Thursday, August 28, 2008

What's the Plan?

One of my readers — and a Snowden School parent — asked me to post a letter she sent to the City Council. Here it is, in its entirety:

"The children will not suffer. These words were spoken by Councilman [Harold] Collins when he spoke in favor of slashing the city funding of the Memphis City Schools by approximately 70 percent. Councilman [Edmund] Ford Jr. said to 'cut a little' when he also spoke in favor of slashing the funding. Councilman [Shea] Flinn said 'the children will not be hurt by this,' when he spoke in favor of slashing school funding. Councilwoman [Wanda] Halbert said the funding cuts to Memphis City Schools "will not hurt the children." Councilman [Myron] Lowery said that a 'day of opportunity' has come, that we need a fundamental change in the operation of the city government and the school system.

We must now hold these council members accountable for their decision to drastically slash the city's funding of the Memphis City Schools, specifically Councilman [Bill] Morrison, the 'brains' behind these cuts and this entire fiasco.

In the August 27th issue, The Commercial Appeal reported the following:

The $42 million in cuts at Memphis City Schools threatens the city's 'most vulnerable' groups, educators say, including immigrants and children needing mental health services.

So I now ask, Councilman Collins, Councilman Ford, Councilman Flinn, Councilwoman Halbert, Councilman Lowery, and most of all, Councilman Morrison, how can you now ensure that with these cuts, the children will not suffer?

Of course, these elected officials will argue that the Memphis City School administration made the decision to cut these particular services and that they could have cut dollars elsewhere. In response, I then ask these elected officials this: Please tell me where these dollars should have been cut, because if you're going to make a statement that the children will not suffer, you better be able to stand behind it. And you better be able to develop a plan to resolve the funding issues going forward. A plan is needed with the Memphis City School Board, Shelby County, and the State of Tennessee.

I, like many other Memphis City Schools parents, appeared before the council and asked for a plan. Instead, what we got was a blanket statement from these certain council members that 'the children will not suffer.' So now please tell me, Councilman Collins, Councilman Ford, Councilman Flinn, Councilwoman Halbert , Councilman Lowery and Councilman Morrison, where should these cuts be made? And where and what is the plan?

Martha Burkhead
Memphis City School Parent"


Anonymous said...

I agree with the city council. Name me one other municipality in Shelby County that funds schools...wait, you can't. They don't do it. And no other major cities in the whole freaking state do it either. Bottom line, this is a first step in making Shelby County and the state of Tennessee financially responsible for Memphis schools, since they are the ones who are constitutionally liable and responsible, not the city of Memphis. The city of memphis should get out of the school business entirely.

marycash said...

When the council discussed the resolution allowing the district to use its reserve funds, one of the stipulations Collins wanted to include was a mandate to fund teacher raises.

But the council really can't stipulate what the district spends their money on. And I think that's a crux of the issue, that they are neither in the business of education nor out of it.

The city isn't legally bound to fund city schools; they don't have any authority over "their" money if they give it to the school system; it's just like any other gift.

Even though the money (ultimately? hopefully?) benefits Memphis citizens, part of me is surprised it lasted this long.

Polar Donkey said...

Here's another point. I don't think the City Council would have anymore chance of getting data from the Memphis City School System than Ms Burkhead. Outside of MCS, no one knows how they spend almost a billion dollars a year. I'm not sure MCS knows how they spend money.

Anonymous said...


M.Burkhead said...

First of all, that is me who did the "test" comment, as I my previous post didn't take for some reason, so I did a test. Which worked, so now I know my previous post was user faiure - so I get to redo my response. Mary - thanks so much for posting my letter to the City Council. You provide great info' on your blog and I read it regularly.

Perhaps the City should get out of the "school business," - unfortunately, since it has been in the "school business" for the last 70 years by providing funding to the MCS, this can not happen without a plan and consensus among MCS, Shelby County and the State of TN. Take a look at the AG's Opinion from 2005 on this topic and clearly, the state is saying a plan for this is needed.

Also, whether or not the City is legally obligated to fund MCS is unclear. yes, the City's charter does not speak of that obligation, however, the city's past actions of funding MCS for the last 70 years can equate to a legal obligation. Here again, look at that State AG's Opinion from 2005.

I went to a school board meeting one night and was handed a large bounded document - the MCS budget. So it's available and if the City Council can't figure out a way to get a copy, well than we really have problems. Plus, Councilwoman Halbert sat on the MCS Board for what - 7 years. One would think that during that time she had acquired significant knowledge regarding the school budget. And here's this - at the City Council meeting, Councilwoman Halbert and I believe Councilman Flinn identified areas that could be cut, such as insurance costs.

Thanks for the exchange - it's good to know that people care. John Adams, one of the true founders of our country had this to say about public education - "Laws for the liberal education of youth, especially for the lower classes of people, are so extremely wise and useful that to a humane and generous mind, no expense for this purpose would be thought extravagant." Bottom line is this - this City, with it's high poverty rate needs to value PUBLIC education. The Council needs to stop playing games, develop a plan and work it. M.Burkhead