Journalists have a lot of power when it comes to telling a story; they're presentation of information and the order of events largely effects our impression of what occurred. Sometimes this can make a small deal look like a big deal or a big deal seem like an insignificant aside. In addition, it can make legitimate concerns seems grounded in rational questions left unanswered appear irrational and illogical.
Take for example today's story in the ABQ Journal about West Siders pushing for a break from APS. Before reading the article I read Ched MacQuigg's blog, Diogene's Six, which provided me insight into an issue that I have to admit I don't know that much about, APS funding and the tensions over the fast growing West Side and the District.
For MacQuigg, the central question is whether or not APS can be trusted to fulfill their obligation to the students of the West side, who yearly endure increased overcrowding and underfunding from APS. But now that taxpayers Albuquerque have agreed to fork over 351 million to APS for school improvements, people on the West Side rightfully want to be assured their kids will get an even shake from the district. Hence the idea of breaking off and establishing their own district.
Turning to the Journal's article, "West Siders Push for Break From APS," I expected to read a more detailed explanation of the sentiments expressed on Diogene's Six, especially given the title. However the article gives little detail as to the motivation amongst West siders as to why they're "pushing" for a break from APS.
The article opens saying:
Leaders of the West Side Coalition of Neighborhood Associations have begun to plan for a feasibility study that could lead to creation of a new district west of the Rio Grande.Then quotes Mayor Martin Chavez:
At the same time, Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chávez continues to assail APS in an attempt to assume control over the state's largest district. "I see failure in our schools," he said during his address Monday at the Hispano Chamber of Commerce Hispanic Heritage Luncheon, which included top APS officials. "Kids don't fail adults; adults fail kids, and we are failing our kids. I'm not going to let go of this until we have true, meaningful reform."The article then goes to Governor Richardson to see what he thinks of the Mayor having control of the APS district. Still nothing on why the west side is pushing for the split.
A spokesman for Gov. Bill Richardson restated earlier comments that the governor wants to see debate on the mayor's proposal. "Some school districts across the country appear to have benefited from mayoral control over school finances or school board appointments," said spokesman Gilbert Gallegos. "Governor Richardson ... looks forward to hearing how the mayor intends to hold schools accountable for spending decisions."But what about the West Side resident who want to break from APS? Is anybody going to tell me why they'd want to do that?
APS board president Paula Maes said that while the coalition's proposal would rid the district of its most overcrowded and underperforming schools, "it wouldn't be a good thing for kids on the West Side." Maes said the West Side represents only 15 percent of the district's tax base. "Where are they going to get the money?" she said. "They're not thinking straight."Ok, so then why the want to break from APS isn't important because it's a bad idea, right? Not according the VICE-President of the coalition advocating the split.
Coalition vice president Dan Serrano said Wednesday he's heard nothing but support for the split. "Most of them are West Siders saying we need to get behind you on this thing," he said.Great, so we have the guy who's the head of the organization that's advocating the split saying that everybody he knows is in favor of it. Ya don't say. But do you think we might be able to hear from some of those people as to why they support the break? I'm really curious now. No, sorry. But what if instead we talk about whether or not the idea is really a bad one. How bout we ask the guy who's already seeking control of the APS district. Let's ask him what he thinks about splitting the district. Not that it's up to him, but if it were, what would he say about it.
Reached Wednesday, Chávez said that 10 years ago he would not have supported a split, but with West Side growth and development, "it may be a feasible option and should be studied again."
"You would have a healthy dose of competition," he said. "I see now it makes sense."
Right, the West side's growth does make splitting the district more feasible. ARRRHH. Can somebody please tell me why the people on the west side want to split.
But Maes said Tuesday's bond passage with more than 57 percent (22,405 for, 16,537 against) didn't help the mayor's position.
"If the bond had failed, I think the mayor would have had a lot better ground to stand on because he would have said, 'Look, the community doesn't trust APS to manage this huge amount of money,' '' Maes said. "It's going to be harder for him to say that now."
Maes cautioned the coalition to make sure it had the support of all 31,000 students west of the river, "not just the 3,000 at Cibola."
Neighborhood leaders south of Interstate 40 said they do not support a break from APS and had not been consulted by the West Side Coalition.
What? Ok, now this is driving me nuts. I don't care about the politics between Marty and Maes. I thought this article was about "THE WEST SIDERS PUSHING FOR SPLIT WITH APS," not the politics surrounding the Mayor's move to control the district. This is ridiculous. Oh wait, it gets more ridiculous.
"I don't mind a study," said former APS board member Matthew Archuleta. "However, I think that anything is so premature right now. It's a West Side district that would be saddled with debt like there's no tomorrow."Great. Thanks Mathew. But first, why do I care what you have to say now anyway? You're a FORMER board member! Are you from the West side? Second, how is that I'm getting two reasons why the West Side shouldn't split from APS before I'm getting one reason for why the want to? Third, if this is such a risky move for the west side, then I'm assuming they have some compelling reasons for being willing to take on that risk and split with APS. I wonder what those reasons are and if we'll find out. Let's see.
Marcia Fernandez, head of the South Valley Coalition of Neighborhood Associations, said members brought up a possible split recently
and informally "said it was a bad idea."
....I'm speechless. Are you serious? Wait, are we still talking about the West side are we talking about South Valley residents considering their own split. This article just went from uninformative to confusing. This is driving me nuts, i'm scanning ahead to find something illuminating....
Blurb on how to create a new district, APS attorney give more reasons why break would be bad idea, two years ago voters chose to keep district whole (so?), Wait, here's something. "An Albuquerque Journal Poll taken at the time (two years ago) showed 44% of voters surveyed favored a west side district with 36% opposed." Hmm. More evidence to suggest there's something making West Side residents unhappy.
Oooh. Wait. Here we go:
Board member Robert Lucero first introduced the new district concept in June 2004, saying APS wasn't moving fast enough to resolve overcrowding issues. Prior to that, various South Valley leaders often pitched the idea based on their own dissatisfaction with APS.
In 2002, then-Gov. Gary Johnson vetoed a bill that would have allowed Albuquerque voters to decide whether they wanted to split the district. In 1993, a task force that looked at the feasibility of a split ended up recommending against it.
Journal staff writers Amy Miller and Susan Stiger contributed to this report.Wait, that's it? No. Holdup, what about the residents on the west side, I still don't know why they want to break with the district. Is this only about overcrowding? How big of a problem is overcrowding? Wait, how much of the money from the bond is going to go to the west side schools for expansion and upgrades? What about teachers? Will the bond money be used to hire more teachers on the west side? How much of the money for the bond is coming from the west side?
This sounds like an important issue. I wish there was some way of finding out more--you know, like some alternative source of information--maybe some independent minded people who are upfront with their opinions, involved in the issue and who publish their ideas on the web for everybody to read, free of charge.
You know what, I'm putting this article in the hall of shame for being shamefully bad and shamefully shallow. Take that crappy articles--You're on notice.