Letters to the editor 

Children left behind and budget blues

Shirley Franklin and City Council try and blame recent budget woes on economic downturns ("There will be blood," News & Views, May 7). This is nothing but an outright lie. The fact is the demographics in the city have continued to significantly raise property values and taxes. In most situations this was done with no increase in services from the city. Yes, the city looks wonderful, but beautiful condos and Starbucks do not make a vibrant city.

Under Shirley's watch we have seen an all-out assault on the nightlife in the city. Atlanta was known for its progressive nightlife. We now pale in comparison to many average cities. In addition, ALL of our major festivals are scrambling to survive in the name of sod! We have seen numerous landmark businesses wiped out of existence because someone thought condos would look better in their place. I mention this because entertainment and nightlife are a crucial part of the tax base and soul of a city. Anyone who was "going out" on the weekends five years ago knows exactly what I am talking about. I have friends from all over the country who ask me what has happened to Atlanta. In fact, the nightlife in many of the suburbs offers better hours and safety than the city. Don't tell me it's the economy, grandma!

– David Newman, Atlanta

The truth will not set you free

My son voluntarily told school officials he had a pocket knife in his car ("The children left behind," cover story, May 7). Under Georgia's Zero Tolerance Policy – which is stricter on school grounds – he was arrested as an adult (he's 17), spent two days in jail, was expelled from Druid Hills High School and had to go to an alternative school. When we enrolled, two administrators indicated that they had a more than average number of seniors and they thought it had to do with school test scores. At alternative school, he could not take the AP courses and college prep courses but was told if he showed up they would give him a "B". I was even told to get him into counseling by a DeKalb County School System administrator since high achievers "tend to get depressed" when they go to an alternative school.

The end result ... thousands of dollars in legal fees and counseling, no college applications because who wants "Pending Felony Weapons charges" on the application and finally, a judge with guts (note – not a DA) who suspended the sentence. However, my son now questions the values I taught him because to quote him, "the assholes who lie always win."

So, if you encounter people who don't care about [Scott Freeman's] story since it only applies to so-called lower class ghetto gang members, tell them about my son, an upper middle class white kid in the 92nd percentile on his SATs who was bound for college until he happened to tell the truth.

– Katherine Gauntt, Decatur

Education on lockdown

Thank you, hallelujah, amen for the first well-researched, in-depth investigative feature ("The children left behind") on Atlanta Public Schools' repulsive answer to alternative education, Forrest Hill Academy – formerly and famously known as CEP (Community Education Partners). I work with teens in a program every day of the work week, many of whom have attended CEP. I have visited their site; it is the farthest thing from being 'community' or 'education.' It's lockdown; it's counterproductive. The few quality, caring staff that once worked there left the program long ago in disbelief.

Kudos on bringing CEP's initial political ties from Tennessee and Texas to the fore.

May this article and the ACLU lawsuit shine an even bigger light on this all-about-profit travesty that continues to give Atlanta children an unequal, nonaccountable, substandard education.

– Darlyne Evans, Atlanta

Life goals

I just finished reading [Scott Freeman's] cover story "The children left behind." I just wanted to express my appreciation for your coverage of the travesty occurring in some school systems, namely the Forrest Hill Academy. I was very moved by the story and this piece came along at the perfect time for me. I work in the nonprofit sector and want to move my career into an educational setting, addressing some of the problems noted in your story. This piece has shed a new light, helping me refocus my vision, and it has given me even more motivation to go in that direction. So thank you for your contribution to my life goals. It is a great piece and I am glad you covered it.

– Brynna R. Yentz, Atlanta

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