PLAYING THE MOVIE FORWARD

“Jesus was a good guy, he didn’t need this shit.”
John Prine

“I don’t recognize myself. I don’t know who I am anymore.”
And it’s all fun and games until someone loses an I.”
Don Winslow, Savages

 

Over the weekend my wife and I took the kids hiking to Henry Horton Park. The ride is about 45 minutes and provided ample time for us to talk about current affairs, while the kids hung in the back seat.

“I tell you, this is the first time in my life I’ve really considered owning a gun,” I said to her after we’d hashed over all the ongoing insanity.

She just screwed up her face at me – a look of distaste clearly on display.

“I know”, I replied defensively, “It’s just with all this hoarding, and public shaming, and whatnot, it almost feels irresponsible not to have some form of protection if things really go south.”

She clearly wasn’t buying it, but the reality is that we are getting a little closer to a dystopian nightmare than we care to admit. I fear it wouldn’t take much to push us over into the abyss.

The divide between people seems to be widening at a rate to rival the spread of the coronavirus. Those that are choosing to stringently practice social distancing are becoming angry with those that are not as compliant, while offenders continue to ignore their pleas. The calls to lock the whole country down are becoming more and more prevalent, with positions on the proposal closely aligning with political affiliation.

Throughout the current crisis, Tennessee Republican Governor Bill Lee has bee repeatedly criticized for his lack of leadership. While I certainly am no fan of Lee’s, and he is not nearly as eloquent as New York Governor Cuomo, I’m not sure that the numbers back the level of expressed outrage.

New York has 59,648 cases with 965 total deaths, with half the cases and 2/3 of the fatalities coming from NYC. Tennessee, by contrast, has 1818 cases with 10 fatalities.

I’m always hesitant to offer statistics in the midst of a crisis, they could change in a moment’s notice – and likely will as circumstances around area nursing homes continue to evolve – but at present, the numbers seem to show that as unelquent as Lee’s actions are, they seem to be somewhat effective in comparison to other states.

Kentucky’s Governor Beshear threw shade at Lee last week. Shade unsupported by statistics, as Kentucky has less than a third of the cases as Tennessee with nearly as many deaths. In my eyes that’s not a winning equation.

In times like this, I evaluate my government leaders in the same manner as when I hire an attorney. I’m not looking for a friend or someone to make me feel good. If that’s what I want, I’ll adopt a dog. What I want is someone who is providing results, someone who is employing a strategy that at least appears to be mitigating the crisis. For now, Lee is doing that. Is it sustainable? Are we headed for a big crash? Time will tell, but right now nobody knows with any certainty.

Again, I didn’t vote for Lee, won’t vote for him for re-election, but now is not the time for political games, so I’ll extend the benefit of the doubt when it comes to crisis management. I do not extend the same courtesy when it comes to education issues, as I believe that he and his cronies are continually trying to follow the old adage of don’t let a crisis go to waste. More on that in a bit.

In AA we have an exercise that we are encouraged to practice when tempted to drink – playing the movie forward. It means picturing the potential ramifications and actions should you choose to drink. I’d like all of you who are ready for the governor to “lock the state down” to humor me and participate in playing the movie forward for a moment. If the governor follows through with your advice, how do you see the movie ending?

Do you think all those individuals who are flaunting health experts’ advice are just going to shrug and curtail their activities? That they are going to placidly head into their houses with nary a protest? Do you expect widespread compliance, based solely on a governor’s decree?

“Who cares?” your response may be, “If they don’t, they’ll be arrested and then either fined or jailed. If necessary we’ll utilize the National Guard.”

What kind of scenario do you think that will provoke? How long until someone gets shot – either a citizen or a guardsman? What’s the difference between lives lost to a disease or lives lost to an insurrection? What do you think ends up spreading faster, the virus or the conflict? You may think it couldn’t happen, but recent history says different.

All it would take would be one anxious trigger finger, in a sea of anxious people to send us down a wormhole with disastrous consequences.

This current wave of public shaming brings to mind the efforts of the drug enforcement program DARE in the mid-nineties. The intentions of curbing drug use were admirable but the idea of having children inform on parents was questionable at best. Yet here we are again, with a growing acceptance of publicly shaming, and in some cases, informing authorities of our neighbors perceived lack of adherence to social distancing. A perception not always rooted in actuality.

