Archive for the ‘Schools’ Category
March 10, 2014
Common Core Educational Standards-Good Or Bad?
This is a subject that I consider more important than even pension reform. This will determine the educational level of our children and grandchildren and the future of our country both economically and from a freedom standpoint.
What Common Core purports to do is set a uniform school curriculum across the country leading to uniform testing and higher standards. What it is fact will do, if fully implemented, is take local control out of the hands of local school boards and particularly out of the hands of parents.
In my 10 years of “OPEN RECORDS ADVOCACY” I have come to the opinion that the most difficult people to get open records information from is local school bureaucrats, starting with the old Memphis School System and now the new Shelby County School bureaucracy which acts much like the old City of Memphis School bureaucracy.
This coming Friday evening Mrs. Karen Lamoreaux (Arkansas) will speak from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM at White Station Church of Christ, 2nd floor, 1106 Colonial Road. Listen to her in a short youtube video as she took apart the local school board.
Please try to be there and learn what she is doing in Arkansas and nationwide.
This is a person who knows what is going on and we need to listen to her and take local action on our own school board. I feel her frustration as it is very difficult to get through the bureaucracy and get results.
Within the last few months I asked the Shelby County School System for the following information.
“I would like to have access to and view all data requests regarding data that the school system is collecting on the students. I would like to know if this data is requested and collected from the students directly without parental involvement or if the parents are requested to furnish this information or data and if this information is voluntary or required of the students or parents.
Their answer was the following.
“Your request is not granted because it is not understood.”
February 25, 2014
As I was reviewing information from the County concerning the new 2014 healthcare rates for active employees I came across a listing for rates for 10 month employees. I asked about this and they told me that these were the employees for the Shelby County Head Start Program. I remembered the proposed 1/2% sales tax proposal for the City for a pre K type program which failed to get the votes. However I did not know about the County program. I asked how many employees were involved, what did it cost and who was paying.
The County is great and fully transparent about answering questions in contrast to the City of Memphis, the old Memphis School System and the new Shelby County School system.
Well here are some details. The Executive Director is John Lovelace and he is paid a salary of $116,471.00 per year. According to (more…)
January 23, 2014
More Info From the Memphis CAFR
Pick up the CA and you will get more articles than you can read over your morning coffee. They all point to the upcoming decisions of the Mayor and the City Council. The chickens are coming home to roost as they have been disturbed by the noise of the cans that have been kicked down the road.
As I sift through the current 2013 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) of the City of Memphis, I decided to compare several pages from the 2008 CAFR with the same pages from the 2013 CAFR.
November 21, 2013
Close to $400,000 spent to pass this 1/2 cent sales tax increase. This is a top down proposal, we know better than you, type solution. City finances are on fire compared to the County which is in relatively good shape. This reminds me of Washington DC top down proposals. Shea Flinn and Jim Strickland are good guys and if they could get seven votes, they would reform city finances. Pastor Whalum knows the problem and the people and I think he has a better handle on the solution.
The real problem that this is intended to address is simple in origin.
The problem is single parent families from which comes illiteracy and welfare dependency.
The answer is a stable family, a good education encouraged by the parents and taxpaying work.
This proposed solution nibbles around the edges and throws money at the problem with a little left over to reduce property taxes, maybe.
The proponents of this proposal think sales taxes are the answer to everything. Finance Bass Pro, rebuild the Sears Tower, finance fairgrounds, finance heritage trail, finance a new convention center all from increased sales taxes. Have you looked at your Memphis CAFR (Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports)? The local share of State Sales taxes have gone down by $4.5 million dollars from 2008 to 2012. And they tell you that all these projects can be financed by the incremental amount of sales tax collections generated by these multimillion dollar projects. Go figure!
November 7, 2013
I sent the attached open records request to the Shelby County Board of Education addressed to the records custodian. I got the answer shown in the attachment. Since then I have called twice and have gotten no return call. I then sent an email to Jennifer Collins and requested that she put the documents at the front desk a week ago Friday which I would pick up with a check. In the email I said if that was not possible to let me know. I arrived Friday morning and there were no documents and they could not get Ms. Collins on the phone. Also I was not allowed into the general counsel’s office in contradiction to the Tennessee open records law. I snail mailed the check and I finally received some documents about the books by return snail mail rather than by electronic mail. This cost them $2.32 to mail them.
