(NOTE: After some questions about the future of Lakeland and Arlington schools, Mayor Wissman sent this letter to a Lakeland resident concerning Arlington's view of the future of Lakeland and Arlington Schools. Since a substantial number of Lakeland children attend schools located in Arlington, and we have received a lot of questions about this, this letter is being republished for the information of Lakeland residents. Mayor Wissman is also a member of the Shelby County Board of Education)
ARLINGTON MAYOR SAYS 'FACTS, NOT RUMORS AND FICTION"
After reading former Mayor Bomprezzi's flyer about the school issue, I am extremely concerned about the message he is spreading. Although there are many unknowns in this whole scenario, both for unified or municipal schools, everyone must really consider the facts. This should be about education, not politics or money. The question shouldn't be "can we afford it?", but more of "can we afford not to do it?". Two issues any realtor will tell you affect property values are crime and schools.....where good schools are located, crime is usually down, and vice versa. Our children are our future leaders, and they need the best education possible to compete with the global economy.
I can assure you we, the suburban mayors as a group, have done our homework. We hired Southern Educational Strategies (SES) to let us know what it will cost and how to move towards the creation of municipal schools. We know how much funding we will receive per pupil from the county and the state. In comparison, it is very close to what Shelby County Schools (SCS) has been receiving for quite some time. We know how many students are in our schools now, and that we want to continue to educate those same children....whether they live in our municipal boundaries or not.
Arlington and Lakeland have much in common, and some consider us more of family than neighbors. Arlington needs Lakeland, and Lakeland needs Arlington. Mayor Bomprezzi's comments that "Lakeland will be REQUIRED to build a middle and high school" could not be further from the truth. In fact, many of his comments are misleading and are just more of an opinion than fact. Just because a municipality has its own school system, doesn't mean you have to have an elementary, middle or high school. Other systems in the state have shared resources to educate children when facilities are not available. A great example of that is SCS educated children of Memphis for years in Chimneyrock Elementary since MCS did not have a facility for those children. The money follows the child, so it really isn't a burden for another system to educate children. I do think that is why there is such opposition to municipal schools, because many feel this will be taking money out of the new unified system.
I know there are people in the municipalities that are on limited incomes and/or do not have children, but education is a key component for the success of a community. I challenge Mayor Bomprezzi or anyone else that opposes municipal schools to at least read the SES report....ours is on the Town of Arlington website. Read the facts, case studies, past precedents, financial documents, etc... and come up with your own conclusions. This is too important to get wrong!
Don't let fear tactics ruin the future of your city. Again, I'm not telling people how to vote, but how to get educated on the facts. Bomprezzi stated " LAKELAND CHILDREN DESERVE THE BEST AND SHELBY COUNTY SCHOOLS ARE THE BEST" which is true for now, but the SCS we all know only has 1 year left in its current existence. The leadership will change, and your suburban representation will be minimal. In fact, changes are already occurring in SCS prior to the merger that concern faculty and parents. All the children in this county deserve the best, but is that in a system of 150,000, or in smaller systems where your voice and concerns make a difference? It's in the hands of the voters now, not the elected officials....so only time will tell.