Different year, same drama: As usual, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Peter Gorman is doing the oh-so-broke shuffle in hopes of protecting his bureaucratic fiefdom and his sprawling budget. To hell with the fact that the region has shed 62,000 jobs, people are desperate to hold on to their homes and can't pay their mortgage much less their property tax bill. He's not giving up a single bureaucrat, no matter what it costs taxpayers.
For perspective, the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce ranks CMS as the region's third largest employer with 19,485 employees. That's about the same number Wells Fargo has. It's more than Bank of America employs. And it's more than Duke Energy and US Airways combined. Yet we're supposed to believe that there is no fat in there, not one redundant job or ounce of waste.
Gorman is now threatening to shut down schools, cut middle school sports and teachers' jobs (up to 880 of them, supposedly resulting in some kind of harm to kids in the classroom) in order to get parents to storm the Mecklenburg County Commission demanding a tax hike.
Don't let this concern you. He does it every year. When CMS is really, actually in trouble, you'll know. The "canary in the coal mine" is CMS television, which has zero educational value but is treasured for the face-time it gives bureaucrats. When CMS is actually broke and the budget has no more fat, he'll cut the $400,000 budget for CMS television. It's not a large budget, but it is a symbolic one. Cutting it would show that Gorman really cares more about saving teachers' jobs than he does about how his hair looks on television. Until then, you simply can't take seriously a man who'd take sports away from middle schoolers to keep himself in front of the cameras.
Two Sues: Rep. Sue Myrick has always had tough words for the politicians who'd run up the deficit with pork barrel spending during election season. The rest of the time, she's working to bring home, er, regional improvement projects. Take the $500 million streetcar for instance. As Meckdeck.com's Jeff Taylor recently pointed out, Myrick sent a letter to the federal transportation secretary in support of the city's application for a $25 million federal streetcar grant. City taxpayers would have to pay the rest of the $37 million bill for a 1.5-mile segment of the line that will run down Elizabeth Avenue.
It's the kind of grant Myrick would normally call pork, and by using her influence to get it, Myrick is no better than those she has a long history of criticizing.
Once the funding for the streetcar is secure, look for Myrick to have the brass to put out a press release taking credit for it. Unless, of course, it's election season.
500 Faux jobs: The Obama administration claims to be creating jobs with the stimulus package, but the way they're doing it in Mecklenburg County isn't what most Americans had in mind.
Last week, the Mecklenburg County Commission voted to accept a $10 million grant in a couple of installments to "create" 500 jobs. The money will be used to pay companies to hire 500 low-income workers. Every cent of their compensation will be paid for with money borrowed by the federal government and added to the national debt. The money will be given directly to the companies to pay the workers. When it runs out in September, their "jobs" will end.
"The Opportunity Project helps job-ready individuals get a paycheck coming in to provide for their families, while employers finally get the help they need but were unable to hire in tough economic times," says Department of Social Services Director Mary Wilson.
At $20,000 a job, one has to wonder if it wouldn't make more sense to just write 500 checks to the workers and dispense with the illusion of actual employment.
History Denied: There was quite a row earlier this month over state education officials' proposal to relegate history before 1877 to the early grades, effectively removing everything from the revolution to the Constitution from the high school classroom in North Carolina. That elementary students couldn't possibly grasp the concepts in the federalist papers was hardly the only problem with this. The state's newspapers and some educators argued that students would actually get more early American history, but one key fact was left out of the debate on this.
The state requires only 45 minutes per week of history instruction at the elementary level. That's three hours a month and less than 30 hours a year. Knowing that, you can only draw one conclusion. The "educrats" in the state's department of public instruction who made this proposal are perhaps the only people in this debate who knew how little history is actually taught to elementary public school children in this state, particularly those who perform below average on state tests in reading and math. That they would propose to relegate the most important parts of American history to those grades can only be interpreted as a cynical move to keep children ignorant of it. Fortunately, a massive outcry caused them to punt their proposal last week.