News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion
THURSDAY, MAY 12, 2005


Council holds some funds in trust for city schools

The City Council is operating in a state of delusion. It is about time it returned to the real world of education financing.

Decatur City Schools requested additional funding from the City Council, both for development of an innovative International Baccalaureate program and for necessary capital expenditures spurred by the settlement of a long-standing desegregation lawsuit.

City Council President Billy Jackson and Mayor Don Kyle have been adamant that they have no intention of handing extra funds to the school system. Like one toddler to another, they are saying, "These toys are mine. You can't have them."

That approach has two basic problems. First, they are elected officials, not toddlers.

More importantly, the toys are not theirs.

Decatur City Schools has no independent method of generating funds. It is entirely dependent upon the City Council and the state. We could wish the schools had independent tax authority to impose, but that issue is closed.

We could wish that the schools had the ability to get more money from the state, but that too is not an option.

Mr. Jackson's expressed willingness to increase funding if Decatur City Schools changes its planned use of Leon Sheffield Elementary School speaks volumes. Judging from Mr. Jackson's comments, the issue is not whether the city can afford to contribute, but how it can maximize its control over the schools in the process.

But the money is not Mr. Jackson's, any more than it is Mr. Kyle's.

City Council's plans on using its money solely for city projects make sense if the school system has independent taxing authority. Absent that, City Council is effectively holding its revenue in trust.

Schools are important to Decatur residents. We have good schools and want to keep them. Maybe the IB program will die on the vine, but the City Council has an obligation to give the program an unbiased assessment.

The council collects the toys, but some of those toys belong to our schools.

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