Apparently solving a math problem around here costs about as much as solving crime.
The county commission - pretty much without blinking – yesterday agreed to let the school system take $2.9 million in coin out of its reserve funds to buy new textbooks.
(Yeah, I know the commission really doesn't have a lot of stroke over how the school spends its money. Whatever. Remember Carter? Sure as heck didn't let them issue bonds for that project, now did they?)
Anyhoo, I found a handy dandy letter that Lord McIntyre wrote to his disciples on July 1 that further detailed the issue. You can click here for the note.
But essentially, Jim McIntyre says the schools need the math textbooks and materials to “be aligned to the new curriculum and support high quality instruction under rigorous math standards” adopted by “the State of Tennessee.”
I didn't know the philosophy of math changed all that much. I mean two plus two still equals four, doesn't it? Someone told me that maybe the fourth graders will learn some things fifth graders are learning. Not sure why they just can't give them the fifth grade books. Or visit a used book store. Oh well.
The textbooks – which we all know are nothing more than a racket (look what the snake oil folks charge college students) – cost between $50 to $70, the superintendent told commissioners yesterday. He wasn't sure how many they'd need. The actual price (because the school system had some extra scratch under the couch cushions) actually cost $3,423,300, according to that letter you should have clicked on a few paragraphs up.
That $2.9 million, though, comes from what is essentially the school system's rainy day fund.
Anyway, just for the sake of argument, let's pretend the books all cost $70. So, I take my $2 calculator and divide that big price tag by 70 and it comes to 48,900 (I'm using round numbers here, and I'm also not factoring int he fact that shipping will cost $97,000 - no kidding, so I don't want to hear any whining out of the post office).
I think we have 56,000 students, so that looks about right. I guess. If some books cost $50.
Oddly, though, McIntyre said these books will come with some fancy stuff that has something to do with getting online or whatever. (I got quit surfing the Internet when this guy talks.) He also said something like maybe we won't even need books in five years. Well, if that's the case, then . . . .
Soooooo, it cost the county $2 million to buy The Man with the Badge 65 squad cars, and it's going to cost $3.4 million for books. Nice.
In the meantime, the school system faces what county commissioners say is a $7 million shortfall, since federal stimulus money expired.
Commissioner Jeff Ownby reminded the good school folks of that.
(Probably doesn't matter. I imagine the school folks will find some way to lay off teachers, keep the administration, outsource custodians and then beg the county for more money in next year's budget, at which point the mayor and commissioners will acquiesce and give them whatever they want, but I digress.
“I don't mind buying the books – it's digging into the rainy day fund that concerns me,” Ownby told me this morning. “We just bought math books six years ago. I don't know how out-of-date math can be. It's not like history.”
He added: “Although we probably need them – with the shortfall – I wonder if spending the money right now is a wise decision when all they have in there (the reserve tank) is $15 million. I would rather find cuts somewhere else to find this money than dig into the reserves.”
(Of course, Ownby must have forgotten that the county has about $37 million in its own reserve tank. Hint, hint.)
In the meantime, if we're only going to have these books for another five years, maybe we can build the Carter community a new school out of them. Cause, you know, those books would probably be in better shape than that busted up building that we're still waiting around to either renovate or rebuild.