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Sr. Sandra Smithson

Nashville, TN

Opportunities are offered to white students that are not offered to black students. We have a galloping illiteracy problem in our school system, in the public school system. We have not addressed the issue of black flight in this city and we, ourselves have left behind large pockets of very poor black people to develop a culture that is not exactly expressive of the kind of values that I think we would want in any civilized society. 

Sr. Simone (off-camera): Wow.

Smithson: We have a connection between the public school system and the privatized prison system. Our state has made a commitment to a 90% bed-occupancy to privatized prisons.

(Crowd murmurs and groans.)

They allow superintendents to send fourth and third-grade reading scores to prison wardens so they can plan their growth. I hate to bring up the prison system because Richard Pryor said "Blacks are always complaining about 'there's no justice in America.' You go to any jail in American and you'll see it's just us."

(Crowd laughs.)

But, I think the collapse of the public school system is extremely serious, especially for the poor...

Sr. Simone (off-camera): Amen.

Smithson: and it is not being adequately addressed at any level by anybody.