And another thing ... Marriage, shootings and schools

And another thing ... Marriage, shootings and schools

August 6th, 2014 in Opinion Free Press

Till courts do us part

The constitutionality of Tennessee's marriage law, along with those in Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio, is before the United States Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

It is expected to hear oral arguments in the case today.

In May, 37 Tennessee state representatives and 17 state senators signed on to have a brief filed on their behalf in support of the law before the Court of Appeals.

The list includes Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, who is unopposed for re-election, and Rep. Richard Floyd, who is retiring. Names not on the list included Rep. Vince Dean, R-East Ridge, who is retiring, Rep. JoAnne Favors, D-Chattanooga, Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, and Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson.

Other area names on the brief are Rep. Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland, Rep. Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma, Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, and Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma. Not on the list were Rep. Ron Travis, R-Dayton, and Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland, who is retiring.

Also signing were Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lascassas, who is opposing U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander in Thursday's GOP primary, and Sen. Jim Tracy, who is opposing U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais in Thursday's primary.

Those signing the brief, which was filed by the group Alliance Defending Freedom, in affiliation with the Family Action Council of Tennessee, argued that the question is whether Tennessee must recognize marriage licenses in other states, and that "depends on whether a sovereign state can determine for itself the definition of marriage within its own borders. "

States, indeed, should have the right.

What shooting?

Two men shot at an East Chattanooga party and hospitalized on Monday refused to cooperate with police. Every time this happens, and it happened several times over the weekend as well, it emboldens anyone who chooses to carry a weapon and use it in an indiscriminate manner.

Without cooperation from the pair, neither of whom have life-threatening wounds, the person or persons who were the shooters now may feel they have carte blanche to shoot again and get away with it. This means, of course, innocent people should rightly feel less safe on the streets of Chattanooga.

Such silence also undermines any work toward crime prevention the Chattanooga Police Department is trying to do, especially in curbing gang activity (though this shooting may have had nothing to do with gangs). The shooter or shooters, had they been arrested, already may be sought-after criminals. Or they may have information to impart to police on crimes in which the department is interested.

A Times Free Press investigative report published late last year, analyzing more than 300 shooting cases back to 2011, found that in nearly 60 percent of unsolved shooting cases, witnesses who saw violent acts refused to cooperate with police.

A better strategy is one several East Lake Court residents decided to employ earlier this year. Tired of crime in their neighborhood, they vowed to call police when they see illegal activity and said they weren't worried about retaliation.

"We don't want to live like people who have to duck and dodge bullets," said Jesse Lawrence, a former president of the residents' neighborhood association.

The injured and other witnesses at Monday's party, and anyone in Chattanooga who wants to see a reduction in crime (and that should be all of us), should follow their lead.

Schools on the rise

With the exception of Virginia, Tennessee has the highest ranked school systems in the South, according to Wallet Hub, an online personal finance resource.

The Volunteer State is ranked 28th in the list (out of 51, which included the District of Columbia) of States With the Best & Worst School Systems, earning 32nd in school system quality rank and sixth in education output and safety rank.

The overall score was calculated using 12 key metrics, from student-teacher ratios and dropout rates to test scores and bullying incident rates.

New Jersey, Massachusetts and Vermont are the states with the best school systems, respectively.

Again with the exception of Virginia, Tennessee ranks higher than every state with which it shares a significant border, with Georgia finishing 32nd, North Carolina 37th, Kentucky 41st, Arkansas 44th, Alabama 49th and Mississippi 50th.

On the other hand, the state is ranked 41st in spending, which was calculated by expenditures for public elementary and secondary day schools per student.

If one could make a simple correlation there, a modest increase in Tennessee's per-pupil spending might yield an outcome in the top half of schools in the country.