Memphis board delays start of school, telling city: Show us the money

School buses may not run next month in Memphis where the board voted to delay the start of school because of a funding crisis.  (AJC file)

School buses may not run next month in Memphis where the board voted to delay the start of school because of a funding crisis. (AJC file)

I received an email from an AJC reader this morning that I am sharing here. She wrote: I can’t find this in the AJC but I think it is important. Memphis City Schools met last night and announced because the city isn’t paying the school system what is owed, schools will not open on Aug. 8.  There will be another meeting Aug 2 – so this may be a bluff.

The Memphis story is on AJC.com.You can read it here.

For greater detail, I also went to the Memphis Commercial Appeal newspaper, which is reporting what sounds like a dangerous game of brinkmanship with the city’s schoolchildren in the middle.

Here is the Commercial Appeal’s account of what happened last night at the board meeting:

Classes for Memphis City Schools will not start this fall until the City Council deposits $55 million — the amount the city has budgeted for schools from tax revenue — in the district’s account, school board members decided Tuesday night.

The board voted 8-1 to delay the start of the school year indefinitely, putting the system in the limelight as the district attempts to force city leaders to make good on funding promises.

“We’ve been patient; we’ve cut 1,500 jobs,” said board member Tomeka Hart. “We’re not going for everything. We’re not saying give us everything you owe. We are just saying we have to have the money in the bank from our city so we can pay our bills.

“It’s a difficult situation they are in but we can’t continue to sacrifice our difficult situation to help them out of theirs. We did not create this situation, and we are a governing body as well.”

City Council president Myron Lowery said several of the funding issues are tied up in court and therefore not negotiable right now.

“The council supplies less than 10 percent of almost a billion-dollar school budget,” Lowery said. “They have voted to delay for having less than 10 percent in hand. That is ridiculous.”

He blames the problem on poor communication between Supt. Kriner Cash and Mayor AC Wharton.

School employees will not be paid until school starts, throwing thousands of Memphians into a quandary, including Sarah Harper, who said, “as much as I would like to get paid, as much I need to get paid, let’s not muddy the water about what the real issue is. Our children are being made the pawns. The city of Memphis needs to fund Memphis City Schools and fund them now. Demand they make this right.

“We’ve got to have the money. If we don’t have it, we can’t open the doors,” she told the board, her voice rising with emotion. “I will guarantee you this city would be up in arms if they have to teach their children at home or find somewhere for them to go.”

The vote came 21/2 hours into the emergency meeting, with impassioned arguments on both sides from members of the teachers union.

Cash said the board had spoken but said it was no victory. “Our children need to be in school. I can’t tell you that passionately or emphatically enough. I am going to keep fighting to get a resolution,” he said, but made no promises. “What’s next? I expect the city to be in touch with us.”

The district says the city has shorted it $151 million over four years, including $78.4 million for the 2011-12 school year. The city has not approved the district’s budget, required by state law. The district is to submit its budget to the state by Aug. 1. School had been scheduled to start Aug. 8. If MCS cannot produce an approved budget showing the city is paying its fair share for schools by Oct. 1, new Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman told Cash on Tuesday that he would withhold state funding for MCS.

At 50 percent, the state is the largest provider of funds for public education in Memphis.

MCS board president Martavius Jones cast the lone vote against the move to delay the start of school after talking on the phone with Wharton during a recess in the meeting.

“I didn’t get a commitment from him. I tried,” Jones said, adding that the best solution would be one that didn’t hurt taxpayers. “The city is going to have to take this out of their reserves (and) that will make borrowing costs go up, which hurts taxpayers.”

While the city has approved the money, it has not been sent to the school system because the council has not yet approved the district’s budget, as required by state law.

–from Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled Blog

49 comments Add your comment

Struggling Teacher

July 20th, 2011
9:30 am

Although I am adamantly opposed to any decision where children are the victims of adults’ decisions, this may be what the teachers of the United States need to do: stand up for their schools and students. We have a history of servile obedience to every dictate, mandate, criteria that is hurled in their lesson plans. I hope Memphis can pull together and open the doors to the school on time this fall.

www.honeyfern.org

July 20th, 2011
9:33 am

@Struggling – well said. “Servile obedience” indeed.

left/right? i care

July 20th, 2011
9:38 am

hmmmmmm, now THERE may be a school board that needs to be fired– i’m just sayin”…

left/right? i care

July 20th, 2011
9:39 am

hmmmmmm, now THERE may be a school board that needs to be fired– i’m just sayin’…

Dr NO

July 20th, 2011
9:40 am

Pay as you go. I like it.

