published Saturday, May 17th, 2014

Pam's Points: White flight, double jeopardy, flags for veterans and respect for life

  • photo
    Gianna Liao, who is graduating from Tyner Academy, is a native of the Philippines.
    Photo by Angela Lewis /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Where are the students?

Hamilton County schools are increasingly diverse — a good thing for our children because it offers the advantage of having the entire world to learn from in a single classroom. Unless 13 percent of the white kids aren't in the class.

And that's exactly what seems to be happening in Hamilton County schools. White flight is alive and well in our public school classrooms.

Hamilton County has about 43,000 students in its public schools system. Another 10,400 students here attend private schools.

About 58 percent of the public school students are white, but roughly 72 percent of the population is white.

About 31 percent of students in our public schools are black, but in the general population, 20 percent are black.

In public schools, 9 percent of students are Hispanic and 3 percent are Asian or other ethnicities. In our population, 5 percent are Hispanic and 2 percent are Asian or other.

It's not just black and white, as Chattanooga Times Free Press reporter Kevin Hardy pointed out in a Friday story titled "The Face of Change." In nearly 15 years, the number of black students has remained static while the number of white students has dropped 7 percentage points and the number of Hispanic and other race students has jumped from 2.6 percent of all students to 10.4 percent of all students.

Predictably, it is the children of more affluent homes who have been pulled out of public schools to attend private schools.

The result is that more than half (59 percent) of all students in the county's public system are classified as economically disadvantaged, according to the Ochs Center.

Just over a fifth of the county's entire population is under 18 -- school age. So when 20 percent of them are going to private schools, what are we teaching them about diversity and classism?

Double jeopardy in Bradley

Though the right not to be tried twice for the same crime is a bedrock of constitutional law, prosecutors in Bradley County's 10th Judicial District have thumbed their noses at law and have re-indicted Twanna "Tart" Blair in the 1999 Valentine's Day triple murder in Cleveland, Tenn., five years after she was found not guilty in the case.

Blair already had been indicted multiple times on murder and related charges in the case before a judge found her innocent in 2009 and dismissed other charges.

The new charges against Blair are being reviewed by Special Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood.

But the moral here is to drive way around anything in 10th Judicial District -- Bradley, McMinn, Monroe, and Polk counties. The law there appears to be whatever District Attorney Steve Bebb wants it to be. And Bebb is the same prosecutor that a Tennessee House investigative panel suggested should be ousted from office because he violated the public trust and misused his authority in the way he and people he supervised behaved in recent years.

Tennessee's disciplinary agency for attorneys dismissed the ethics complaint against Bebb.

Flags, veterans and all wait lists

The 30 new American flags raised on Veterans Bridge last Thursday were long overdue but much appreciated.

It is good to see our tribute especially after news of Veterans' Administration health care missteps and misdeeds being blamed for 40 deaths at the Phoenix VA Hospital while veterans waited for care. The director and two other employees were placed on administrative leave on May 1 after reports surfaced that they kept an off-the-books list to conceal long wait times.

If true, the people ordering and keeping those off-the-books wait lists should be prosecuted.

But perhaps state officials in Tennessee, Georgia and other GOP-led states that have refused to expand Medicaid and wasted our already-allocated federal tax dollars should also be censured.

People are dying on these wait lists, too. Health and policy experts estimate the number of deaths attributable to the lack of Medicaid expansion in all U.S. opt-out states at between 7,115 and 17,104. All because of partisan pettiness.

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