You hear all the time that the best way to solve a problem is to see it as an opportunity. And you can't be around business types for 10 minutes without hearing someone talk about "synergy" or "confluence of interests." Charlotte today finds itself now in a situation tailor-made to test those ideas. We have a big problem, and someone with an equally big problem is in a position to help solve both in one fell swoop. But somebody will have to wake up to the possibilities and pursue them.
The first big problem I'm talking about is the $87 million shortage at CMS. Schools Superintendent Peter Gorman worked up a plan, which was approved by the School Board last week, to cut nearly 500 teachers and 83 assistant principals in order to deal with the shortfall, if things get really tight.
Surely we can do better than that. First of all, there's a good chance, as School Board Chair Molly Griffin pointed out, that more money will be forthcoming from both the state and the federal stimulus package, making preparations for Gorman's deep cuts seem kind of panicky.
Gorman has generally managed the politics of his job relatively well, especially for someone who has, so far, produced mediocre results at best. This time, however, he's tone-deaf to CMS parents' viewpoints and wishes. If you have, or have had, one or more kids in CMS, then you know that the teachers and principals are the very foundation of a decent education. What our kids' education doesn't have much to do with are the school administrators downtown, and certainly not the superintendent, much less the board. In view of these truths, Gorman and friends need to come up with alternate ideas regarding staffing, funding, and most of all, cutting positions in the downtown administration. As the posters held by some teachers who marched in opposition to Gorman's plan put it, "Trim from the top."
Here's the other local problem: Bank of America's image is in the toilet. Bad decisions, lost billions and massive layoffs have all reduced the mega-bank's local reputation to the point that Charlotteans now generally have a higher opinion of Congress than of BofA.
Here's how to solve both problems at once. Charlotte has always prided itself as a "can-do" city where the corporate elite steps up to the plate when there's a compelling community need. We saw it happen recently when high rollers and other citizens, led by the Foundation for the Carolinas, contributed $2.6 million for the Critical Needs Response Fund. Because of their generosity, local charities will be better able to continue aiding the poor during the current economic mess. Now, if a public school system with an $87 million shortfall doesn't constitute a community emergency, I don't know what does -- so let's bring on the corporations with big bucks.
Specifically, Bank of America should make up the difference in the school budget. Yes, the behemoth bank is hurting, but it also owes the community something extra for having caused so much upheaval with its repeated layoffs. Charlotte's big companies and civic leaders know that a floundering school system is the last thing a city wants to have when the wolf is at the door. How are any new large companies going to be lured here if they're not sure whether or not they'll be able to hire enough educated locals to staff their businesses? If Ken Lewis played the situation deftly, he could solve the schools' money woes and rehabilitate his company's local image at the same time. Such a deal! BofA, remember got $45 billion -- that's billion -- from the federal bailout. The schools are "only" facing an $87 million shortfall -- in other words, pocket change for Ken Lewis & Co.
So, Ken, think of how good the city would feel after you ponied up the $87 million for our public school system. Imagine how much goodwill you would buy with the move. And imagine how much good you would be doing for this community, which has been so good to you and your corporation.
Stop the Beat: On a totally unrelated note, is anyone else tired of hearing about Rihanna being physically abused by her jerk boyfriend Chris Brown? Not that her situation isn't awful, but why do so many people only get excited about violence against women when it happens to a celebrity? What happened to Rihanna was terrible, and hopefully Brown will be made to pay, get therapy, whatever is required. But the fact is that there are nearly 4 million women per year in the United States who are physically abused by their partners. Nearly a third of women who go to hospital emergency rooms are there because their partner beat them. Experts say around 10 percent of pregnant women are physically abused, which is really horrendous and, frankly, hard to fathom. If you're one of those who are horrified by Rihanna's situation and would like to do something about domestic violence, call up United Family Services' Shelter for Battered Women at 704-332-2513, and ask them how you can help.
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