Madison County Opinion...

JANUARY 15, 2003


Column
By Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
January 15, 2003

Frankly Speaking
Children need a basic knowledge of history
Nearly every pundit’s list of things for our new governor to do includes re-reforming education. I agree with the idea, but not necessarily with the extent of the reforms. While it is true that our children will learn better when teachers are allowed to teach without interference from bureaucrats, they do need guidelines on the material they are teaching. I am most concerned with the things that are not being taught today.
Let’s look at the subject of history. Here are a number of things that are not being taught to most of our students, even in college:
Did you know that Georgia’s original charter prohibited slavery? General Oglethorpe wanted to establish a settlement where people in British debtor jails could be given work. He saw slave labor as a competitor to prison labor. At the time Georgia was the only state of the original 13 with such a prohibition. When Oglethorpe’s experiment failed, and Georgia reverted to control of the King, the prohibition was lifted.
Georgia’s original border stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The treaty giving France control of Louisiana shorted the border to the Mississippi River. The remainder of the state’s western lands was ceded to the federal government once it was established.
Georgia’s first cash crop was silk. Farmers in Savannah produced enough silk to make a gown for the queen. But the colonists soon discovered that rice was much more profitable and silk production was abandoned. Later rice production gave way to tobacco and cotton.
The Cherokee people established an independent nation that occupied parts of North Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee. They had a Constitution, a president, legislature, written language and even a newspaper. The Cherokee Nation was destroyed by U.S. forces during the westward removal known as “The Trail of Tears.”
Who was the first President of the United States? George Washington was the fifteenth man to carry the title of President. He was the first President under the current constitution.
The first person with the title was Payton Randolph of Virginia who presided over the First Continental Congress when it convened on September 5, 1774.
John Hancock was the first person to sign the Declaration of Independence because he was President on July 4, 1776. The first constitutional president was John Hanson, elected when the Articles of Confederation were adopted in 1781.
The Mayflower Pilgrims were far from the first settlers in North America. Spanish settlers had been in Florida for many years, and a large settlement was located in Virginia when they arrived.
Millions of American students are growing up without this kind of information. Without this basic knowledge of our history, they will never understand the reason for our holidays, our symbols and our traditions. And without that knowledge, our culture will soon fall.
Sonny, as soon as you give our flag back, do something about this problem
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His web page can be accessed at www.mcga.net. His e-mail address is frankg@mcga.net.

Column
By Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
January 15, 2003

From the Editor's Desk
The year of SPLOST
Most call it “splost,” as in “lost.”
Some call it “spee lost.”
Others call it “splost,” as in “toast.”
I’ve even heard it called “splosh,” as in “oh my gosh.”
The proper pronunciation of the ugly government acronym, SPLOST — which stands for special purpose local option sales tax — is debatable.
But there’s no disputing the importance of the tax.
While it may be the year of the goat according to the Chinese calendar, 2003 is the year of SPLOST in Madison County.
The county government and the county school board will present separate SPLOST renewal referendums to voters on March 18, just 62 days from now.
If both are approved, millions of dollars will be tagged for county and school improvement projects. If rejected, many roads won’t get the facelift they need. Schools won’t get additional classrooms and other needed facilities.
In short, voters need to support these five-year, one-cent per dollar taxes if they care at all about improving their community. General fund revenues from property taxes usually provide just enough for counties to get by. Those revenues aren’t sufficient for major upgrades with dollar signs followed by six or seven digits.
Voters have recognized this need in years past. For example, in November of 1997, the sales tax for schools passed with 78 percent of the vote. Most of the money raised from this tax funded the construction of the Hull-Sanford Elementary School, as well as new classroom wings at the high school and middle school. In March of 1998 the county SPLOST was approved with 75 percent saying “yes.” That tax funded roads, the new jail, a 911 system and recreation improvements.
The county school board finalized its SPLOST proposals in November, agreeing to move forward with a long-anticipated sports complex across from the high school and middle school. Facilities upgrades are planned at all county schools, except for the recently constructed Hull-Sanford Elementary School. (See page 2A for a more detailed list of what’s planned.)
The school board’s planning for the SPLOST referendum seemed more methodical and less hurried than the commissioners’. The BOE set up meetings with each school to discuss SPLOST planning. The group finished its planning well before its deadline and provided ample opportunity for public input.
The commissioners, meanwhile, erred in waiting too long to begin planning the referendum. And Monday, the SPLOST discussion had a cramming-for-a-test-at-the-last-minute feel. For instance, the board scheduled a meeting with county mayors Monday, then seemed to forget about getting their input, until Colbert Mayor John Waggoner spoke up. The commissioners also shifted thousands of dollars on the final day that they could, not necessarily a mistake, but perhaps a sign that more time for planning should have been allowed.
Most notably, the commissioners were blindsided by a legal snag that derailed their plans for allocating $3 million for water and sewer development in the county. The county attorney informed the group that they needed an intergovernmental agreement with a municipality or existing authority before they could tag SPLOST money for such infrastructure development.
The requirement seems bizarre. It’s natural to assume that the county could use SPLOST funding on infrastructure development without a partnership. You can hardly fault the commissioners for being surprised by this.
Again, the problem was waiting too long to plan.
If there’s any lesson here, it’s that county leaders should begin discussing possible SPLOST projects at least a year before the 2008 SPLOST vote. That way, any potential kinks can be caught in advance.
All criticism aside, the BOC made some smart choices too.
The commissioners agreed to hold off using 2003 SPLOST funds for jail expansion. The new detainment facility may become overcrowded over the next five years, but it will at least move the county out of the jail dark ages. And tying any current SPLOST vote with the jail construction fiasco of the past two years may not be a good selling point come March 18.
The board also held off on SPLOST recreation projects, noting that the schools are developing a sports complex and that recreation projects could create conflicting services problems.
Establishing an EMS station in the Hull area is also a wise move, considering the growth of the area and the increase in medical calls.
And while knocking water and sewer development off the SPLOST ticket will surely disappoint those who want to see commercial growth in the county, many will be pleased to see an estimated $8.4 million go toward much-needed road improvements in the county.
Clearly, there’s much to gain from SPLOST, both for the schools and the county government.
So let’s hear it for “spee lost,” “sploast,” “splosh” or whatever it is.
It may not be the prettiest government acronym, but it’s one of our most important.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.

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