun in the primary election. If you have already voted, good for you. If you have not yet voted I urge you to do so either early or wait until May 1st.

 

Early voting is convenient, but it sometimes occurs before some piece of information comes out which could have affected your vote choices. It is not unknown for some groups to publish some information which may or may not be true (possibly FAKE NEWS) just before an election date to damage some candidate without time to respond to the information. Therefore I am going to wait until May 1st to vote.

 

I urge you to vote early or of May 1st but please vote. You will be selecting the candidates for the August 2018 election for county mayor, the county commission and a number of county positions that are very important. I have listed below the Republican and Democratic candidates for these positions. I have also listed how I now intend to vote in the Republican primary. Vote as you wish but please vote.

 

 

 

 

Open Records At The Shelby County School System

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

Open Records At The Shelby County School System

 

I have a long history of asking for information from the old Memphis School System and the successor Shelby County school system. Under old Memphis School System obtaining information was very difficult and I actually filed three law suits in Chancery Court to get access to information which I won.

Now with the Shelby County School system it is somewhat easier to get information and I want to report a recent request and the results.

At the request of a representative of a local charter school I asked for pupil attendance information of the Shelby County public school system. The reason that the charter school wanted attendance information was that they were being criticized by the school system administration for their poor attendance record.

I was able to get the attached information about attendance. One is a summary of attendance information and the other is a detail of each particular school.

What struck me were several things revealed by the information.

The charter school people noted that their attendance numbers were affected by the lack of school bus services that are available in public schools. They must depend on parents and guardians to get the children to school.

The other figure which struck me was the percentage of students that are chronically absent in the three schools divisions, elementary, middle and high school.

Look at the figures.

Shelby County Schools

Current enrollment in elementary schools     47,022  15.9% are chronically absent

Current enrollment in middle schools              17,590  16.3% are chronically absent

Current enrollment in high schools                   25,718  33% are chronically absent

Charter Schools

Current enrollment in elementary schools     5002  15.8% are chronically absent

Current enrollment in middle schools              3542  17.3% are chronically absent

Current enrollment in high schools                   4659  21.1% are chronically absent

 

The above figures are about equal in elementary and middle schools but the charter schools are much better in high schools  with a 12% lower absenteeism rate.

These are important figures and should be studied as they reveal a lot about our upcoming children. What explains a 33% chronically absenteeism rate in public high schools?

I ask you to read and offer your opinion on these figures. I asked also for the union contract for Shelby county school teachers. I received it but on the pages where the salaries are, the figures are redacted. I have asked for the redacted information but to date have not received it but have been told that they are working on getting the information to the public taxpayers.

Redaction At The Federal Level

Wednesday, September 6th, 2017

Alutiiq Education and Training Facility, Anchorage Alaska?

 

I have had years of experience in obtaining open records at the local government level and at the state level. Until recently I had never asked for records at the Federal level. However after listening to open records requests on TV news asking for federal emails and records, I decided to try my hand.

The issue that peaked my interest started with the announcement of a $42 million dollar department of labor grant to the Benjamin L. Hooks Job Corps Center in Memphis. I decided that I would like to tour the Center to see how my tax money was being spent. It is located at 1555 McAlister Dr, Memphis 38116. I went there but was not allowed entrance because I did not have an appointment. I called several times to make an appointment but my calls were not returned. I persisted and finally got an appointment and toured the facility. It is very nice and well kept with housing for male and female students and a facility for child care. It does have training facilities for various jobs training for some 232 students, ages 16 to 24.

I asked for a financial statement to determine training cost per student but was told that they did not have one. I continued to investigate and found that the facility and many other similar facilities were operated under a labor department by an Alaskan Indian tribe, Alutiiq Educational and Training, Anchorage, Alaska. Alaska? Really!

The next step I took was to file a freedom of Information request at the federal level. After several weeks I got a reply that said that they had received my request and would reply once the documents were redacted. Redaction of information in emails and records is the removal or blanking out of information that they do not want you to see. To me this would be private information like social security numbers, medical history, addresses etc. Well here is the information that I received and note what was redacted. The amount of money spent on the program. Take a look at the report which includes the Benjamin L. Hooks facility. Particularly take a look at page 40 of 68. This shows the total cost per student per year but IT IS REDACTED! I did find one separate report online showing a requested budget cost per new enrollee of $33,851 per year. Alutiiq also manages similar facilities at Albuquerque, Montgomery, Bamberg, Dayton, Gulfport, Westover, Gadsden and Homestead. Quite an operation. I have the DOL reports on these operations but they are similarly redacted like the one above.

Is the Department of Labor facility program at the Benjamin L. Hooks center a good investment? How will we know with all the relevant information redacted? This is big government at its worst. Compare this to similar programs at Southwest Tennessee Community College and Moore Tech doing essentially the same type of job. At least we can get information about Southwest Tennessee (less than a 10% graduation rate with the total student cost paid by the state) and Moore Tech (80% graduation rate with no state funding). Open up the cover and let the taxpayers see the cost and the results.

I feel that this type of job training is done much better at the local and state level where costs and results can be known and monitored. What is your opinion?