Digging In to Opposition to Municipal School Districts

I have had the opportunity over the past couple of months to listen to community stakeholders on pro and cons on municipal districts. Last night, I heard from members of the group Stand for Children who spoke out against legislation concerning muni districts.

And after hearing all of the arguments, the argument really boils down to two arguments:

1) The removal of the ADA dollars from the children who go to the municipal district will hurt the education of children in the rest of the county.

The answer: It doesn’t have to. The reality is that the new school district cannot scale quickly enough to offset the removal of ADA dollars from its district due to Charter schools and ASD schools. When a large group of children is removed, the associated overhead cannot be discharged to match a dollar for dollar savings. This creates a funding gap like we have today. 70% of money goes into the classroom leaving 30% in overhead. That leaves roughly 300-400 million in overhead. The muni schools could help lower overall cost by dealing the cost of the entire school and its services to the new school district. That would include taking all infrastructure, teachers, support services,and wrap around services. The same cost savings could be realized in conversions of entire schools to charter schools. The ASD and regular charter schools cherry pick and take children from all over the district making cost recovery almost impossible.

2) Teachers, board members, and politicians alike believe that the fact municipal school districts will have access to another funding stream (ie municipal funding) that it already gives children who have a leg-up socially an incredibly unfair advantage over their own kids. (Interestingly enough, Memphis children had a funding advantage for the past 50 years over county kids by having access to Memphis contributions to education.

If we based this argument on historical performance of the MCS and access to money, you will find that the more money that has been spent, the worse the education system has become. That is because a great school system is not about money. It’s about people. Even when MCS was receiving 68 million dollars a year more plus all of the extra federal dollars, children were performing far worse than their SCS counter parts.The financial argument does not fly and is categorically inaccurate as the reason for poor education.

Why did the Memphis City schools suffer? Because effective elected officials are not valued. Problem solvers are not valued. Free thinkers and community builders are not valued. People who do not adhere to the politics of the 60’s are not valued. No.. Politicians don’t won’t to fix the problems they have. They want more of what they already have. And the suburban community is the scapegoat. The antagonist to blame all urban problem in Shelby County.

I thank God for people like Kevin Woods, Ken Whalum, Billy Orgel, and Chris Caldwell who are Memphis leaders  who want accountability and truly advance Memphis. While we don’t; always agree, we share the same vision for success for all.

Thanks to Whalum and Orgel for understanding the true impact of muni districts. Diane George did not represent the views of Collierville last night. But myself, Gibson, Wissman, Carruthers, Pickler, and Clayton did.


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