(Readers: Please note the blog is constructed as a story. While not all chapters are linked, after reading a few recent entries, you might want to start at the beginning. More about the blog and about the author. )

Scene:  JC, Greenie and Jordan continuing conversation about higher education.  Start of conversation entry #80.

Greenie:  “Holistic respect.  Respect holistically.  You know, Jordan, even after having 010414_1635_16StudentsL2.jpglunch neither tag line rings.  We need something else.

JC:  “I like Aretha’s R-E-S-P-E-C-T but I don’t like holistic.  The idea of holistic is fine but we need a different term.  But let’s not get hung up on terms right now.  What’s next?”

Jordan:  “Next is trying to get support for the idea, whatever we call it.”

Greenie:  “You said something about a pilot program.  Surely some school district must be taking this approach already.”

Jordan:  “No doubt a few districts are.  But you know how provincial school districts are.”

010414_1635_16StudentsL1.jpgJC:  “Tell me about it.  Such-and-such an idea won’t work here because…well, because things are different here.”

Jordan:  “I can’t tell you how many times I heard that very phrase in Charlotte.  The resistance was especially strong if the idea worked some place north of the Mason-Dixon Line.”

JC:  “So are we implying the movement for more neighborhood schools needs to be grass-roots or at least start locally?”

Greenie:  “Ground up and driven by people who have the most to gain.”

JC:  “That group being…?”

Greenie:  “Who have we been taking about…the black community.  From my perspective, they have the most to lose without major changes to the education system and the most to gain with changes, especially neighborhood schools.”

Jordan:  “I agree.  The movement toward neighborhood schools and the argument about using a holistic-cost approach needs to come from the black community, not some think tank in Washington.”

JC:  “OK, then who’s going to take the lead on this effort?  The problem is complex and going to take several generations to fix.  Who’s going to convince people to have patience?”

Greenie:  “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

122213_1351_10GurusHous1.gifJordan:  “Did Confucius say that?”

JC:  “Jordan, you spent too many hours with those math problems and not enough time reading.  It was Lao Tzu.  I really wonder about you sometimes.”

Greenie:  “JC, don’t be so hard on little Jordan.  He can’t help it.  Bless his little heart.”

Jordan:  “Thanks for the sympathy Greenie.  You’re a tough crowd.  Besides, I think the problem of getting people to understand might be less complicated than you think.  Let’s break down the key parts.”

Greenie:  “Seems to me we can get more buy-in if we tie recommended actions to saving taxpayer dollars.  Keep the fuzzy stuff in the closet.”

JC:  “If we’re going to focus on benefits and cost…what do you call that Jordan?

Jordan:  “I call that too much time with warm and fuzzy books and not enough time learning quantitative analysis.  But the answer is ‘cost:benefit analysis.’”

School-Bus-ClipartJC:  “OK, we’re even.  The first issue should be a cost: benefit analysis of busing.  Make the case to trade dollars spent on busing for additional teachers or TA’s.”

Greenie:  “There are hard data on costs for busing.  The equation should be simple to understand.”

JC:  “For every $50k spent on busing – buying the bus, fuel, drivers, maintenance, insurance, whatever…the school district hires a new teacher for the neighborhood schools.”

Greenie:  “But only for neighborhood schools with a high percentage of poverty.”

Jordan:  “What else?”

PrisonerJC:  “Trading the cost of incarceration for education.  I’m still astounded that sending someone to prison for 5 years costs more than sending someone for a 4-year degree at Harvard or MIT.  That is so hard to believe.”

Greenie:  “I’m dumbfounded also.  But I think a more effective argument, and one that will be easier to get across, is taking the nearly $50k per year for incarceration and transferring that to public schools.  One prisoner equals one teacher.”

Black School TeacherJC:  “Keep the person out of prison, help them get an education and then a job and voila…you turn a tax expenditure into tax revenue.”

Greenie:  “One prisoner equals one teacher.  Even the most die-hard conservative ought to be able to understand that.”

(To be continued)