Roy Exum: Fund The Little Kids

Wednesday, December 4, 2019 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

Among the huge crowd of presidential pretenders in the Democratic Party is a 50-year-old Senator from New Jersey, Cory Booker. Cory is impressive at first glance, with his path including playing college football at Stanford, a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, and a law degree from Yale, but the deeper you look all isn’t quite what it seems. The hunch here is he’ll trip on his self-vision as Superman and withdraw from the 2020 cattle call for sake of ego before January. He was begging for campaign contributions on Sunday’s talk-TV circuit, for example.

Desperate, on Tuesday Cory played a face card, saying he wants to invest $200 billion (with a “b”) of the taxpayers’ money into American’s traditional black colleges and he may as well have rented a hearse. Ain’t no way that is going to ever happen because Fisk, Morehouse, Tennessee State and Grambling started going out of business about 50 years ago and they are still on the road of no return. Case in point: If you watched the greatest college football game of the year Saturday, you saw a team of predominately black Auburn students win a thriller over predominately black Alabama players. Ask yourself, if you are a black kid in Alabama, you want to be part of that crowd in Auburn or watch Southern U. play Grambling in the Superdome?

During Grambling’s heyday – one day when I spent a practice afternoon with legendary Eddie Robinson – we talked about racism since Grambling was the “little school” in Baton Rouge that got only crumbs from cross-town big brother LSU and a one-sided legislature. Eddie knew within years LSU would ruin the black colleges by getting every top black player as well as white. Last Saturday, at the same time Auburn and Alabama were on prime-time TV, the 45th annual Bayou Classic was an equal thriller in the New Orleans Superdome. It was a sensational game, Southern blocking a Grambling field goal with four seconds left to preserve a 30-28 win, and today the sports world still hasn’t made notice of it.

What is ironic to me is that Senator Booker – who ain’t been within 100 miles of a predominately black college as proven by his educational history – could have gotten at least a third of the 2020 voters if he had the common sense instead to say he wanted to invest $200 billion (with a ‘b’) into America’s historically black poverty schools. By law, both written and Christian, every child in Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and every other state must attend elementary school. The same holds true for middle and high schools.

When I think of the billion-plus dollars our state allocates every year to the University of Tennessee, our state Board of Regents, and our community colleges I have to tell you I am shocked by our overwhelming lack of “return on investment.” It is ludicrous that of the 2019 graduating class at UT, just 60 percent who originally enrolled six years ago made it to the finish line. Think of six years in expense with no income. Our new UT graduate has an average of between $30,000 and $40,000 in personal debt (student loans), most have no job offers, and the tuition, books, dorm room, meals and five to six years of normal living expenses add up to more than over – what? – 80 percent of what these UT grads will make in their entire lifetime.

Ask our governor, Bill Lee (who is a sure-enough superstar) or our interim UT president Randy Boyd (who I am wild about), or any of the show-pony state trustees to explain it and they’ll just blink. How do I know – look what we’ve got at this very minute!

Take Governor Lee – he created his own trade school within his own company to teach his own employees. Why? The Nashville Metro Schools were not getting the job done. Randy Boyd comes to town with a “no tuition” bass drum, but what he didn’t say is UT is desperate for students. They have to keep those “student loans” up (no matter it’s a plague on the students), the dorms full, the cafeteria lines turning. C’mon, man – the college racket is actually a graphite-slick con.  Call me crazy … but not before you approach any economist that will tell you the truth about “return on investment.” Take every penny of what the six-year grind costs, and how much money the grad will earn in 40 years minus expenses, and it’s nuts.

Let’s keep going. What would happen – in truth – if we plowed what we are giving our colleges (which, once again, are optional for students) into our public schools (which are required of every living child?”)

Allow me to dream:

* -- For starters, we wouldn’t be having five senseless waste-your-time meetings across town to discuss the dilapidated state of our school buildings during the next few weeks. We just spent $500K to affirm we need over a billion in repairs. Please! Enough talk – action! Instead of spending the $4 million in upgrades to the UT baseball field in the state budget, let’s use the same dollars on restrooms and cafeteria improvements at Tyner, Hixson and Red Bank. Instead of the $50 million marble-and-glass library shrine at UTC we’d have two new high schools that would each get more use-per-student on any given day than the UTC library could ever hope. Do you see where the “return on investment” edge begins to really show?