Kah

July 20th, 2011
9:46 am

This is heart breaking to read about my hometown school system. What is wrong with all of these immature adults around this country derailing the education of students in public schools? Parents, it is time to be visible and vocal and demand that students are not caught up in this foolishness. Maybe, some class action lawsuits will get their attention. It looks like some house cleaning needs to happen with this city council, school board, mayor and super. Maureen, thanks for posting this story…I will continue to follow it.

look again

July 20th, 2011
10:04 am

Everyone needs to look at this article again. If the city does not put up their share (10% of the budget according to the article) then the state will not send their funding (50% of the budget). As much as I am opposed to closing schools over money how can anyone run a successful educatinal program with a 60% deficit? This is the same mess playing out all over the country. That is why I am glad my state offers virtual online school for K-12. I no longer have to worry if my children are getting a proper education……..I can see they are in real time.

Tired

July 20th, 2011
10:12 am

I live in memphis and I have to say that fiscal responsiblity is out the window here the school district recieved 1.2 BILLION dollars last year. Our great school sup. Mr. CASH and his top admin staff(which by the way make a combined 1.2 million dollars for 6 people) recieved a 20% raise last year for doing a great job and the school system is still failing it has been for years. Lets not forget it is so bad that the state has come in and taken over 5 failing schools in the district. The city council funding issue came into being when former Mayor Willie Herrington refused to pay the public school system 4 years ago which has created a domino effect. It’s sad that our potical elections are this year and the children and teachers are being used as pawns in this whole mess. They all need to grow up further more Memphis city school board no longer exists according to their charter that THEY surrendered to the county schools. The city needs to fulfill their obligations and pay their part to fund the schools but both sides need to get it together so OUR CHILDREN can have an education.

D™

July 20th, 2011
10:12 am

MORE EDUCATION! LESS ADMINISTRATION! And we wonder why American children are behind in math and science against other countries. Eliminate these board member’s position and let the people decide how their taxes are spent for the school.

www.honeyfern.org

July 20th, 2011
10:19 am

@look again, I think the close reading bears repeating:

If the city doesn’t pony up 10%, the state won’t give their 50%. A school with a 1.2 billion dollar budget will not be able to function on 40% of their funds.

I am the first to say that education shouldn’t be about money or politics, but how do you keep the lights on and the kids fed on 40%?

[...] Memphis board delays start of school, telling city: Show us the money [...]

Hmm...

July 20th, 2011
10:32 am

Will there be enough money for Atl schools in the year ahead? Millions in legal fees, millions in payments to fired teachers and administrators, and there is no telling the size of the elephant people are ignoring:

When are the class-action lawsuits being filed? Kids and parents who have been lied to, and did not get educated due to the malfeasance of the APS and the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and business community, who did all they could to sweep this under the rug, now must take to the courts for reparations. Why has this not happened yet? When will it occur, and how huge will the class-action settlement be?

Write Your Board Members

July 20th, 2011
10:32 am

There is more to this story than even the funding. Earlier this year, the Memphis Board of Education voted to allow citizens to vote on turning in their charter and therefore becoming part of the county school system.

http://www.wmctv.com/story/14208408/voting-under-way-on-fate-of-city-school-system?redirected=true

Most in the county don’t really want the city schools. It is a mess.

BT

July 20th, 2011
10:49 am

Lordy, Lordy…what a mess!

2cents

July 20th, 2011
10:50 am

If I had $55 million dollars…

I wouldn’t give it to the incompetent MCS board. I would hold out until they were replaced or restructured to be run by the people who care what our children get out of their education.

Jared

July 20th, 2011
10:53 am

I am so sick & tired of OUR schools in this country getting the shaft because the individuals that WE vote into positions can’t keep their promises that they make when running for a position. Why must OUR children OUR future of this nation keep getting shortfalled because of the stupidity of other adults? Are we NOT supposed to be role models for our children? Then you go & tell them that we’re gonna take away your education because we don’t wanna pony up the dough. Get it together & give these kids the education they deserve!! This goes for ALL schools in this country!

