A Stand-Up Vote
January 6th, 2011
Some are going to work to graduate to something better, some are going to try and up the grade for everyone, some are going to the principal's office and some are going to be expelled, but all will be affected by this fight.
And every one of us is in it.
As published in The Daily News, January 7, 2011, and in The Memphis News, January 8-9, 2011
THIS SCHOOL FIGHT IS OURS TO WIN
Somebody else started it.
The school bully tried to take our lunch money one too many times, and this time, he got his clock wound.
David Pickler's plan – pursued for years – to divorce 70% of Shelby County's school children and run off with the 30% with the most money has backfired. I call it Pickler's plan because he's gone to great lengths to make sure we all see him as the voice and face of Shelby County Schools, and he's been president of that board since he was just a cucumber. Although he doesn't seem to want it right now, he richly deserves the credit.
This is Pickler's pickle.
Showing real courage in the face of harsh reality, the majority of the Memphis City School Board stood up to be counted, and surrendered their charter in the hope of a victory for the school children of Shelby County. All of them.
They decided that talking wouldn't get anywhere since they tried that with single-source funding a while back, and Pickler stopped talking.
They rejected the notion that the Shelby County School Board would be bound by a non-binding resolution not to pursue special district recognition. Oh, please.
They saw through state senate majority leader Mark Norris' transparent gesture of backing away from special district legislation, knowing full well that special interests elsewhere in the state would push for it. Come on, Senator.
Their fears were justified when state Senator Brian Kelsey – even with half his precincts within the city – filed a narrowly defined bill requiring the state to take over Memphis schools. Thanks but no thanks, Senator.
It's our fight to finish.
What sort of victory it will be, or whether or not it will be a victory at all, will be decided first in February when Memphis voters either endorse or reject the charter surrender. Hopefully, we'll have enough guts to stand behind those who surrendered their power to us, and that we can teach a lesson to the powerful few who would isolate those with the least and marginalize an entire region's future in favor of those with the most.
After that vote, the battles will be many and every position on all sides will be under heavy fire. There'll be more people in line to see a judge than there are in traffic court. There'll be more violations of the sunshine law than at a vampire convention. There'll be more slight-of-hand than at a carnival midway and even more barkers and games.
It won't be boring.
If Kenneth Whalum, the Baptist Ministerial Association and the Memphis Education Association are all praying for David Pickler, be assured it's not about our children's gain – it's about their loss of power. If suburban political operative Jon Crisp is launching a Machiavellian fear campaign to recruit those same people to reject the charter surrender, be assured it's not about growth and progress – it's about preservation and privilege.
I'm a Memphian, and it's time for this fight.