* -- I am firmly convinced it is time we educate “the total child” in our poverty inner schools. I’m not saying wrestle some baby away from his mom, but I am saying if we can provide food, medicine, hygiene, sound activities to some 7-year-old at Orchard Knob rather than some 22-year-old at UT who we demand work his way through college, I have two winners versus – face it! – a potential loser on both sides. I’m talking 12-month poverty schools. Fall and spring vacations? Nuts. Where else will these kids go they won’t be hungry?  I’m talking Bible class, the Girl Scouts, being required to write a letter to some shut-in woman in a different rest home once every week. If you teach this to the littlest kids and monitor such “brain washing,” as the elite liberals call it, I can give you results never before attained in the ‘hood.

* -- Teachers! Lord help us all if we don’t return sanctity back where it belongs. Yes, that’s a word that means “blessedness” in wages, in required student deportment, in materials, and “life expectancy” – happy employees never quit. I’d have teachers compete for the salaries and incentives that we could offer if we only had the funding. If we had a certain number in the second grade that could not read at grade-level I’d fire the teacher. In a heartbeat. NFL rules apply: be good or be gone – don’t talk it, walk it. If I found some central office do-nothing harassing the least one of our teachers I’d fire such a useless pretender. If I found a school administrator who could not guarantee discipline, I’d fire them.   If I had a superintendent who was more bent on racial reforms, inclusion, equity, and whatever else the majority of the county taxpayers know is idiotic, I'd fire him. With such rabble gumming up the works instead of hard basics in reading, writing and arithmetic, I’d help him hurry to some other state to earn his Nobel Peace Prize.

* -- It’s a funny thing about money – it attracts kooks like fruit flies. Walk backwards and look what we find -- now five meetings are scheduled to discuss our falling-down schools, this after we’ve fronted a half-million-buck study by so-called experts? Meet five times for what? This is a pure definition of stupid. Recently some misguided teachers called for this community-wide meeting to discuss raises when, honestly, there is no money. Then they get all cranky because some commissioners and school board members are smart enough to know that, so they don’t waste their time? The dumbos are the officials who felt like they “had to” and, oh, you should have heard the belly-aching! The point is that we are desperate for sound leadership on every elected level instead of simply keeping the bugs out of the molasses. We have about half the school board up for re-election next year. A city mayor has never been so wanted, and when the County Commission protects us from the loonies, the temper tantrums get the headlines! It is a brilliant illustration of the fact education starts at age 4.

* -- Every state legislator has to run for office every two years. The “liberal elites” are banding together to run off those who now represent the majority of the citizens in Hamilton County. We know both political parties are flawed, to say the least. But if we could get a crowd with the same heartbeat, with the same realization our poverty schools are still showing not near the dream that the HCDE’s Justin Robertson and Jill Levine believe is possible but is not happening (why?), and if together we can turn the state around just as quickly, let’s be the catalyst that puts our educational billions towards where it is “required” than where it is “optional.”

Our grammar schools and secondary schools across the state are dying, but you can buy beer in Neyland Stadium for $12 per 24-oz. slug. Look at the many millions that have been frittered away by hopeless, senseless, and daft experiments in our poverty schools. Line up a quarter-decade of those “priority school” leaders in the past and put ‘em at a starting gate; not a one would win a race. The raw truth, the history, is there and it has gone on so long we hem-and-haw – because all we’ve ever gotten is now all we expect. We need a leader to challenge that, and slay it like a dragon falls to the sword.

Our “historical black colleges” are on the edge of extinction. The harder and harder we pound at black-versus-white, -- surprise -- we find the most successful colleges are the ones where there is no difference in color.  Cory Booker, thinking a $200 billion (with a ‘b’) promise to the nation’s historical black colleges will give him an edge, will find instead it's a final nail in his coffin. But had this man who has been dipped in the very white cream of our nation’s most elite universities only focused on our children-of-color, who have no way out save a solid education, the guy may have lasted ….oh, a week or two longer, but his voice might have started a dialogue.

Certain things needs to be said.

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