Shelby County Schools in Memphis are cutting programs like special education and teachers and staff and other important positions and resources that help a good school function. They need to make $50 million or maybe even $86 million in cuts to public schools.
The biggest hit to a single department under academics is in special education, which would see a loss of 326 positions, including special education teachers, occupational therapists and nurses. That represents almost a 29 percent cut to the special education staff (Pignolet, April 7).
It is important to note, we aren’t talking bad test scores here. Schools are not failing.
Although it is true they still have several schools at the bottom in regard to test scores. But there will always be schools at the bottom. When those schools move up there will be other schools at the bottom. It doesn’t mean those schools are doing badly.
The gist of it is that administrators claim they have little money left for traditional public schools.
There is a $36 million gap that apparently calls for $50 million in cuts—or something like that. It is easy to be confused when they start throwing figures around. Some $12 million here, or $6 million there out of a $989 million budget, it gets confusing.
What we do know is that the Race to the Top money is over and new U.S. education secretary John King has no obligation to help the states now that the Every Student Succeeds Act is in place. Not that he would have helped anyway. Everyone knows where King stands. Just look at his past in New York.
The Bill and Melinda Gates funding gift to Memphis is dried up too. Did anyone see that coming? How did it help? Didn’t tax dollars flow to his plans for effective teaching too?
And don’t look to the City of Memphis. They showed how they want to withhold school funds a long time ago.
Where’s the state—they are with the charter industry. That’s what’s wrong with the Every Student Succeeds Act. There are cuts galore, unless you include charter schools which will drain an estimated $22 million in state funding.
The charters called the Achievement School District (ASD) will sooner-than-later be the only schooling in Tennessee (not counting wealthy private and parochial schools), if things go as planned, even though they’ve never proven to be better than real public schools.
Check out Gary Rubinstein’s assessment of the ASD schools. Here.
In fact, the ASD will take over four more Memphis schools this fall whether anyone wants them to or not.
So what’s a public school district to do?
It is especially disappointing. Parents were led to believe things were looking up for Shelby County Schools.
Last August Superintendent Dorsey Hopson who, like so many others now running schools, is no educator, still managed to get a $15,000 bonus added to his $269,000 salary.
He said at the time I want to thank the board for showing confidence in me. I want to thank the teachers and our schools for having an extraordinary year. To some extent, I was able to ride their coattails (Skinner, 2015).
Scores were up and iZone schools, schools designated to turnaround student results were doing well. They will see cuts too.
So what happened? Why are all these good teachers and important school support staff, who actually made things happen, now having to sweat to see whether they will have a job in the future?
Here is a list of potential cuts adding up to around $50 million.
- Special Education Teachers
- School Guidance Counselors
- Reading Teachers
- Middle School Athletics
- Reduce Life Insurance Benefits
- iZone Schools
- Employee Benefits
- Classroom supplies
- Teacher development
- Business operations
- School maintenance
- Academic Enrichment Programs
- Substitute teachers
- Gifted programs
This new wave of cuts in major cities like Memphis is especially troubling. It signals the end of public schooling as we know it.
Is it even legal?
In the meantime, we get to watch little kids who should be home playing or spending time with their families, parading around with signs begging adults to keep their school programs open.
This isn’t just Memphis. It is America. This is what we’ve become.
Pignolet, Jennifer. “Hopson Presents School Board with $50 million in Tough Choices.” The Commercial Appeal. April 7, 2016,
Pignolet, Jennifer. “Academic Staffing Could See Biggest Shelby Cuts.” The Commercial Appeal. April 6, 2016.
Taylor, Eryn and Wayne Carter “SCS Superintenent Gets Bonus While Retirees Could Be Asked to Take Cuts.” WREG News Memphis. August 4, 2015.
Skinner, Kayleigh. “Hopson to Get $15,000 Bonus for Boosting Shelby County Test Scores.” Chalkbeat Tennessee. August 4, 2015.