Really amazed

July 20th, 2011
11:10 am

Here we go again, Georgia has been receiving more funds then most banks I know. This year starts rttt! More money than ever!!!!!! More money has brought more corruption into the system and lowered cut scores!!! NOT higher rigor of learning. WAKE UP Georgia public school parents. Don’t you wonder why almost all the kids in your child’s class have erand all A’s???????????? My neice came over the other day and said…. she was one of 101 students making the beta club out of about 163. REALLY? Is this an accomplishment. She also told me that if she didn’t do well on a test, all is she had to do is a little extra credit and make an A!!! This is not learning GA!!!!!!!

Struggling Teacher

July 20th, 2011
11:14 am

OK, all of you teachers, what are we to do? Do nothing? That really hasn’t worked so far. Our professional educator organizations have only helped to smother our concerns from the trenches. All of these people who dictate to us are not with the students day-in-day-out. We are the ones who really know what is happening in our schools. It is past time for us to speak out. Education is the single best thing to hold our country together and to keep our independence and repel dominance from any global force, and what do we do? We obey the mandates better than a trained canine for the AKA New York Show. We must act on behalf of the best investment for our future: the children.

Budd

July 20th, 2011
11:39 am

It wasn’t like the kids were in danger of learning anything in Memphis City Schools anyway.

Retired Teacher

July 20th, 2011
11:42 am

Seriously…. you surplus and fire a huge percentage of your staff and teachers to meet budgetary needs, but then pile 40 kids in a classroom because you’re short of teachers??? Now our teachers can’t possibly be compensated for educating a diverse field of learners that will one day run our city??? This issue has reached a new extremity–Limiting, no–freezing, the right of education for our youth. Way to go MCS… Nice decision, we’ll start classes as soon as we have 55 million…Pure capitalism! Irresponsible fiscal spending!

Struggling Teacher

July 20th, 2011
11:48 am

Memphis children could learn something. Atlanta children could learn something, too. This CEO approach to education is not the way to go. These are real individual humans that teachers deal with, not numbers and statistics on a page. Yes, test scores and improvement should be monitored, but good grief! Don’t take the human element out of it all! Technology is great, but it does not give the human emotional response that children need from teachers. Beating up each other over money is an adult game, not a child’s game. Don’t punish the children for the misdeeds of the adults. Perhaps they are really just grown children and not adults in charge of the Memphis and Atlanta schools. Not good either way.

Dr NO

July 20th, 2011
11:58 am

“MORE EDUCATION! LESS ADMINISTRATION!”

Exactly. Those 4 APS idiots, of which Cotman and Pitts are 2, have lawyered up and on TV last evening they OF COURSE did NOTHING wrong and they have gone to church and sang hymns and “To Gawd be duh glowree” etc. Just these 4 imbeciles combined make an annual approx total of $553K.

What a huge…A HUGE, waste of money. The way this “gang of 4″ behaves and speaks and lies its now wonder kids come strait from high school into prison.

Oh yeah…Has Enroll stated…”Its a cultural issue.”

Watch and LEARN!!

John W

July 20th, 2011
12:03 pm

10% of any budget is huge, especially for a government agency. If you lose 10% of your budget it doesn’t just translate to a 10% pay reduction. You still have to pay for the cost of electricity, office supplies, maintainence, and i’m sure a gazillion other things. Imagine getting a 30% cut in pay, because some crappy city council can’t get its crappy act together and fork over funds they should have had ready. Its not like if your on the city council you have some enviable political carreer and have to actually worry about being re-elected. So do the right thing and take care of your city’s finances.

Dr NO

July 20th, 2011
12:03 pm

PS…Oh and btw Bev renewed the contracts of “the gang of 4″ just days prior to the dropping of the cheating bombshell and was instructed to modify the contracts so there were certain “contract termination” clauses included.

What did Bev do? You guessed it. NOTHING. And probably because she is just to much of a dullard and/or just plain lazy. I think there is much sorryness, lack of character and laziness within APS and in parents of APS students.

