VOL. 132 | NO. 83 | Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Strickland: City Already Funds Schools Many Ways
By Bill Dries
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland says a coalition calling for city government to provide $10 million for local education through nonprofit groups has to take into account “a $50 million challenge” the city faces in its finances over the coming years.
In response to the Fund Students First Coalition, Strickland said his administration is funding parks and libraries with children’s programs and services to the tune of $50 million a year. In the April 21 letter to the group, Strickland also cited summer jobs programs and spring break camps the city has organized along with job training partnerships with higher education institutions.
“That is not enough, and we continue to reach out to the business community to encourage it to hire more young people,” he said.
Strickland also takes issue with part of the coalition’s April 13 letter that says all of the other local governments within Shelby County fund public education.
“What you do not mention is that the other cities that contribute those additional dollars did so after two public referenda in each city to create their own school districts and to fund their municipal schools with a sales tax increase,” Strickland wrote. “Also, taxpayers in Memphis do, in fact, finance Shelby County Schools through their county taxes. And, a few years ago, the citizens of Memphis voted not to be ‘double-taxed’ and to surrender the charter of the former Memphis City Schools.”
The coalition of 13 organizations and 17 citizens proposed half of the city funding be used for in-school programs and the other for out-of-school or after-school programs in an “education fund that will invest in efforts … that have a direct and measurable impact on students’ academic achievement and/or career development.”
It also proposed using a nonprofit foundation to administer the funding so the city would not be obligated under state “maintenance of effort” laws to continue the funding on an annual basis.
The exchange of letters between the group and Strickland comes against the backdrop of new revenue estimates Shelby County Schools officials say will mean an extra $21.9 million in funding in the new fiscal year.
The revised revenue numbers mean superintendent Dorsey Hopson’s package of $47 million in funding specifically for turnaround programs at schools, in particular a set of 19 “critical focus” schools, goes to $68 million.
Hopson has said with the additional funding from the new revenue he will expand a set of 20 summer learning academies, add a summer ACT camp, 20 bus monitors and a career technical education academy among other measures.