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A VIEW from LICK SKILLET: Yes, we are Taxed Enough Already, aren’t we?

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Well, gentle reader, we cannot help but wonder what has happened to our Tea Party folks.

As you will recall, the founders of this movement were the fiscal conservatives who felt that governments were wasting too much of our money. In fact, as you know, the Tea Party name is short for “Taxed Enough Already?”

If the local Tea Party folks have been reading the Roane County News recently, they would realize that while they are out throwing things at the far off government in Washington, D.C., the local tax-and-spend crowd are proceeding apace with plans to put us all in hock for at least thirty years with a plan that will not only plunge us deeper in debt, but do so in order to implement a programme that will only worsen our outlook and weaken our social fabric.

To make matters even worse, the tax-and-spend crowd are mounting a two-pronged attack, presumably on the theory that we will choose to marshal our forces to thwart one wing of the attack and thus allow the other wing to breach our defences and storm the fortress of responsible government.

We speak, of course, of the misguided school consolidation people on the one hand and the weak-kneed jail house people on the other.

The school consolidation scheme was brought to our attention by Damon Lawrence’s informative report in Monday’s News headlined “Merging schools eyed for savings”, with a sub-head of “New, bigger high school part of talks.”

In considering this bone-headed proposition, one should first consider that in all the years that the fuzzy-headed, flannel-mouthed “education” lobby has been practicing its feats of legerdemain, there is no known instance in which school merging, or consolidation, has ever produced consequential savings.

In fact it is almost a given that such mergers or consolidation will result in extra spending rather than savings.

We assume that our older readers who have not lost their power of recall completely will remember that we have fought this battle before and finally forced the “consolidators” to retreat.

At that time, the plan was to build one humongous new high school in Midtown and bus all the students there after closing all the existing high schools, and we assume that the neo-consolidators have a similar idea in mind.

This is a companion notion to the “we-need-more-people” lament sung by Commissioner Berry about which we wrote last week.

These folks have somehow got the delusion in their heads that creating one big beehive school with hundreds, if not thousands, of semi-anonymous students will produce a smarter, better prepared student body than smaller neighborhood schools can do.

(Yeah, Right, just look at the wonderful success of that idea in Washington, D. C., New York, N. Y., Chicago, 111., Philadelphia, Pa., Los Angeles, Calif., etc., etc., etc.)

That same group of older readers may well recall too when Roane County High and Harriman High were both top-notch schools ranking in the highest echelon of educational institutions.

But we have grown, and the schools have grown, and what is the result?

One answer is provided by the recently released ACT scores for Tennessee students.

The ACT test has a top score of 36. Roane County Schools 2013 score is 19.2. This means, of course, that on the more usual grading methodology based on a maximum score of 100, our students have an average score of 53.3. When the old curmudgeon was in school, a 53.3 was an “F”, even grading on the curve.

But, of the systems reported in the News Sentinel, only Anderson County (excluding Oak Ridge,) at 18.9, and Union County at 17.4 were lower than Roane County’s 19.2.

Even the statewide average was .3 higher at 19.5, and the national average was 1.7 higher at 20.9.

Other interesting nearby scores were Maryville City at 22..9, Oak Ridge at 22.6, and Knox County at 20.2.

As we wrote a few weeks ago in the column entitled “Isn’t it time school board learned a lesson?”... the title ‘Board of Education’ would seem to indicate that that august body’s chief concern ought to be EDUCATION. Not Athletics, not extracurricular activities, not employment, not transportation, nor any other of the myriad matters with which that body seems to concern itself.”

They have enough money to get the job done, if they would recognize what the job is, and concentrate on getting that job done, and quit coming up with fanciful notions as to how to spend even more money that will only lessen still further the quality of education provided to the students of Roane County.

We have the schools, we have the teachers. Use them to the best advantage to produce educated students who can at least attain the state average on the ACT test.
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Turning now to that other money pit, the Roane County Jail, page two of Monday’s News had another Damon Lawrence story headed “Roane County jail certified by TCI last week”. It seems that by going “hat in hand” as supplicants, our high sheriff and a delegation of his staff procured a new certification from the Tennessee Corrections Institute for our jail.

Just in case you are a new-comer, or have forgotten, this is the new jail, built under the guidance of this self-same TCI just four years ago.

It seems that they messed up then, and made us mess up too.

According to them, after tripling the capacity of our jail facilities at a cost of several millions of dollars, we’re right back in the same position of this bunch of yahoos once again threatening to “de-certify” the jail we built specifically to satisfy their requirements, because of jail “over-crowding!

The jail is certified to hold 174 inmates and supposedly it had 180 last week.

But, the interesting thing about these 180 is that 26 of them were not county prisoners, but Tennessee Department of Corrections prisoners!

If the state were taking care of its responsibilities our jail population would be 154, or twenty less than approved capacity.

Secondly, we would question whether the accounting methodology has been corrected so that the population is really correctly counted.

At the time this matter was previously in the news, the number of inmates included anybody who was booked in at the jail, even though the individual was only held for a few minutes or a few hours and never occupied a jail house bed at all.

How is it done now?

We regret to see that the jail, which we spent so much to correct, continues to be out of control.

We would hope that the high sheriff would exercise his powers to correct this before the next budget year, and especially before the next election.