School Based Cuts… Just Painful…

I have received numerous calls and communications over the past week in regards to school based cuts. And all of our schools are being impacted. Many have opinions on whom is to blame and hate Memphis among other things. And yes, the charter surrender contributed to the pain. However, I want to make sure that we are all educated on what has been going on the past few years.

On April 10th, I received the following message from David Stephens, Chief of Staff:

“The annual process of staffing schools has started for the 2013-14 school year. School-based staffing is driven every year by projected student enrollment and the budget. Given the significant budgetary constraints we face heading into the unified district, the staffing formula for all schools had to be adjusted. Principals have been receiving their staffing information over the last week and are making faculty and staff aware of the adjustments for the coming year.

Importantly, the staffing reductions are not solely the result of the merger. Legacy Shelby County Schools implemented an abundant staffing model over the years, supporting additional teachers with its fund balance. However, the fund balance would not have been available for the 2013-14 school year, so modifications to school-based staffing could not be avoided.

Although the revised formula will require some administrators to do more with less, we are confident that even with the adjusted formula, we will still be able to provide a quality educational experience in all of our schools.”

Several years ago, as part of the Race to the Top(First to the top) effort to improve education in Tennessee, Shelby County Schools received a substantial amount to improve education in Shelby County. This money was to support efforts to get school districts compliant with No child Left Behind Standards. As a result, the Shelby County Administration used these funds to better staff school teacher ratios and investing in school support personnel(clerical, ed assistants, etc). These positions were key to driving educational outcomes in the county schools as standards got tougher.

Unfortunately, those funds (known ans ARRA funds) had a finite life and expired the year before last. At that point, the SCS had to fund the increased number of school based employees by funding out of our fund balance(savings account). With no annual increases from the county commission over the past 7 years, the SCS had already begun to deplete its savings. This is the reason why we have had a reduction in force effort over the past year when we back fill positions. Both John Aitken and the Board knew without more state or local funding, that we were facing cuts as early as last year.

Then we had the charter surrender. The charter surrender brought with it a financial gap generated from the loss of Memphis contribution to education of about 60 million dollars.

However the school based cuts were opportunistic as there was a gap in the school staffing models. The administration (led by Aitken) developed the staffing model that we have today to help balance the budget. However, school staffing is not the only area that will fill the pain. Custodial workers are being outsourced. Bussing could be outsourced. Athletics could be taken down. Arts could be cut.

Charter schools and the ASD are draining resources out of the district.(money and teachers). It almost seems like a perfect storm generated to put the county district out of business and we all happen to still be a part of it. I believe that the goal of this state administration is to dismantle the educational system in Shelby County. The municipalities will come back as municipal districts and the old Memphis City School system will be a system of ASD and Charter Schools.

If there is anything that the best charter schools(like Soulsville) is beginning to prove, its that smaller is better.

So the 2013-2014 will be a tough year on our schools and I believe before it is over, it will be tough our the MCS schools.. My mom is a SPED assistant in Shelby County. I can’t tell you whether or not she will have a job. My kids and their schools are all impacted by this shift. So I have some skin in the game. I wish that there was more that I could legally do.

In an effort for better transparency, I will request an update from the administration on the process for the reduction in force because I don’t understand how the came up with the “excessing” requirements.



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