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Publisher’s Position: Tweedledumb and Tweedledumber

By Steve Hunley

The Knoxville News-Sentinel has just released a new poll sponsored by its political partner, the local Chamber of Commerce.  Not surprisingly, this poll claims that after polling 900 registered voters, that a majority would gladly pay more taxes if it all went to education.  Bull.

When The Focus started a weekly poll, sampling 500 likely voters all across the county, The Sentinel went wild.  Georgiana Vines did something like three stories on The Focus polls in a matter of a month, which is quite strange for one publication to have such an interest in another publication’s features.  Ms. Vines wondered who was doing the polling, etc., the goal of course being to question the reliability of the  The Focus poll results.  Some of the talking heads on the weekly political shows opined The Focus “has an agenda,” while of course the mighty News-Sentinel is completely objective and has no agenda at all.  Double bull.

The Sentinel predictably trotted out yet another decrepit editorial in support of the Chamber’s poll and turning over more revenue to a school system. In doing so, it is showing to play fast and loose with taxpayer dollars.  Evidently neither the Chamber nor the Sentinel learned anything last year when they went all in for Superintendent McIntyre’s request for 35 million new dollars. Commissioners publicly pondered just what tax to raise until they were inundated with calls and emails from angry constituents.  Not a single Commissioner made a motion to raise any tax and McIntyre tried to take credit for what extra money the school system ultimately received.  That made about as much sense as Milton Berle claiming he invented television or Al Gore’s claim he invented the Internet.

As readers know, we break down the results of each and every poll for readers to see.  We don’t hold anything back; the poll appearing in the News-Sentinel released what appeared to be questions and the supposed percentage of folks favoring whatever was placed before them and little else.  Naturally, had The Focus done that, we would have caught heck and rightly so.  Whoever paid for the Chamber poll should ask for a refund. Virtually nobody, except perhaps for The Knoxville News-Sentinel and the do-nothings at the Chamber of Commerce believe the results.

First of all, raising taxes for the purpose of giving it all to the school system is patently absurd.  Think about it for a moment, nationally if we gave all revenue generated from a tax of general application to education, where would we be?  Defense, Medicare, roads, infrastructure would all go wanting.  Just how these folks who thunder about the supposedly underfunded Knox County School System of funding for education in Knox County, while at the same time lament the irresponsibility of the tax and spend Obama regime, seems more than a little hypocritical to me.  The schools account for approximately two-thirds of Knox County’s entire budget.  The school system now spends almost half a billion tax dollars per year.  No other department, agency or organization in Knox County has had its funding grow as quickly, much less double in a short period of time as has the school system.

Knoxville and Knox County have one of the highest sales tax rates in the country, with the lion’s share going to the school system.

If the Sentinel thinks the schools need more money, let’s apply the existing sales tax to advertising.  We’ll pay it here at The Focus, but again, predictably, you won’t ever see an editorial in the Sentinel urging any legislative body to tax advertising, which is currently exempt from the sales tax.  They’ll tell you to do the right thing and pay more of your hard-earned money for our schools, but by Golly they won’t volunteer to open the books on a source of revenue that hasn’t been tapped.  Just think, not a penny is paid in sales tax on advertising of any kind – - – television, radio and print.  The very same people who have kept their exemption from the sales tax tell you every year about how you’re not doing enough for schools and children.  Triple bull.

Furthermore, the school system has failed to demonstrate itself to be a good steward of taxpayer money at a time when Knox County is over a billion dollars in debt.  Unlike the Chamber, no responsible businessman would be clamoring for more loans when their own business was a billion dollars in debt.

While Superintendent Jim McIntyre likes to crow about ACT scores slowly improving, he says nothing about how many of our youngsters are prepared to go to college according to the ACT.  The number of college-ready students at Austin-East is a humiliating 1% and only 42% are ready for college at Farragut High School, which has the best rate in the county.  Yet the school system spends far more money per pupil on students at Austin-East than it does at Farragut, believe it or not.

School systems across the globe score better than the United States in spite of spending less, not more.

The recent lapse in security at the Knox County schools and ongoing “scandal” (a word used by The Knoxville News-Sentinel itself) doesn’t inspire confidence and the hypocrites squalling about the need to keep an appointed superintendent to avoid politicizing the school system have no credibility.  McIntyre flatly did not tell the Board of Education the extent of the security failures at Hardin Valley Academy and Powell Middle School, nor did he attempt to do so.  Frankly, he chose not to tell them at a time when he was being evaluated by Board members, who extended his contract.  Our appointed superintendent has four years on his contract and if fired, the hgihest paid public official in the county would bail with more money than most Knox Countians make in a lifetime.

The Focus has extended our poll beyond 500 respondents to over 1000 and you can see the results for yourself as well as the breakdown by Commission District, age and gender.  The result, asking precisely the same question as posed by the Chamber folks, is very different from that reported by The News-Sentinel.

Tweedledum and Tweedledumber haven’t fooled anyone.

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