Watch and LEARN.

oldtimer

July 20th, 2011
12:08 pm

As I now live in TN, I will tell you, TN does not have a seperate school tax. The county collects taxes and gives the school the amount of money they want to give it and the schools create a budget, which county commisioners must approve. In our county, with 24 commisioner, the commision has told the school system to cut…they will not approve any tax increase. In fact taxes have now not been raised in 13 years and the schools are suffering. It is a mess and Shelby County-Memphis schools are not the only ones where this game is played. Several have had delayed starts because of this. Also 25% of students in this county are in special ed…I found this questionable also. Miss GA

xionxxxx

July 20th, 2011
12:27 pm

Less schools and more prisons, this is what the future of America looks like! A locked up nation of prisons without a good public education like that of third world countries, soon we’re just going to teach our kids to do drugs, use guns, and commit crime.

NOW

July 20th, 2011
12:36 pm

Vlee

July 20th, 2011
12:39 pm

no wonder memphis city schools suck. the people who run it are running into issues that can’t be resolved. Memphis City Schools are going down the drain anyways. The only way to save this school system is to fire and get rid of people who don’t know what they are doing. Memphis is ghetto and it needs to shape up starting with the SCHOOLS!!!!!!!

The Truth of the Matter

July 20th, 2011
12:39 pm

From: Jeff Warren
Date: Tue, Jul 19, 2011 at 10:13 PM
Subject: Re: School Funding for MCS
To:

They (Memphis Council) took our budget from 2007 of $94 million and reduced it to $84 million ( due to a drop in enrollment) and then cut everything but the $20 million that we received in 2008. They used $47 million of those education funds designated as school tax that year for the largest pay raise for city employees in our history (8%). They “forgave” a loan that we had paid down to $12 million but took the 2 cent tax we had used to pay the note from MCS. (That note is now around $7 million.) They then took 18 cents ($18 million) of the education tax funds and gave a tax rebate. It was a brilliant political move. No one noticed despite my trying to get the word out. Google “The Flyer” for my editorial about it. We got $20 million that year. We filed suit and the courts said that it was an illegal action. They owed us the money. We won. We still haven’t gotten the money. They filed a counter suit to get the schools to pay for air conditioners the city provided that we couldn’t get the county to fund in the 80’s. That suit has clogged the repayment up in the courts. Win Win for Wade!!! Lose Lose For MCS students.

Allen Wade still has the council convinced that they do not need to pay us. The year after the suit, they reduced their payment to $78 million due to attendance. We got around $73 million that year. Last year they did not reduce it because we were even or perhaps had a slight growth in students. (They are not required to increase it if we have an increase in students.) They just have not paid around $9 million of their maintenance of effort from this last year.

They are better politicians than I am. We are at the point that unless we as a community make them pay we will lose the best in MCS.

The reason they haven’t met with us is they have a lawsuit that states we don’t exist. If they pay us that may weaken their suit. We have never been this far into a budget season without a council approval. There is a reason for that. I call it the Wade Koolaid.

Their lawsuit is not designed to force a merger. It is designed to keep them from paying our maintenance of effort this year. It is also stalling their paying the $57 million they withheld illegally on 2008. It is one more delay in actually merging systems. All the while Allen Wade rakes it in from all sides. And our kids, teachers, parents, and community suffers.

I have no faith that we will be made whole without an outcry from the our citizens. Be aware that this is only a holding pattern. The next step will be to have these funds maintained in
the new county system. The law currently does not require the county commission to make up the difference. That will be our next battle.

I hope this helps you understand. I believe Mayor Wharton wants to help us but is hamstrung by a council that has been misled by an attorney who does not have our children’s best interests at heart.

In the meantime, I believe that our board will wait until the community has time to understand what the council has done. Then I believe democracy will work.

Please send my thoughts to your friends.

Jeff

Struggling Teacher

July 20th, 2011
12:39 pm

Privatizing is not the answer. Public schools are the answer. Adults who isolate their children do not raise adults who can deal with society. The United States is made up of many different kinds of people. Successful adults know how to deal with the real society and not just a select group of people. We need to protect our democracy by teaching our children how to successfully deal with a democracy by educating them in a public school situation. No charters on the state’s dime. Private schools? The parents need to ante up their own money, but the public school is the real solution to our country.

