Jubilee Shutdown

It was sad to read this morning’s headline that the Jubilee Schools in Memphis will close.

In 1999, then Bishop Terry Steib announced that money had been donated to reopen nine schools in the inner city. The goal stated was “Not a handout, but a hand up. A partnership in helping children from Memphis’ most economically challenged neighborhoods get the education they need to graduate, go to college, and positively impact their lives and the Memphis community.”

Poor students were given scholarships and even the New York Times commented, “The most successful [school] model of all may well be in Memphis.”

Now all that ends. Nine Jubilee schools, plus St. Michael’s school on Summer will be shuttered.

As it happens, our family attends Mass at a Midtown parish that sponsors a Jubilee School. It has grown from grades 1-6 to 1-8. The students roughly are about a quarter black, quarter Asian, quarter Hispanic and a quarter white. A decision was made two years ago to be a year round school. The diversity prompted teachers to switch to year round schooling. They felt that so many of their students spoke different languages, from Vietnamese to Spanish to Swahili that when they took months off for summer break they reverted to those languages and lost skills in English. They were able to address the problem. It probably also helped many families to avoid a day care problem.

The older children attend school on a floor right above the church. So when daily Mass is going on we can hear chairs being moved and the sharp staccato of teachers’ footsteps. The younger students have a building nearby. All attend Mass once a week, although they do not have to accept Catholicism.

After Mass today Mr. Midtown Republican and I asked our pastor what happened and what’s next.

He said that when the new bishop, Martin Holley, arrived two years ago he informed the schools that he would be closing them. It’s apparently one of the reasons he was sent here, as he did the same task in his former home of Washington, D.C. Schools there were losing money and here the totals amounted to $9 million each year.

In DC he arranged for charter schools to come in and replace the parish schools. Since charter funding exempts any kind of religious charter schools, they became completely secular. This means that the charter company that will be coming in, New Day, most likely will pay $1 a year to lease the schools. The option of not renting the buildings is not possible as that would then require the church pay taxes.

All crucifixes and statues will have to be removed. There are complications since the school and church reside in one building. Problems of electricity, security, garbage pickup, maintenance, parking situations will have to be worked out.

Mayor Strickland, a Catholic, certainly hasn’t done anything to help these schools find other sources of funding. Why should he? The education system here seems intent on keeping our populace stupid and manipulated. Even our superintendent looks like he’s thrown his hands up and is ready to give the schools to charter groups.

The failure of vouchers to be passed also shares some responsibility in the Jubilee school demise. The director of communications for the diocese said so in today’s article. He implied “the defeat of several bills in the legislature that would have created a voucher system severely affected the ability of the schools to continue operating.”

Obviously politics got involved in it. The liberal Democrats who run this town cannot allow a different, non teachers union, non governmental agency to succeed. They must control everything or lose their own power. They went to Nashville and successfully stopped vouchers.

We wonder why businesses don’t want to come here. They can’t find an educated workforce. Has more money helped our schools? No.

Charter schools won’t be the answer either. It’s a shame that the party that says it’s all about diversity, isn’t when it comes to ideas.

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