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VOL. 128 | NO. 201 | Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Shelby County Schools To Apply For Head Start Funding

By Bill Dries

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Shelby County Schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson said Monday, Oct. 14, the school system will apply for $23 million in federal Head Start funding that now goes to Shelby County government.

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell said Monday, Oct. 14, Porter-Leath children’s service will also make a bid for the Head Start contract county government now operates.

And Luttrell said Monday he could foresee backing both applications.

Luttrell said last month that he wanted to see the federal funding go to someone else who had the ability to expand the early childhood development program beyond what county government has been able to do in the last decade.

Hopson said the school system's goal is to contract with Head Start providers with the school system enforcing a set of rigorous standards to align the Head Start curriculum with what is expected of those children once they reach kindergarten in the Shelby County Schools system.

The ultimate decision on whoever applies will be up to officials with the federal Department of Health and Human Services. And the deadline for applications is Oct. 22.

Meanwhile, Shelby County Commissioners, at their last commission meeting before the deadline, voted down a resolution by commissioner Steve Mulroy urging county government to apply again for Head Start funding if the school system doesn’t. That was several hours before Hopson announced the school system would be applying.

The resolution failed on a 6-5 vote with commissioner Henri Brooks absent. The resolution required seven votes to pass.

The vote followed a commission debate that cut along party lines on whether county government should remain in the business of funding and contracting out Head Start services and whether Porter-Leath represents a move to “privatize” such services.

The commission also approved Monday an $18.2 million annual contract with Correct Care Solutions LLC to provide medical services to prisoners at the Shelby County Jail and inmates at the County Corrections Center. The contract includes four one-year renewal periods and is the largest contract dollar amount the commission votes on.

Correct Care Solutions also won a separate contract earlier this year to provide such services for children in detention at Memphis-Shelby County Juvenile Court.

Commissioner Mike Ritz led critics of the contract, saying the county should rebid the contract because Correct Care Solutions was the only bidder and because the contract could have been broken into parts to encourage more bidders.

Other commissioners and Luttrell said there were attempts to do that and any bidder could have bid on just one part of the contract. Luttrell also said he talked with local hospital and healthcare corporations about taking on the contract but got no takers.

In other action, the commission approved $750,000 in funding for the Nov. 21 city of Memphis referendum on a half percent sales tax hike. The money is to be reimbursed to the county. The Nov. 21 election date is the same date as a special general election in State House District 91 between Democratic nominee Raumesh Akbari and independent candidate Jim Tomasik.

The commission also approved a $396,094 contract with the University of Memphis for Geographic Information System – or GIS – design and data collection services through visual stream surveys. The contract is funded with storm water funds and involves GIS specialists at the university who worked with the county during the 2011 near record flooding along the Mississippi River and its tributaries. The GIS work helped emergency services providers coordinate specifically where the flooding was in relation to homes and businesses before the river level began to rise into those areas.

And commission chairman James Harvey’s ordinance to regulate used tire dealers and haulers in the unincorporated county passed on the second of three readings.

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