They say good fences make good neighbors. I’ll tell you what also makes good neighbors, not passing judgment without having all of the facts.

Homes that were previously plagued by alcoholism, mental health issues, and domestic violence didn’t suddenly heal themselves. In some cases, circumstances have been acerbated due to loss of employment. As financial challenges mount, the anxiety and anger will only mount. Just because home is considered a safe place for you, don’t assume the same is true for everyone.

Can we please practice a heightened level of compassion and kindness. The times certainly call for it. It is possible to advocate without villainizing. What did Gandhi say, be the change you want.

My last observation on calls for a lock-down action. Most of the people calling for the orders are people that also continually refer to Governor Lee and Trump as autocrats, liars, dishonest, and accuse them of favoring cronies over the general population. If that’s what you truly believe, why would you want to vest the power of martial law in them? Those are the very last people who should have the power to lock down a country and suspend democracy.

What makes you confident that they would give it back in the future.

The conversation over purchasing a gun was quickly discarded as we traveled to our destination, but it’s far from settled. I’ll continue to watch events unfold with trepidation while holding on to the important tenets of hope and compassion. We can’t allow either of them to disappear from our hearts like paper products from grocery shelves. Though hoarding hope and compassion at this time would be an acceptable practice.

BUDGET NOTES

This week, should get especially interesting as Wednesday marks the first of the month and bills will be due for many. Some hard decisions will have to be made about what gets paid and what doesn’t. For some folks, it’ll be a decision between two bad options.

Metropolitan and state governments, and by de facto schools, will be facing some harsh upcoming budget decisions as well.

Nashville’s metropolitan budget is funded by 6 main revenue streams,

  • Property taxes – 45.7%
  • Sales Taxes – 20.6%
  • Grants and Contributions – 18.3%
  • All other Revenues (include sources such as motor vehicle licenses, traffic violation fines, building and excavation permits, alcoholic beverage taxes and court fees.) – 15.1%
  • Appropriated from Fund Balance – .3%

From that income, the city is funded. Metro Schools receive 39% of those monies with public safety receiving the next largest chunk at 21%. By State law, at least 1/2 of the local sales tax must be allocated to schools. Nashville Davidson County has chosen not to increase to the state allowed maximum of 2.75%.

If we go back and look at the revenue analysis for MNPS last year you’ll see the following figures, and I’m rounding for simplicity sake,

  • $322 million was expected to come from property taxes
  • $233 million from local sales tax
  • $289 million from state funding
  • $20 million from taxes, licensing, and permits
  • $20 million from other sources

Let me state for the record, I am not a budget expert nor do I pretend to be. That said, I think it would be a safe assumption that property taxes have mostly been collected and therefore MNPS can probably depend on a similar amount next year. State funding, unfortunately, will probably be similar, though stimulus package monies from the federal government may give some opportunity to increase funding.

It’s the sales tax number that should set off alarms. With most of the service and hospitality industry shut down or running on reduced capacity, it seems unlikely that revenues will reach the same mark this year. Especially as other areas begin to get hit. The crowds at grocery stores over the last couple of days seem much smaller and Target felt almost empty yesterday. Is a 50% decline out of the question? I don’t know.

Keep in mind, that MNPS is already starting next year $15 million in the hole due to mid-year raises. Perhaps we should use former Mayor Briley’s short term political strategy as an example of what happens when you don’t consider long term implications.

Principals are expected to turn in their budgets this week, but at this point are those truly viable? Last year a $900 million budget was deemed insufficient. What if this year’s budget is only $800 million?

Depending on the effects of the pandemic, public safety costs could increase substantially as police and fire personnel are required to work additional overtime hours. What if needs demand that their cut of revenues raises to 30%. Maybe this leaves $700 million for MNPS.

I’m using MNPS figures right now because those are the ones I’m most familiar with, but don’t think smaller districts across the state won’t be facing similar challenges. In smaller communities with limited revenue streams the consequences of the economic shut down could be devastating.

