I Don’t Like These Numbers

I’ve been pok­ing fun at many of the num­ber-goal groups on Face­book for some­time. It’s just seems so com­i­cal to me that there are a huge num­ber of “I bet I can find 1,000,000 peo­ple for/against so-and-so” type groups there. They only get more enter­tain­ing the longer I’m on that site.

It’s so cute that there’s now a FB group which wants to sign up the entire US pop­u­la­tion (they even used an old num­ber; about 3 mil­lion too low as of last year) against our new Health­care Reform law. Nev­er mind that these are the peo­ple who won a demo­c­ra­t­ic elec­tion and did what they said they’d do. Or that cur­rent polls show sup­port for the law solid­ly north of 50%1.

What’s so cute about this? These are many of the same peo­ple who com­plain about the account prob­lems with the law.

  1. Actu­al­ly 49% called it good vs. 40% called it bad, accord­ing to a Gallup Poll report­ed in the Chris­t­ian Sci­ence Mon­i­tor. []

News of my High School Leaves More Questions Than Answers

I attend­ed high school like pret­ty much any oth­er kid in this coun­try, though this high school was a lit­tle dif­fer­ent. Found­ed as a pri­vate school by Ten­nessee’s WWI hero, Alvin York, it was lat­er hand­ed over to the State of Ten­nessee as the only gen­er­al, state run high school in Ten­nessee1. York felt strong­ly that the rur­al chil­dren of Fen­tress Coun­ty need­ed the oppor­tu­ni­ty for a sound edu­ca­tion and this is how he chose to spend his good will earned fight­ing over­seas. And so, the school was expand­ed and man­aged all on state funds since 1934.

At least, until last month. Appar­ent­ly, with no warn­ing, the state informed Fen­tress Coun­ty — a rur­al coun­ty which has his­tor­i­cal­ly had one of the high­est unem­ploy­ment rates in the coun­try — that they would need to begin pay­ing for over $2 mil­lion of the school’s $5.5 mil­lion bud­get. Today, it seems, the pic­ture has got­ten even more grim for the chil­dren of Jamestown, Allardt, and sur­round­ing areas in Fen­tress. The State Dept. of Edu­ca­tion is hand­ing out ter­mi­na­tion notices to all fac­ul­ty and staff which are like­ly to go effec­tive at the end of the term (May 2010). So, there are so many ques­tions I have but no would appear to make the sit­u­a­tion much bet­ter:

  • Who will own the school prop­er­ty and grounds? Will Fen­tress Co. be allowed to con­tin­ue using this regard­less of fund­ing capa­bil­i­ties?
  • Is the ter­mi­na­tion of employ­ees part of the $2 mil­lion cuts or is this in addi­tion to those? That is, are the salaries what Fen­tress Coun­ty Schools will need to find mon­ey for?
  • Why has this been done with no warn­ing or plan? Can’t this be grad­u­at­ed over some peri­od of time?

I’m sure there are many more ques­tions, but right now it appears that either no one knows or they aren’t mak­ing it pub­lic. I urge any­one who gets cred­i­ble infor­ma­tion to inform the local and state news as soon as pos­si­ble.

Here’s a quick cal­cu­la­tion just to put some per­spec­tive, based on Wikipedi­a’s demo­graph­ic data for the coun­ty:

  • The pop­u­la­tion of Fen­tress Co. is under 18,000, with 6,693 house­holds (of which 4,818 are fam­i­lies) resid­ing there.
  • If each house­hold has to take the addi­tion­al cost, that is $344 annu­al­ly.
  • The aver­age income lev­el is $23,238 ($28,856 for fam­i­lies), which puts the school funds need­ed at 1.5% of the aver­age income.
  • It’s also impor­tant to note that near­ly one quar­ter of Fen­tress Coun­ty lives below the pover­ty lev­el (23.1%) and the unem­ploy­ment rate is his­tor­i­cal­ly much high­er than the nation­al aver­age.
  • It actu­al­ly gets worse when you com­pare the medi­an house­hold income to the rest of the state. Fen­tress has a medi­an fam­i­ly income of just $27,8742 where the state medi­an fam­i­ly income is over one-and-half times as much ($43,614).
  1. Oth­er state run high schools are for spe­cial needs chil­dren such as the blind or deaf. []
  2. In the coun­ty seat of Jamestown, where the high school is locat­ed, the medi­an fam­i­ly income is a sick­en­ing­ly low $15,149. []