By Steve Hunley
I think the thing I like least in any human being is hypocrisy. I don’t doubt for a moment my attitude is uncommon. It seems to me most people really dislike hypocrisy, especially in our public officials. It is increasingly apparent that there is a huge double standard in our media in assessing our school administration and every other aspect of government.
It has become increasingly obvious that the McIntyre administration has urged school principals to rally around to promote an extension of his contract. Communication has apparently flown back and forth, utilizing taxpayer resources and time. Keep in mind, McIntyre has the sole authority to appoint every principal in Knox County. Would anyone be surprised to see President Obama praised and endorsed by any member of his Cabinet? Would anyone be shocked were Governor Haslam to be praised and endorsed by any member of his Cabinet? These are virtually political appointments and why anyone should be impressed to see a political appointee hailing the accomplishments of his or her benefactor is beyond me. It should be expected.
I realize some folks in Knox County are deluded and living in Wonderland, believing that politics inside the school system was exterminated when we switched from an elected superintendent to an appointed superintendent. Yet there is example after example of what is commonly referred to as the “good ol’ boy” apparatus occurring inside our school system. Evidently one can be a graduate of McIntyre’s Leadership Academy and still be a good ol’ boy or girl.
Not a single reader or citizen of this county has ever heard one of the local TV stations, much less the Knoxville News Sentinel point to this political cronyism. Had it occurred in the Courthouse or City County Building, all of them would have been on it like a shark on a wounded seal. There would be calls for investigations and resignations. Yet the school system is exempt. We pretend it is not happening, never has happened since the last elected superintendent departed, and assure ourselves we live in a perfect world. The local media does its best to maintain this fantasy and passes around the Rainbow Stew for consumption while Dr. McIntyre gives orphans free rides on unicorns.
Why is there a double standard with our local media? Because too much of the local media has an incestuous relationship with the powers that be. Anyone who doubts that has merely to look at the ties between the do-nothing Chamber of Commerce and the school system. The Chamber poobahs tell us they “care” about education and how important it is, but what they mean is they care about running our school system. They, like just about every other special interest group in the world, have an agenda. They like a superintendent who is responsive to them and they’ve got one who is ultra-responsive. It was Mike Edwards, president of the do-nothing Chamber of Commerce, who made the motion as a member of the State Board of Education to eliminate the tie between teacher pay and furthering a teacher’s education. Yet these people say they believe in fairness and incentives. Another example of hypocrisy run rampant.
There should be no double standard in our community. The school budget is far and away Knox County’s biggest expenditure, amounting to more than half a billion tax dollars annually. The schools consume almost two-thirds of every tax dollar spent in Knoxville and Knox County. One would do well to remember the school system and the Sheriff’s Department account for almost three quarters of every tax dollar spent, meaning every other service provided by the county – - – roads, health, parks, courts, libraries – - – are operated out of the remaining quarter of tax revenue. Many of those same entities have been left to starve by mayors and county commissions while shoveling more and more money into the maws of the school system and Sheriff’s Department.
Local media take advantage of every misstep by just about any public official outside of the school system, hoping citizens will be outraged by any misuse or loss of taxpayer dollars, yet that same standard is not applied to the school administration. Some tens of thousands of dollars were spent by Dr. McIntyre on an investigation of former security chief Steve Griffith that amounted to nothing. Clearly a waste of taxpayer dollars, yet nobody was on McIntyre’s door step and only ONE member of the Board of Education, Mike McMillan, was bothered by that blatant waste of taxpayer resources.
The News Sentinel’s persecution of Mayor Tim Burchett occurred precisely because the lords of the Sentinel were infuriated Burchett refused to significantly raise taxes to accommodate Dr. McIntyre’s grand agenda and expansion of the school bureaucracy.
The local media has become like Shakespeare’s three witches, concocting a poisonous brew. Instead of eye of newt and toe of frog, they use hypocrisy and a double standard that is becoming more and more obvious to just about everyone.