It may turn out that the federal government sends more money to local municipalities in order to offset losses. But it’s been my experience that federal assistance takes shape in a manner such as this – you say you lost 100 million in sales tax revenue, we think its $50 million, here’s $25 million to replace your loss. Furthermore, federal monies often come attached to federal agendas.

I’m not bringing any of this up to frighten anyone, but rather to give caution as we rush headlong in trying to create new normalcy when we don’t even know the scope of the current challenge. What if we are investing in packets, technology, and other short term fixes at the expense of future needs? What good does it do to solve today’s issues if it leaves us without resources for the future? These arguments become much more critical when short term solutions barely scratch the surface of today’s needs.

It’s already become crystal clear that extensive distance learning opportunities are going to require substantial investment if they are to be implemented, with a commitment to the standardization of technology a minimum mandate.

Current energies should be focused less on rigging together some kind of temporary plan, and more on developing comprehensive plans for the future. Ones that include the means to overcome inequity barriers for all kids. Now is a prime time to start considering the possibilities and developing strategic plans.

Considerations for the future should consider revenue, technology, and required training at a minimum.

In my opinion its time to scrap short-term illusions for a long-term reality. End this year. Just call it.

In making accountability decisions error on the side of students. Most would be focused on test prep and standardized test-taking at this point on the calendar anyway. High school presents a set of different issues – ones that sending packets home won’t address due to the fact that industry certifications and dual credit classes have created a higher level of complexity – but if we follow the strategy of error on the side of kids, they are no issues that are insurmountable.

The same hold true for teachers. In recent TNDOE superintendent meetings concerns over how to implement accountability measures for both teachers and students have been voiced. Pursuit of such should be considered highly inappropriate. Any effort to do so will create a permeant record. One that will last long after circumstances are forgotten and possibly negatively impact future educational opportunities.

Administrators readily admit, and in some case take pride in, the fact that we are inventing the plane as we fly it. That even in the best of times, has never been a good strategy, and if we continue on the same course of action, we’ll be doing the same come the Fall.

Good generals don’t burn up their troops and resources fighting battles that have little impact on the overall campaign. Instead, upon suffering a substantial hit, they retreat, regroup, reassess, and develop a strategy of where and when to attack that would best lead to victory. I strongly encourage us to adopt such a strategy and stop fiddling at the edges.

Mike Tyson is famous for saying everybody has a plan until they get hit in the face. Well, we’ve been hit in the face by the coronavirus and now its time to see how we react. Will we flail wildly or compose and attack. The decision is ours to make.

QUICK HITS

I’m loving the teacher parades. In these parades, teachers line up in their cars and drive through student neighborhoods en masse, waving to children as they drive by. Paragon Mills held one this morning that appeared to bring joy to everyone.

MNPS School Board member Gini Pupo-Walker recently produced a new blog post addressing several aspects of today’s crisis. Give it a read.

Looking for something to do while stuck at home? If you have school-age kids you can now check your eligibility for an ESA. No matter how bad things get out here Governor Lee and the TNDOE never seem to lose focus on the creation of a voucher program. Perhaps this is why Governor Lee has failed to sign the bill releasing schools of the obligation to administer TNReady this year. Wouldn’t surprise me if there is some behind the scenes wrangling going on. Going to need those accountability scores in order to determine eligibility.

Hopefully, any principal requiring work logs from their teachers detailing the number of hours they are working on school issues while schools are closed will pay as much attention to those logs when things return to normal.

Good news, John Prine is now in stable condition. Yesterday his wife revealed that he’d been hospitalized with Covid-19 and was in critical condition. His turn for the better is welcome news.

POLL QUESTIONS

Here’s a quick look at this week’s poll questions. The first one asked for what you were currently binge-watching and it elicited a slew of write-in votes. Here they are,

Tiger King 4
CNN 1
Scott’s Turf Builder instruction videos 1
Anything on ID channel 1
Brooklyn 99 1
ER 1
Nothing, spending time in God’s word & projects 1
Nothing 1
The Good Place 1
Hulu -little Fires Everywhere 1
None 1
Hunters 1
Re-watching The Wire 1
Golden Girls 1
TCM: Dinner at Eight 1
Blue Bloods 1
Been waiting for the new season of Ozark 1
Modern Family 1
Hallmark Christmas movies 1
Tom Segura 1
Ozark 1
Reading rather than watching TV