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Really amazed

July 20th, 2011
12:46 pm

Just have virtual schools for those that want to plug-in and learn. This would be a great savings!!!! No one would plug-in unless they truly wanted to learn. No more public funds going towards building and students that didn’t want to learn anyway. Students aren’t being challenged anyway! They ones that want to could work at their own pace. Georgia public schools are a joke already. The teaching profession would become a thing of the passed which it already has anyway. Teachers can’t teach the way they want to so why have them in a class just to look like something is being done and waste money on education that isn’t taking place because of dumbed down standards and low cut scores. Oh I forgot, all of these students still need babysitting. I do believe the brick and mortar system is on it’s way out!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Even college students are taking most courses on-line.

Tired

July 20th, 2011
12:56 pm

I have a lot of friends who are teachers in the MCS system and for the last five or more years they have had to supply their own supplies. That is everything but the books and MCS just added a new copier company to the district for $10 million but my friends told me their copy machines at school have never worked and have to pay for their own copies at fedex office or make them at home. Way to go more waste it’s BAD when the school district is made up of 62% non teaching jobs to 48% teachers! Where’s the money going oh that’s right a fleet of 500 vechiles the main storage of food most of which last year was wasted because of over ordering. FISCAL responsiblity is lost on the administration but lets fire 1,477 teachers go most of which are good teachers they just didn’t have tenure. Great going MCS sup.cash is only out for the cash pardon the pun but seems to me like pure greed on both sides. We have a wheel tax here in Memphis $50 a tag is paid to the county and city for schools where is that money MEMPHIS everyone is a crook in the government here.

Cliff

July 20th, 2011
12:58 pm

This all started many years ago when the city was asked to supplement money for various programs and what – not to the school system. What was essentially a gift somehow became mandatory due the law of mantinece. This says a county or city can not fund the school systems less than what was funded the year before, it can be more but not less. In Tennessee the counties fund the schools, unless the system is a special school district. Almost all special school districts have taxing authority. Guess what Memphis city schools is considered a special school district, but it doesn’t have taxing authority ,so by law it is the sole responsibility of the county to fund them. Its kinda like, letting a friend stay at your house for a few days and they never leave, all the while they’re eating your food, sitting in your favorite chair watching tv and using up all the tissue. Unfortunately, the kids are caught in the middle of all this.

left/right? i care

July 20th, 2011
1:06 pm

Really amazed ,July 20th, 2011, 11:10 am and 12:46. hon, i am really amazed and shocked at your butchering of the English language. you have so many mispelled words that surely your niece– please note how i spelled that– is probably smarter than you. and she did not say if she received an ‘F’ she could do extra credit and get an ‘A’, she simply stated if she did not get an ‘A’, she could do extra credit and make it up. apparently her grades cannot be too bad if she made the club, and yes, that is too high of a percentage of students, but… YOU cannot judge ANY educational system…sorry. so tired of the tirades which mask your true issues. the bottom line is: the students of ATL and other districts where cheating scandals arose need immediate scholastic attention and an overall resolution. as far as memphis goes–too bad, but the ATL has enough of its own woe on its hands.

www.honeyfern.org

July 20th, 2011
1:33 pm

@Struggling Teacher – you continue with the tired argument that diversity only exists in public schools, and students who aren’t in public schools are isolated. The world is flat, and, frankly, there is now less diversity in public school in some cases.

I don’t believe all education should be privatized, and I support the theory of public ed, but the practice IS NOT WORKING.

A

July 20th, 2011
1:43 pm

I graduated from a Memphis public high school in the late ’80s when things were still functioning in the school system. All my friends who still live in Memphis send their kids to private schools out of sheer desperation. As many problems as we have with Georgia schools, it’s never come close to the school year not starting on time.

