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The distribution of wealth in the United States (it will surprise you)

The distribution of wealth in the United States (it will surprise you)

Columbia’s Joseph Stiglitz, winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics on “The Cost of Inequality”

The Kerner Commission + 40 years


Subsequent to the 1967 urban riots, President Lyndon Johnson created a commission to assess the causes. His instruction to them: “Let your search be free, as best you can, find the truth and express it in your report.”

This month marks the 40th anniversary of the release of the landmark and controversial Kerner Report. The commission was chaired by Democratic Illinois Governor Otto Kerner with Republican New York City Mayor John Lindsay as Vice Chair.

“What white Americans have never fully understood – but what the Negro can never forget – is that the white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it. White institutions maintain it, and white society condones it.”

The Report’s memorable conclusion: “Our nation is moving toward two societies – one white, one black – separate and unequal.”

The Kerner Report was heavily criticized among conservatives for blaming, as Richard Nixon stated, “everybody but the rioters themselves.”

This week, the Eisenhower Foundation has issued a preliminary anniversary report on race: “What Together We Can Do: A Forty Year Update of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders.”

“America has, for the most part, failed to meet the Kerner Commission’s goals of less poverty, inequality, racial injustice and crime.”

At a time when we are mid-conversation about words spoken by Trinity United Church of Christ’s pastor Jeremiah Wright that have shocked many Americans, in the wake of Barack Obama’s powerful speech A More Perfect Union, as we wrap up our first season discussing economic segregation in Tallahassee, perhaps it’s time for some really honest talk.

Stay tuned.

Fast food decisions


Remarks as prepared by Lea Marshall for the “CC” middle school rezoning meeting. Delivered while munching on McDonald’s fries. Has there ever been such a selfless reason to eat french fries?

I drove through this fast food drive through on the way to this
meeting tonight. I drove through for several reasons but the main ones
were that I was hungry and it was convenient. I made a fast food
decision based on convenience and I feel that this rezoning of Raa is
also a fast food decision based on convenience.

It meets one need and one need alone, the need to have a neighborhood
school for Killearn. And you know what, my French fries met one need,
my hunger need, very nicely. But the empty calories and lack of
nutrition is really not doing me any favors in the long run.

A fast food or convenience based eating policy does not meet my future
needs of having a healthy body. Likewise, this school rezoning does
not meet future needs of a healthy school system and healthy community.

Fast food eating decisions lead to my doctor having to prescribe pills
to lower blood pressure and pills to lower cholesterol. Fast food
education decisions lead to prescribing magnet schools and taking
students from other areas to fill in gaps. Prescription drugs may have
some positive effects on a person’s health just as these prescribed
school initiatives may benefit a school, but there are always side

Wouldn’t it have been better to make the harder and wiser decisions
to begin with?

Look at me, i have made a lot of fast food decisions in my life. I am
an expert in convenience based eating decisions. I also realize that
there is a price to be paid for making fast food convenience based
decisions in my body. There is a price also in our school system, in
our community and in the legacy we leave behind to our children.

Consider the long term health of our city and work harder to make a
better choice. We may be “lovin it” now…but will we love what a
steady diet of convenience based decisions does to us in 5 years?

No school left behind

I do not come to this rezoning discussion without bias… I have a dog in this fight, in fact I have three of them… three children ages 13, 11, and 8 and all are housebroken.

We are in the Gilchrist, Raa, Leon school zones and we will still be there after this rezoning. We chose our neighborhood based on ethnically diverse and excellently thriving schools. I don’t think that you should fix what isn’t broken. Those three schools are WORKING well.

A tipping point exists in schools. Schools close to that tipping point of 40% free and reduced lunch number (Raa is around 35%) start rapidly sliding toward less effective and more expensive education. Rezoning will make a BIG difference. Ten percent of the population of Raa will be gone when the rising 6th and 7th graders leave next year- even MORE the next year as the new school adds 8th grade.

I have a vested interest in Raa because my children are there and will continue to be educated there. I also have a vested interest in my community being strong and my city being healthy and successful.

A few years ago there was a plan to rezone Gilchrist and our neighborhood was being looked at to change to Ruediger Elementary. I was the parent waving the “Heck no, we won’t go” banner UNTIL another neighbor challenged me asking, “Have you visited Ruediger? I went and met some great teachers. I think it could be like Gilchrist if we all went there.”

I was stunned and silent (and that doesn’t happen often). I had not even thought beyond my own agenda for keeping things convenient and comfortable to what might be a bigger picture.

I know the goals I had for my life and for my family. I want to raise children who love God and love others. I want to leave this world a little better because I walked here for this short time.

Could those goals be accomplished at Gilchrist or Ruediger? Yes, they could.

Would it have been more convenient and comfortable at Gilchrist? Yes, it would.

However do we strive only for convenience and comfort in our lives? I hope I am striving for more than that.

I realized that comfort and convenience are not our family’s goals. Instead we strive for character, courage, compassion, and good citizenship. Great goals, however there is work and sacrifice involved.

The rezoning didn’t happen. In some ways, I was sorry. I would have liked to have seen what would have happened if we had been inconvenienced and challenged. Would we have left that school and our community a better place? I will never know.

We are increasingly becoming a society of convenience. Fast food, email, cell phones…and that spills into what we want in our schools. Demanding everything when and where we want it. I type this as I sip a Starbucks and check my cell phone for messages. I am just as guilty as the next gal. I throw stones from my own glass house.

There is a proverb that states “Every convenience brings its own inconveniences with it.” What is going to happen if we put convenience at the top of our rezoning goals list? In the end we will wind up more inconvenienced.