Question 2 asked for your opinions on distance learning.  42% of you recognized it as a valuable supplement, while 27% recognized its inherant inequities and felt it shouldn’t be utilized in any mandated manner until those were addressed. Here are the write-ins,

Is Gini P-W suggesting cutting jobs soon? 1
We are making the best of a bad situation 1
Good, but not enough advanced prep 1
You are right. People will see options and leave 1
Very few teachers are equipped & ready to do this 1
Good supplement on occasion, but a very slippery slope long-term! 1
Inequitable 1
Scary

The last question asked why you thought government Lee hadn’t signed the bill freeing schools of accountability measures. 46% of you thought it was due to him and Schwinn still trying to figure out a means to administrate testing. 23% felt that prepping for press conferences was occupying all of his time. Here are the write-ins,

He’s too weak to make a decision 1
Hasn’t finished praying over it yet 1
Not a governors job 1
Trump 1
He is a businessman and his priorities are the b 1
Busy trying to stay abreast of the pandemic 1
Has no idea what is really involved 1
I didn’t know he hadn’t signed it.

That’s it for now, if you’ve got time and are looking for a smile, check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page, where we work to accentuate the positive.

If you’ve got something you’d like me to highlight and share, send it on to Norinrad10@yahoo.com. Any wisdom or criticism you’d like to share is always welcome.

A huge shout out to all of you who’ve lent your financial support. I am eternally grateful for your generosity. It allows me to keep doing what I do and without you, I would have been forced to quit long ago. It is truly appreciated and keeps the bill collectors happy.

If you so desire to join the rank of donors, you can still head over to Patreon and help a brother out. Or you can hit up my Venmo account which is Thomas-Weber-10. I don’t need much – even $5 would help – but if you think what I do has value, a little help is always greatly appreciated, especially this time of year when my contracted work is a little slow. Not begging, just saying.

Don’t forget, if you have student-written blog posts you’d like to see reach a wider audience…send them on. I’d love the opportunity to share them.

 

 



Categories: Education

3 replies

  1. “Tenn has 1818 cases and 10 deaths”

    Surely you realize that the 1818 are only confirmed cases & that there has not been enough tests administered for Gov. Lee to actually know the scope of how widespread the infection is?

    Surely you realize that symptoms only appear after days on incubation & that no tests are being conducted on any random sampling of the population?

    Surely you understand what a 1st order exponential curve is? You do know what a ‘time-constant’ is?

    When large gatherings have occurred or have been permitted, the doubling rate tends to be between two & three days.

    The only rational thing to do IS to do the ‘stay at home’ order and to compel a 2 meter distance between people. If he acts while y’all’s caseload appears low, there might be a chance to slow down the COVID’s progress.

    • I can only go by numbers presented. The rest is speculation. We also don’t know the number of tests each state has administered nor the timeline of when first case appeared. That’s why I put the caveat in that as more number become available the narrative could shift, for everybody.

  2. Strongly disagree about “speculation”.
    We do know that no state has done any sort of statistically based tested at all.
    We do know the math model of the progression of contagious diseases…that is NOT, I repeat NOT “speculation”!!!!

    Here’s the deal, by the time the “narrative changes” it’s too late for several reasons:

    1st: Because of the criminally negligent “leadership” of an entirely predictable contagion at the national level, no tests were prophylactically administered to a random sampling at the two initial hot spots in the USA. At this late date a month+ later, there STILL has not been statistically valid data collected. That costs lives!!!!

    2nd: What ever data that IS collected is 1-2 weeks later than when the virus actually appears! That means drastically measures must be instituted well before the disease shows its signs…because by the time it is visible many more have been infected IF people have behave normally.

    3rd: The numbers “presented” at this moment do not reflect either the true picture OR the amount in which the rate of the rate of increase. (If you don’t understand this, study some calculus, please!)

    Usually I really enjoy & agree with your blogs. But your governor’s inactions will cost lives. Both he & Trump will have blood on their hands even if they’re too ignorant to realize this. Your defense of Lee’s wishy-washy policy does not help and could in fact cause further harm.

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