Tuesday, April 01, 2008

So Taxing

Not much posting going on this week, darlings, due to the looming deadline for tax filing. This is my first year doing the taxes and all I can say is Thank You God for TurboTax. It's almost painless...almost. The painful part is dealing with the two-state residency during the year, especially when DC was one of those "states." All night I was wondering how it was possible for us to get small refunds from the feds and MA and yet still owe DC a chunk of money...when we only lived there for a few months out of the year. I miss DC in so many ways, but believe me, paying high taxes for zero services is not one of them.

Which brings me to a post that was on The Moderate Voice yesterday about Newt Gingrich's underreported speech on race and inequality. Check it out themoderatevoice.com. In his speech, Gingrich goes half-way there, acknowledging that "Segregation was a horrible institution imposed by force by the state. It ruined the lives of people, it crippled their futures, it was a terrible injustice, and it is totally authentic to be angry about it. As Senator Obama notes, 'the legalized discrimination—where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments—meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations.' Anyone who thinks that there was not this destructive impact is simply not in touch with the reality of American history for African-Americans."

As the author says, it was encouraging to see a high-level conservative actually discussing options for bold solutions to these intractable problems. But unfortunately Gingrich insists that crumbling inner-city schools are not the result of racism. Yes, gross mismanagement has a lot to do with it, but let's be honest here: the schools in the "white" areas of DC are pretty good. How are those somehow better if they are part of the same single grossly mismanaged system? How did the school that Bambina would have gone to get to continue operating with drug dealers in the playgrounds after hours when we all know that a similar issue would never have been allowed to fester in upper northwest DC? The junior high school near us had only ONE boy's bathroom functioning for A YEAR. A YEAR. Anyone want to guess how long that would have persisted in a different neighborhood--and why? The answer is plain for anyone who really cares to see reality.

As stressful as it was trying to figure out how we could get Bambina properly educated without going bankrupt in DC, I do feel like the experience was a valuable one, if only in terms of perspective. In speaking with some parents here in our new town, you would think the local schools are one step away from collapse. Kids in trailers! Fifteen-or twelve--kids per classroom! How will my precious snowflake ever get into an Ivy and earn his first million if he has to share a teacher with twelve other kids when he's eight?!!! So there are school problems and then there are school problems...

Like the one currently roiling around Newton North High School. www.wickedlocal.com For an exercise in perspective (and to really talk about the other, darker side of Gingrich's "most expensive" school systems), you really must read up on the proposed $198 MILLION dollar rebuilding of Newton North. Oh yeah. That's MILLION. For a high school. Because, as you know, snowflakes must have their school designed by a world famous architect. And the school must have a restaurant. And an indoor pool. How else will our precious ones compete in this big bad world if we don't give them the equivalent of a medium-sized city's convention center? And all for the cost of a gigantic tax override.

The Mayor said, “One of the reasons that the city of Newton’s schools is as successful as they are and one of the reasons why the city of Newton is really a leader among communities, is the fact that they have a very thorough academic program,” he said. “The program that we will be offering at the new Newton North … will maintain Newton’s position as a leader in the state and in the country.” Fair enough. So let's see if Newton's mayor can take us from Point A ("thorough academic program" [also seeking his evidence that Newton schools are better than other towns' schools]) to Point B (how a concert hall with balcony seating, glass walls between classrooms, and a 2,000 seat arena directly and measurably create that thorough academic program).

You think throwing money at crumbling schools is insane? How about throwing money at schools that are precisely the opposite of crumbling? It boggles the mind. Yes, I want my kid to have the best public education she can get. I never want her in an unsafe, crumbling building. But I pray to God I never ever lose perspective to the point that I think her future requires $198 million dollars to ensure. When we send kids to school in squalor, with no bathrooms and no paper, we send the message to them that we don't care about them or value their education. By the same token, if I demand that my kid be schooled in $200 million dollars of palatial luxury, I'm sending an equally destructive message, also about how little I truly value genuine education.


Anonymous said...

The "white DC schools vs black DC schools" fact you mentioned made me think of this: What if it isn't racism, directly, but inherited poverty/lack of influence in the black neighborhoods because of the legalized descrimination from the past. So, perhaps not racial discrimination, but money/power/influence discrimination that DOES run on racial lines due to prior racist discrimination. Possible?

Not that I'm saying racism is dead...just looking at it from a different perspective.

E said...

I totally agree with you on all counts. You said it way better than I did!

Utah Savage said...

Nobody says it better than you do. I could try all day to come up with anything you left out and could not even ad a comma. You are brilliant! Where have you been all my life. The bambina could go to the worst school in the country,, but with you for her mother she'll be just fine. Please keep writing, oh excellent one!