I spoke to many people after the City of Jackson voted to pull their portion of the special option sales tax from funding education. There are a lot of opinions, but most fall, correctly, on the side of our students. The City should not have taken the money especially in the sudden, under-handed manner in which they did. The toxic political rhetoric was fluent-
“We’ve paid more than our fair share.”
“It’s the County’s responsibility to fund education.”
“The County has had $12 million to play with all this time, now they have to put that money in the schools.”
“We just want what’s fair and equitable.”
“We have to fund infrastructure to keep people driving in to shop and use our healthcare facilities.”
The bottom line is there is more massive government spending on the way, there’s debt to be serviced, and this is how the City wants to do it.
Here are some things to consider:
Elections have consequences. The people that have been voted in cycle after cycle have become emboldened by what they see as public approval for their job performance. All of these councilmen, commissioners, and school board members (with a few exceptions on the commission and school board) have track records which have put our city and county in the spot in which we find ourselves. The vote to consolidate schools under a certain funding mechanism (a sales tax increase) set us up for this political relationship and all that comes along with it. Burn me once, shame on you. Burn me twice…
Closely following that point is that the City is dividing the tax dollars into “ours and theirs.” Bottom line- it’s the peoples’ money. They tried to divide it into city resident vs. county resident. Hey, I pay sales tax in Jackson on a daily basis. A lot of folks (about half of the population in the city during the business day I’ve been told) pay those taxes. The greater West TN area and many from across the nation contribute to our school system. Isn’t divisive politics a hallmark of liberal progressivism? It’s here in Jackson, folks.
The state mandate for “maintenance of effort,” which means the local funding for education must stay at least at the current level for operation needs, has a) tied the hands of the County in deciding how to allocate funds for education; b) made them much more reluctant to increase the budget; c) emboldened the City to pull their “donation” to the school system knowing the County has to make up for it. Federal and State mandates tie our hands so badly at the local level and create the problems we face like this one. If it were not for federal mandates, interpreted by federal bureaucrats, we wouldn’t be talking about the reportedly urgent need to build a new jail. It’s time someone stood up against costly big government mandates (see my first point).
Lastly, this is what you get from government education. It’s what you get when you rely on politicians to mean what they say when they promise to create high-quality schools, to follow through on their belief that “the children are our future.” What the government gives, it can take away, or regulate into something unrecognizable and ineffective. We have to stop referring to public education as an education. Children, and adults, are constantly learning. A classroom isn’t required for that. What we’re learning now is that all the promises are for political points.
Let me ask this pertinent question in conclusion- with whom is the City Council earning political points after their decision to remove their benevolent gesture to the school system?