Currently the list of goals for the zoning committee is to try to…

Keep neighborhoods intact
Send students to the nearest school
Reduce overcrowding
Plan for future population growth
Strengthen feeder patterns
Build racial and economic diversity

So it seems the Raa rezoning (even though it doesn’t meet the criteria for the other 4 goals) is all about the convenience.

Rezoning the Killearn students that attend Raa will NOT reduce overcrowding as Raa is under-capacity. It will not plan for future population growth which includes substantial growth near the new middle school. More dangerously, I believe that it will NOT strength feeder patterns unless in the future students are rezoned out of other elementary and high schools to keep them all together, expanding this issue into other centrally located schools. Finally, this rezoning also does NOT build racial and economic diversity.

Convenience will lead to inconvenience as these schools “left behind” cost more tax dollars to continue to educate students. Magnet programs are wonderful, and wonderfully expensive. We will see in 5-10 years the results of what happens at this rezoning, for better or for worse in our community and our checkbooks.

Neighborhood schools are comfortable and convenient. Do we pay the price for that comfort and convenience now or in the future? There will be a price to pay someday…

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

Ironically, I stand at the corner of Tharpe and MLK Boulevard to pick up my daughter from Raa. I hope to see some of you there too.

– Lea Marshall

A rethink as we rezone

The course of democracy seldom runs smoothly. Any veteran of middle school history class knows that, as does anyone who has ever attended a school-rezoning meeting.

If you were snoozing during 7th grade and need a refresher, you might want to join Leon County Schools at the rezoning meeting for the new middle school tonight at 6PM at Roberts Elementary. At stake? Where my child will attend middle school, along with many of yours. I won’t be there, though, as The Village Square will be discussing our first Local Roundtable topic, economic segregation.

The Village Square came from the sense that politics, while it won’t ever be “beanbag”, has taken a notable turn southward of late. Missing? We think it’s the local conversation between people who share little league teams and drive carpools together, but don’t agree with each other politically. Instead, well-paid partisan talking heads turn our neighbors into an evil “they” who have “special” interests, and probably hate America too.

The Village Square thinks we can defy that trend right here in Tallahassee, by – go figure – talking with each other instead of about each other. From those conversations come common sense and a measure of common purpose.

Of course, few things will test this civility concept quite like rezoning.

My very own civility may be at risk, as my child is involved. We live in a pocket of Killearn currently zoned for Raa Middle School that may be rezoned to the new school. While for me the commute is only marginally shorter, rezoning would correct a poor feeder pattern that requires our kids to leave most of their elementary school friends to join a middle school full of strangers (middle schools are scary enough without strangers), only to return in high school to their former grade school peer group, which – uh – no longer includes them. In other words, they’ve been living in the plot of a high school cheerleader movie.

Left with the short straw of the rezoning is Raa Middle School, which will lose a substantial number of its gifted and higher socioeconomic students. From what The Village Square has learned so far in our conversation about economic segregation, that matters.

Critically important to this conversation is the concept of a tipping point, which seems to exist both in school systems and in neighborhoods. Apparently schools absorb a certain amount of economic diversity successfully, maintaining a high quality of education for all students while providing additional benefits that seem to help students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds achieve their potential. The many parents whose children have thrived in diverse schools like Raa Middle School and Leon High School know this first hand.

But when the percentage of students qualifying for free or reduced lunch exceeds somewhere between 30 and 40%, the school risks tipping. Those families who have the resources to move to a new school zone, attend private school or provide transportation for a child with a tuition voucher, may leave the school. What’s left behind is a more challenged school that has tipped, in it the students who don’t have options.

Also left behind is a higher education bill for the taxpayer. We pay over $9,000 annually to support a student in the recently tipped and under-enrolled Nims Middle School, compared to about $5,400 per student at Swift Creek Middle School.

Whatever the decision, it won’t make everyone happy. Nevertheless, it’s worth aspiring to have an informed conversation that remembers, as neighbors, we are all partners in the ultimate long-term outcome.

We’ll do world peace next week.

– Liz Joyner

Should race determine schooling?

Link to a video from August 16 Hardball debate.

(Related to our Economic Segregation conversation and the recent Supreme Court decisions rolling back Brown v. Board of Education.)

Click here to read the Quinnipiac poll that suggests Americans overwhelmingly support the decision:

August 16, 2007 – Voters Back Supreme Court Limit On School Deseg 3 – 1

Economic Segregation Roundtable One

It’s official. We’ve begun sticking our toe in the waters of civil debate.

Our first Local Roundtable has met. In our first meeting on Economic Segregation, we heard from our invited expert, Dr. Charles Connerly, Chair of FSU Department of Urban and Regional Planning (also North American Editor, Housing Studies) and Village Square Founder Dr. Jim Croteau, President and CEO of Elder Care Services, Inc. and former Leon County School Superintendent.

Both experts pointed us to foundational studies in this field that outline the issue nationally.

The problem? Concentrated poverty.

Research has linked living in high-poverty areas (independent of individual characteristics) with such negative outcomes as dropping out of school early, teen pregnancy, unwed births, unemployment, and crime victimization.

Nationally, according to a Brookings Study, we’re increasingly geographically separated by income:

From 1970 to 2000, % middle class in American cities & suburbs decreased 7%, but middle class neighborhoods decreased 17%. Why? Speculation that middle class neighborhoods are tipping either to richer or poorer neighborhoods.

“No city in America has gotten more integrated by income in the last 30 years.”

In Tallahassee, with less data available, it’s harder to figure it out. While we clearly have less segregation by income than many more urbanized cities, both the most recent census data and free and reduced price lunch rates suggest that our city tracks the national trends.

We’ll be looking more closely at data and discussing whether we think there’s a problem or not, and if there is one, whether it matters, and if we can (or should) do anything about it.

We’ll keep you in the loop.