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The Worst City in USA

Montgomery County officials were quick Tuesday to come to the defense of their community, after a report was released by Best Life magazine calling Clarksville the worst city in the nation to raise a family.
The report, highlighted on NBC-TV's Today Show, is based on an evaluation of 257 U.S. cities using statistics and information provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, National Center for Education Statistics, FBI, American Association of Museums, National Center for Health Statistics and American Bar Association.
One specific statistic that was listed as a reason why Clarksville is ranked at the bottom is that schools here reportedly only spend $6,729 per student, per school year.Elise Shelton, communications director for the Clarksville-Montgomery County Schools, said she didn't know where the magazine got its figures, and quickly criticized the report's overall findings."The fact that this magazine based their findings on per-pupil spending is ludicrous," she said. "If they wanted to look at test scores, achievement, graduation rate ... then they would not see the schools in the bottom."The way we look at data ... it's a very good school district."Shelton said the school system actually spent $7,494 per student during the 2007-08 school year.She also noted that in 2007, the local school system had the highest graduation rate in the state, in addition to every school in the district this year meeting the yearly goals established by No Child Left Behind.Michelle Newell, another local schools spokeswoman, said the nearest spending figure to what was reported by Best Life was in 2005-06, when $6,724 was spent on each student.Still, Shelton said that school officials would be open to reviewing the data, if it were helpful."We're always open to looking at data that is helpful ... this is not helpful," she said.Director of Schools Mike Harris echoed Shelton's statements, calling the report a "lazy reporter's attempt to put something together."Our results speak for themselves," Harris said, referring to the NCLB test scores."Think about it. There are schools in the Northeast that are spending three times as much as we are (per student) but don't get the results."School spending, however, was not the only determining factor in the report.Pediatrician ratios to children, number of museums and parks, length of commutes to work and crime rates were also used as criteria.County Mayor Carolyn Bowers also said the report should be taken with a grain of salt, but admitted it could have some effect on the ongoing recruitment of industry."I certainly hope not," she said of potentially negative effects, but added that if the report becomes widely publicized, it could cause some industries to "second-guess" Clarksville as a potential building site.Bowers was also quick to point out that Clarksville is continually listed in reports that indicate the city is one of the fastest-growing in the country, with property values at least remaining stable, or growing in some cases.She also noted that the County Commission recently approved spending $4 million to upgrade parks around the county."I don't think (county residents) should take this seriously," she said. "I don't think we have anything really to be worried about."Bowers also noted the affinity for the area she has seen from members of the military."Whenever military families have the spouse deployed, they will choose to keep their family in the Clarksville-Montgomery County area," she said.City officials are currently in Las Vegas for a retail real-estate convention, and declined comment Tuesday on the magazine report, saying they have not seen it.

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