The Douglass Deception-Misplaced Priorities and Wasteful Spending

Nobody, at least in the media, has given much attention as to why the Memphis City Schools rebuilt Douglass High School. It couldn’t have been due to necessity, since I doubt that Northside, Manassas, Raleigh-Egypt or Kingsbury High Schools were full by any stretch of the imagination. For once, it couldn’t have been about race, since all of these other schools are predominantly-Black also. It couldn’t have been about growth in the Douglass neighborhood, since that neighborhood has been in steady decline since the 1970s, and the original Douglass High School was closed due to low and declining enrollment. This new school becomes even more suspicious when we notice that the district has been closing schools in recent years, having closed South Side High School, the city’s second-oldest high school just last year. The best I can determine is that pressure to build the new school came from two quarters-the powerful, national Douglass Alumni Association, which consists of a number of successful people in Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles and other cities who wanted their alma mater rebuilt, and redevelopment people who apparently believe in the “if you build it, they will come” philosophy that the great new school building will jumpstart rehabilitation of the Douglass neighborhood. All of this wouldn’t be so annoying were it not for the fact that the pricetag for this speculative venture is around 8 million dollars of the taxpayers money, for an 800-student, racially-segregated high school in a school district that is about to terminate 140 teachers because it is so financially-strapped. How many of their salaries could have been paid for the next five years with $8 million? The superintendent and school board need to rethink their priorities and stop giving into political pressure. Smaller class sizes in the schools that exist now makes a lot more sense than building new ones, no matter how popular the new ones may be.

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