Thursday, May 26, 2011

26 MAY 11: TAP Out?

Do you watch those "Teen Mom" reality shows on TV? I don't have cable or satellite, so I haven't. But part of me wonders if they glorify sexual immorality. If you're a teenager and you can't sing or play a sport well, the next best path to stardom may be getting pregnant.

Teen mothers in Muscogee County may have to change their plans come fall - as school district leaders are floating a proposal to close the Teenage Parenting Center, called TAP for short. I pity any Fort Benning private who's confused it with The Uptown Tap.

The Teenage Parenting Center is located in the old Waverly Terrace Elementary School on 11th Avenue. For 12 years girls have continued toward a high school diploma, while their babies receive day care in a separate part of the building. The fathers do not join them for some odd.... oh wait. Some of them could be facing criminal charges.

(I didn't realize until I checked the TAP website that young mothers have to bring eight changes of diapers with their babies every day. I should ask my niece/new mom Dr. Heather for a ruling on this -- but they must teach hydration at a very early age.)

But the Teenage Parenting Center's day care program has relied on donations and grant money, as opposed to school district funding. District spokesperson Valerie Fuller showed WTVM numbers indicating donations and grants have declined over the last five years. Those babies simply aren't crying loudly enough to get people's attention....

Valerie Fuller says without the outside funding for day care, the Teenage Parenting Center could be closed to save Muscogee County schools more than two million dollars. I'm not sure why this has to be an "either-or" choice. Right-to-life groups can volunteer to care for those babies - showing even their recommendations can have consequences.

Superintendent Susan Andrews told the Ledger-Enquirer the money saved by closing TAP could add two days to the overall district's school year. That would mean two more days of pay for teachers. And imagine the economic growth from teen mothers paying for private day care.

Under this proposal, the teen moms would return to their regular high schools. I recall a news story several years ago about a girl who actually wanted to stay at Hardaway High, because she didn't think the Teenage Parenting Center's instruction would be as good -- not to mention the soccer team.

In a way, I can understand why that girl wanted to remain at Hardaway. Moving teenagers to a special "parenting center" can have a stigma attached to it. It certainly had a negative reputation during my high school days in another state. They were "bad girls" long before Donna Summer turned them into a disco song.

Part of me says the Teenage Parenting Center is a form of school segregation. But another part of me says expectant mothers could face all sorts of peer pressure and emotional distress by staying in regular middle or high schools. For one thing, the girls could be accused constantly of flunking the sex education class.

The Teenage Parenting Center has been at the edge of this budget knife before. A big anonymous donation came at the last minute several years ago, to keep it going. Since this latest proposal isn't going before the Muscogee County School Board until 6 June, Wednesday's "floating" could have been a hint for that donor to come forward again - hoping that donor isn't also a fan of public golf courses.

But at the risk of sounding preachy, a Teenage Parenting Center wouldn't be needed if young men and women acted more responsibly. Yes, sagging pants can lead to sagging morals....

We may have a new Big Blog Question here. Check back to see - and we'll check other Wednesday news:

+ Columbus tied a record, with a high temperature of 95 degrees F. I caved in during the late afternoon, and turned on the home air conditioner for the first time this season. Blame it on the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department, for opening those swimming pools.

+ A Mobile contractor complained to the Russell County Commission that a contract for expanding the county jail was awarded illegally to a local firm. WRBL indicated the dispute could boil down to whether the extra wing of the jail is new construction or remodeling. I hope no one organizes an inmate uprising to settle this....

+ The Opelika-Auburn News reported accused Toomer's Corner tree poisoner Harvey Updyke Jr. entered a plea of NOT guilty "by reason of mental disease or defect." In other words, his brain may have been spiked before he used anything called Spike.

(So if this case goes to trial, shouldn't the video rights automatically go to Spike TV?)

+ Georgia high school student Lauren Alaina finished second in the "American Idol" voting. WXTX didn't go to northwest Georgia for big final-round coverage, like it did a few years ago for Taylor Hicks in central Alabama. Does that reveal an Alabama bias? Or did the managers decide that other singer Haley was robbed?

+ Auburn University announced the top scorer on the men's basketball team is leaving school. Earnest Ross reportedly was unhappy with Coach Tony Barbee and his staff. Barbee probably wishes he could trade Ross to Kentucky for a couple of junior varsity players.

+ Alabama outlasted Arkansas on the opening day of the Southeastern Conference baseball tournament. Auburn and Georgia both lost, and will meet in an elimination game today. This game needs to be postponed at least one day - so wrestling announcers can head to Hoover and hype it as a "loser leaves town match."

+ Instant Message to the Georgia Department of Labor: I came across one of your job listings, which had this requirement. "Must have six months continuous employment with one employer within the last 90 days." Is this a math puzzle that you want applicants to solve? Or does the employer only want people who will work double shifts?

LAUGHLINE FLASHBACK: Oprah Winfrey ended her daily talk show Wednesday - but Columbus residents may remember a three-year period when she wasn't on local television at all. Station managers considered her program too expensive to show. We mentioned the "Oprah-Free Zone" in LaughLine issues for a national audience during September 2000:

11 SEP 00: Our town may now be the only one in America where you CANNOT watch "The Oprah Winfrey Show!" A local station [WRBL] canceled her last week, because she lost badly in the ratings to "General Hospital." Hotels in town are now on alert - expecting Oprah to vacation here, to avoid getting noticed.

(And to make matters worse, we don't think "Oxygen" is on cable in our town, either. If we didn't know better, we'd think the town was full of cattle farmers.)

12 SEP 00: Albert Gore made history Monday, as the first Presidential candidate to appear on "The Oprah Winfrey Show." We weren't able to watch - so did he talk about financial freedom, or getting in touch with his inner spirit?

Oprah Winfrey explained she's interviewing the candidates because she wants her viewers to decide "who feels right to be the next President." Trouble is, the only people allowed to actually feel the candidates are their wives and running mates.

"Oprah" asked "Al" what he's most comfortable in, in the bedroom. The Democrat's answer: "Bed!" After some of those White House fundraisers, we thought he might say a money belt.

(Oprah Winfrey asking bedroom questions? Apparently she's trying to beat MTV to the punch....)

20 SEP 00: George W. Bush took his turn on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" Tuesday - and many viewers cringed at the thought of it. After all, the last time an "O" and a "W" got together, it was painful.... [OW!]

The Republican scored points right away by kissing Oprah Winfrey on the cheek. The host noted last week, Albert Gore only shook her hand. Then again, if Mr. Gore kissed Oprah the way he kisses Tipper, it might have sparked a scandal.

(Hopefully Stedman Graham was paying attention to this show. Keep shaking your woman's hand, Stedman, and your "poll numbers" will drop, too.)

Mr. Bush is trying to show how his proposals will benefit "ordinary people." But he missed a golden opportunity Tuesday. How much would his tax cuts help Oprah Winfrey's personal chef, trainer and financial consultant?

A touching moment came when The Republican told Oprah Winfrey about his twin daughters. He actually began to cry when he discussed their birth 18 years ago. We all understood Mr. Bush's emotions - since there's no male heir to continue the dynasty.

The Bush appearance on "Oprah" brought a first - when a member of the audience interrupted, trying to ask a question about Iraq. Winfrey called that man the first heckler in the 15-year history of her show. There could have been more, of course - but the cattle ranchers in Amarillo boycotted the show instead.

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