HEADLINE: Rick Smith says no to vouchers
THE RECAP: In his annual "State of the Schools" address, Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Rick Smith doesn't support public school vouchers. Smith claims proposed voucher programs take badly needed funds away from public schools.
DREW'S VIEW: Smith's claim that vouchers take money away from public schools tells you all you need to know about the superintendent's disappointingly antiquated and, frankly, self-interested ideas about education.
Vouchers empower parents with the opportunity to make decisions about their child's education. Teachers, principals and school board members in Hamilton County frequently complain that it's a challenge to get parents engaged in their children's education. Vouchers can serve to motivate parents to become active in a very powerful way by offering them responsibility and presenting them with options.
Additionally, public schools — and public school students — benefit from vouchers. By having to compete in a marketplace with other schools, public schools necessarily improve in order to vie for the money that vouchers bring. Schools that are considered low performing have the opportunity to reinvent themselves as magnet-type schools that focus on the arts, hard sciences, technical skills and other areas that allow students to excel while preparing for college or a career.
Clearly, Smith is afraid of competition and doesn't believe he is capable of improving certain schools in a way that would make them viable in a system that allows choice and rewards quality.
It is also apparent that, to him, students represent dollars coming into the Hamilton County Schools, rather than children who need — and deserve — a quality education.
HEADLINE: Marion County approves funds for nonprofits
THE RECAP: When Marion County found itself with a $1.5 million budget shortfall in 2011, many local nonprofit and charitable organizations lost county funding in an effort to fill the gap. Last week, the county commission voted unanimously to appropriate $449,226 to various nonprofit and charitable organizations that the county traditionally supported.
DREW'S VIEW: Perhaps Marion County's $1.5 million shortfall was related to the fact that the county's leaders spend taxpayers' money supporting organizations and programs that government has no business funding.
There is an argument to be made that volunteer fire departments — recipients of a portion of the funds — are a justifiable use of tax dollars since fire protection is a proper role of local government. Further, if the departments weren't adequately funded, taxpayers would be forced to pony up anyway.
But the fire departments make up just 21 percent of the money the county has earmarked for nonprofits and community groups. The remaining $352,726 is wasted on programs and projects that should exist on their own merit — not as a result of welfare handouts.
If a resident of Marion County wants to support a nonprofit, great. However, county taxpayers shouldn't be forced by government to support a private organization with their money, and against their will.
County leaders should never take tax dollars from struggling Marion County families and hand that cash over to arts organizations, civic clubs, festivals and other charities and nonprofits. It's government redistribution at its worst — politicians raiding the pockets of tax payers and giving the money to organizations in the county that are run by their buddies.
When Marion County leaders complain about not having enough money in the future, I hope county residents remind them of the inappropriate and foolish ways in which they've chosen to spend money this year.
HEADLINE: Bradley Couny rezoning rejected; traffic woes cited
THE RECAP: On Monday, Bradley County commissioners voted 10-1 to oppose a request to rezone an acre of residential property near the intersection of Hopewell Place and Georgetown Pike that would've been used to display and sell storage buildings. There were fears that additional traffic could cause accidents.
DREW'S VIEW: Heaven forbid that Bradley County officials do something that could possibly bring a few dollars into the county and benefit an entrepreneur. We certainly wouldn't want that!
"Drew's views" is a weekly roundup of Free Press opinions about topics that appeared in the Times Free Press over the past week. Follow Drew on Twitter: @Drews_Views.