The arrogance of these people is amazing. They don’t think they work for the taxpayers. They get this attitude by watching what goes on in Washington DC. Nothing really has changed since the consolidation. It seems to still be the Memphis School System. Obviously (more…)
November 4, 2013
This is an issue that the City of Memphis is trying to sneak by the voters in a vote that will probably have a low turnout. These are the reasons to vote NO. Early voting starts today. As they say in Chicago, vote early and often.
- The Commercial Appeal writes that 63% ($30 million) goes to Pre-K and the rest (1$17 million) to property tax reduction. However look at the wording of the Ordinance which states that the money goes to a Pre-K Commission appointed by Mayor Wharton which will make the decisions. Do you trust such a commission?
- Our sales tax is already very high (9.25%) and this would take it to 9.75%, the highest in the state, a very regressive tax.
- There is no evidence that Pre-K works and has any long term benefits,.
- There should be no new taxes until the City of Memphis and the City Council reform pensions and health care costs and get on a path to reduce unfunded liability as pointed out by the State of Tennessee.
October 23, 2013
The Importance of Open Records
I just got back from four days visiting with my two brothers at Perdido Key in Florida. Great time and very relaxing.
Now back to local business. I recently sent an open records request to the new Shelby County School System. It was a simple request to be able to access the textbooks and material that the students will have this year. Also I requested access to the data that will be collected from the students and whether this data will be with or without the permission of the parents. Seemed like a simple request. Their answer to the data request was “Your request is not granted because it is not understood.”
You would think that there must be a list of things that “Student Records people” want such as name, address, date of birth, parents names, race, health records, income, address, religion, etc, etc. I am sure there is more data that they want but I will try to explain my request better in order to get an answer.
Several years ago I proposed that they give access to all the books that the students use by putting just two copies of each book and pamphlet in the central Memphis library. I called and got permission from the library head and she approved of the idea. However the then Memphis City School Board decided that two extra books of each book was too expensive. Therefore taxpayers are denied access to review the books for which they are paying.
I would appreciate your thoughts on this open records request and their response.
October 17, 2013
I have been in contact with a very active group of people in Nashville about common core, school books and material and data collecting. Following is part of a recent email from this Nashville group about a great success they had in reviewing school books and reporting on what is actually in these books. I have recently sent an open records request to the new Shelby County School System requesting access to books, book lists and data collection. I have not yet heard back from them on this request. I will keep you informed on this request. Eventually I will get access to these books, pamphlets, material and data collection. At that point I will need help to review and report as did the Nashville group. It is a big job but are the kids worth it? Please let me know if you are up for the work.
This report came from Dr. J Lee Douglas, Nashville.
September 12, 2013
As I start reading through this massive document I have to start with the introduction and rationale of the plan. Here are the first 26 pages of the draft plan.
To be a successful urban area, Memphis has to do the following.
- Increase property values
- Decrease poverty
- Ensure government efficiency
- Improve neighborhoods
- Invest in human capital
- Grow the economy
Wow!! What great ideas. Why did I not think of those?
In an article published in the Commercial Appeal on Sunday discussing the recently passed property tax increase for Shelby County (http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2013/aug/11/a-perfect-storm-unique-challenges-on-revenue/) County Commissioner Henri Brooks takes aim at the Memphis-Shelby County PILOT program. Brooks objects to PILOT programs taking resources that, in her view, would be better spent on education than the business community. The PILOT program (Payment-In-Lieu-of-Taxes) provides relief of 90% of Memphis property taxes and 75% of Shelby County taxes to qualified businesses. The program is administered by EDGE (Economic Development Growth Engine) in Shelby County.
The PILOT program seeks to grow the economy of Memphis and Shelby County by making it more attractive for companies to locate here. PILOT grants are given to companies and projects that meet the goals of EDGE, but there is no obligation to give PILOT money to (more…)