Struggling Teacher

July 20th, 2011
1:45 pm

I never said that the public school system if just fine. It’s very sick and in need of emergency treatment, but “cutting and running” to charter, magnet, or private school doesn’t fix the problem. Those “magic” cures for education that charter and magnet school tout could successfully be applied to the general public school if the school administration and faculty were allowed to teach! A public school is no place for special interest groups to thrive. Exceptionally bright children should be challenged. Exceptionally slow children should be remediated. There should be choices for virtual classes, PSO, and other not brick-and-mortar same-ol’-same-ol’. What you forget, honeyfern, is that we are talking about the children who have immature brains. They need human nurturing and guidance. Isolating a child does not empower him to be able to adjust to society when he is finally released from his isolation. Children need other children to properly grow and mature. I will beat this public school drum until I die. I feel that strongly about it. I have witnessed too many students who have been allowed to grow up in such a tunnel vision environment that they never do really learn to co-exist in society. Whatever your cause is, honeyfern, you go for it. This country allows you that opportunity. I respect your misguidance.

Jazz

July 20th, 2011
3:07 pm

Upset. I realize the right yo stand up for what is rightfully yours, but the kids need their education. Also, @Budd, you were so wrong for saying what you said.

Jazz

July 20th, 2011
3:08 pm

I mean i realize the right to stand up for your rights

Steve Perry on CNN says

July 20th, 2011
3:22 pm

The Memphis Board of Education is not about the kids. It is about the teachers and the unions. If the teachers only got paid $1000 per month for 9 months, the budget of all public schools would be balanced. We pay teachers way too much for the test scores as it is.

I love teaching. I hate what it is becoming...

July 20th, 2011
4:35 pm

Steve Perry,

“If the teachers only got paid $1000 per month for 9 months, the budget of all public schools would be balanced. ”

LOL! Good luck finding ANYONE of quality to teach for $9,000 a year. Actually, good luck finding anyone at all.

Elizabeth

July 20th, 2011
4:40 pm

Only pay us $1000 a month? We make too much? Wow! How about you taking my job for a year, Steve Perry, and I will take yours. Then tell me we make too much.

No one can run a school system on 40 per cent of funds– not and do any kind of job. Why not just pay someone to SIT and babySIT? I certainly would NOT be teaching for $1000 a month. My daughter works part time at PetSmart and makes more than that. By all means, cut pay. Then you will see how few teachers you have left.

Former Memphis resident

July 20th, 2011
8:30 pm

I lived in Memphis several years ago; worked at the Board of Education for about 5 years. Memphis is just a “mini” Atlanta. There are many similarities between the two cities. The government and school system are run by the same kinds of people…greedy and self-serving. When certain people rose to power in Memphis, everything started going downhill. No surprises, it was just a matter of time. It has caught up with them just as it has with Atlanta. The sad thing with both cities is that the innocent children are the ones who are suffering; the rest of us will suffer when these children are old enough to run the country.

Really amazed

July 20th, 2011
9:26 pm

left/right I care? Yes, my niece is a very bright girl!!!!! I just feel she deserves a more challenging education!!!! One that matches her true abilities! Her grammar is probably better than mine! I am not too proud to admit that. My place is math and making sure my children are being properly educated! Sorry if you find any mistakes, since your sooooo perfect!

Really amazed

July 21st, 2011
9:43 am

Please excuse any spelling errors!!! I type way to fast and don’t proofread. Earned not erand and niece not neice. I believe my proofreader left/right, might want to remember to capitalize at the beginning of each sentence.

Really Amazed

July 21st, 2011
10:59 am

My only true tirade issue…..ALL GA students deserve a better education that doesn’t just settle for mediocrity. I get sick and tired how DOE b–s— parents into thinking the standards are so great. Not so sure what your tirade issues are but you have a choice too!!

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From a Student

July 26th, 2011
8:26 pm

Being a student at a school affected by this, I would like to say that not ALL of the schools are awful and I have had plenty of amazing teachers. Teachers do NOT need pay cuts. They are not paid enough as is. When football players and movie stars make less, then money can be taken from the teachers. On another note what is being done with the money from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation? Sorry for skipping around so much, but, on another subject, is the state not required to provide public school for children? Where will we go to school if they continue with this ridiculous ultimatum? As a student, I would not mind if school were delayed a few weeks. August 8th is a very early start date, so starting closer to September 1st would not be horrible. I just hate that they are using me and other students for their politics. Oh, and as many of you have already noticed, Cash and others have gotten a raise, while teachers are losing their jobs and classes are becoming too large to function. The system is bad and getting worse. And by the way, they are counting on parents to be furious by this and put pressure on the city to pay; however, not all parents are against starting school a little late. They are bluffing.