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Dec. 2, 2010

Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, above, casts a shadow in this community. People will listen to him.

He's got a lot on his mind, so he doesn't have to take on the task of rebuilding community accord to sustain public education. But it sure would be splendid if he gathered together all those who are respected by the people, and had them literally stand behind those who take on this centrally important task of rebuilding community accord to sustain public education.

Earlier this week the mayor hosted a screening of "Waiting For Superman," a movie with lots of messages, among them that a community dare not wait for Superman to fix their children's educations.

But this community is regularly driven to do extraordinary things when its leaders ask for sacrifice to achieve a goal that makes good sense. So, Mister Mayor, stand behind a Superwoman or whomever it takes to rebuild community accord to sustain public education.

Wednesday's Town Hall, conducted by Mayor Foxx at the Charlotte Museum of History, was dominated by economic development topics of deep concern to those who live on the east side. The Observer's  Steve Harrison's story on the event is here. A text cache is here.

But as Harrison noted, the mayor did address some education issues Wednesday. A number of questions from the floor led Foxx to talk about education.

He said, for example, that when parents fail to read to their infants, the public cost of teaching those children to read rises. Adults, he suggested, don't want to pay more for education, which leaves their children at a disadvantage as students in other societies spend far more time in school and leave school better prepared.

Indeed, Foxx said, low U.S. rankings on quality of education compared to other developed nations "suggest that we're going to have to rethink our whole approach to education…. Some of it is being relentless in expecting children, regardless of what they bring into the schoolhouse, that they be successful… and doing what it takes to get them there."

Foxx said he had publicly and privately suggested that the school board delay decisions about school closings that they made amid deep controversy in November. But Foxx said had not not taken a position onthe details because the rest of a very much larger revenue shortfall situation was not then known, and won't be until May or June. But he added this:

"What I'm really concerned about is that, in an environment in which you are looking at the possibility of $100 million in cuts, the issue of facilities, even if you resolve that one, you've got a hundred million other issues to get resolved. It's a really really broad set of issues, many of which we don't even know about what they are.

"I personally don't feel I have the luxury to just focus on one aspect of this. It's the whole thing. And at the end of the day, I do believe that our school board, our superintendent, I do believe that what they're trying to do, trying to do, is get to a place where we can preserve academic gains. But it's just a brutal situation with respect to resources.

"And if the resources ultimately end up being different, [and it is] between a kid having a chance to go to college, and to have a life dependent on society, then this community really needs to spend some time wrestling with whether $100 million in cuts is palatable.

"I really think that is a question we may end up having to ask: Can you accomplish what we want to accomplish in that kind of environment?"

 

– Steve Johnston