Proponents and opponents of school unification even agree on many of the details. They just don’t agree on the solution. CUEE believes that unification will somehow lead to solutions to all this, and believe is the word they use, because they have no evidence. Opponents such as me don’t see any plan to get to better education, and some think that unification will cause problems that CUEE is not even considering, just like integration did in 1969.
Here’s a pair of pie charts from 2008 from Who’s losing in Winnersville? a project unification opponent Dr. Mark George was involved in:
And here is a similar comparison from CUEE using data from 2009-2010.:
CUEE goes on to detail various other statistics about the two school systems.
“Who’s losing” provides quite a bit of context, including this chart that Dr. George passed out at the 2 May LCDP meeting:
This graph illustrates that enforced school integration actually led to the problem becoming worse, with more segregation now than before. Some educational participants from back then, both pro and con unification, remember good aspects of the former black schools that were discarded. And the same Chamber of Commerce and real estate industry as we have today made the problem worse by continually advertising Lowndes County schools. These points call into question using integration again, even if it is called unification this time, when it failed before.
Thoughtful proponents (such as Rev. Leroy Butler) and opponents (such as Dr. Mark George) of unification seem to agree that the problem is not just in the schools: it pervades the larger society. By the problem I mean specifically race, which they discuss in those videos, but also the web of interactions related to education (which we will come back to in another post). There is some anecdotal evidence that younger folk may exhibit these separations less than their elders. But the elders are still part of the web of interactions that reinforces the problems.
I submit that it is the same web of interactions
- that leads to elected and appointed officials ignoring evidence of health problems with a biomass plant,
- that causes elected and appointed officials to blithely accept the idea of a private prison in the county,
- that unites citizens across the political spectrum in complaining that elected officials do not adequately respond to citizens’ questions,
- that makes it so remarkable when one of the old boys breaks the silence and tells the people what’s going on.
No, transparency alone won’t provide jobs for all. But without transparency, we’ll get more of the same not enough jobs.
I do applaud CUEE for organizing a meeting about educational reform. But the resulting committee is not scheduled to report back until after the referendum CUEE wants to schedule on Valdosta giving up its school system charter. Thus I fear all the well-meaning educators and other citizens involved in that committee’s process are merely window-dressing on an attempt to repeat the mistakes of the 1960s.
I especially fear this when CUEE’s board, which is the body that makes decisions for CUEE, only accepts members who fully agree with unification, and has only one member from the county outside the city, and doesn’t know and doesn’t care what the county thinks about all this.
It seems to me the most likely outcome of CUEE’s committee work is that if CUEE’s board gets a referendum on the ballot and voted yes, CUEE’s board will declare mission accomplished and that will be that.
CUEE is not the solution. CUEE is more of the same problem: a hasty solution promoted by a small self-appointed pressure group.
Yes, let’s have a concerted effort to improve education in the Valdosta and Lowndes County school systems. For black students, and for all students. Graduation rates at both school systems are not bad compared to Georgia statewide rates, but statewide rates are a joke compared to national rates. Two school systems are not the problem: their divergent statistics are a symptom of deeper problems. Deeper problems including lack of jobs for students who do graduate (more on that in another post).
Let’s try to find ways to improve education and the entire community. But let’s not assume before we even do that that a failed attempt from forty hears ago will work any better now. Let’s come up with something better.