The Germantown Building Delimma

Lots and lots of buzz about the county administration recommendation for 3 Germantown Schools. Although I represent the North and Pickler represents the South, this issue is of particular importance to me.

I think that in all things that we have to keep in the forefront of our minds what is in the best interest of children, on both sides. But you cannot disconnect the money (and its lack thereof) to the children.

In the case of Germantown, you have 8 scs schools in its boundaries. If you were just to educate Germantown kids, 8 would be far too many. Too much capacity, overhead, and waste. If you were to educate all of the current children, it is a fairly efficiently run system.

1) The SCS took the position Monday night that legally, it is obligated to educate its own children and the municipalities are legally obligated its children. That is true..

2) The loss of 3000ish Memphis reserve area kids could equate to 24 million loss in BEP/county funding.. That is true

So from an SCS viewpoint and a numbers viewpoint, it made sense to take that position.  However, if you begin to interject quality of education for our Memphis reserve kids, the picture gets very muddy. If the SCS keeps GES, GMS, and GHS and vows to educate all kids, it can safely be assumed that most G-Town students will transfer to the municipal schools. By most accounts, this could create a 30-40% drop in enrollment in GHS and GMS and as much as 60% in GES.

That proposes a very interesting litmus test: Will SCS be able to provide a quality of education at least = to Germantown Municipal Districts..

I think the answer is fairly clear: Probably Not

The funding gap from the loss of so many students will result a 50 million dollar gap. To close the gap, there will be an emphasis on cutting personnel, This could result in the move to the legacy MCS staffing formula which could change the student teacher ratio again and make the classrooms larger. This could lead t o further transfer out of GHS, GMS, to the municipal district. This would lead to underutilized property in these schools and make them less and less efficient. It will ultimately affect the level of school based choice and AP programs.

Germantown has pledged to change the student teacher ratio back to per-merger levels which is considerably better that the old MCS model and to look to augment current academic programs for students.

I think that this begs the question if we are doing what is in the best interest of county students with this position. If G-Town is willing to put that much into these schools that are a majority county kids, and we cannot, we need to cut a deal to let Germantown keep them. And this is how we could get there:

1) Long term lease with the lease length directly tied to how long our children are educated. That can be forever, or whatever, but it needs to defined and locked down to protect the county kids to where they cannot just be let go.

2) The agreement cannot create a need for more county buildings to be built..

3) And you have to put your money where your mouth is on school programming. The educational experience has to remain = to the other schools under your control. You cannot create a caste system in your schools.

I am not opposed to this solution above  in Germantown and Millington.. I cannot say that my peers will agree or if the votes exist to approve such a deal. But looking at it from the quality of education perspective, not doing this causes me some pause.

Strategic Planning, Implementation, and Collaboration will fix Shelby County School Funding Problems

No fluff.. Just the facts..

Shelby County Schools have two models. One has large schools, packed with kids,, One has mostly small schools running less than 50%. One has a lower cost per pupil as a result and runs at a positive cash flow. One has a high cost per pupil and runs at a negative cash flow. The fixed overhead at most schools are the same and make it hard to scale. This is the sustainability factor.

On the revenue side, we see the loss of money to ASD, Charter ,and Municipal Schools. And due to the inability to scale our system, it always makes budget time difficult.

In other words, infrastructure is killing our system. Buildings, their condition, their location, their capacity directly link to our bottom line.

So what is the solution?

It is time to fight the battles that need to be fought and not the battles that make politicians feel good. We need a 5-10 year strategy to plan for substantial building attrition for our district. That would mean closing and consolidating schools. That will mean strategically building large schools in town to drive the cost per pupil down.  Too much of the cost per pupil is going to overhead from inefficiency.

This solution will be incredibly painful but necessary for future sustainability.

Buildings

While many fight and use buildings to political advantage, they actually are an albatross around the neck of the district. Case in point, the original SCS(pre-merger) had a 5 year CIP (capital improvement plan) that saw the district investing more than 160 million in capital for SCS. This included funding for a new high school, roofs, expansion for Millington. The release of all of the buildings from SCS to municipal districts has been and will save the district 80-100 million dollars over the next 3-4 years. These costs will be borne by the municipal districts. I use that example to prove a point. Buildings cost us money. The more unusable ones we can get rid of, the better..

Collaboration

The biggest risk in our county to our tax rate and children is this issue. It makes sense that we bring the best and brightest from across the county to help fix the issue. That may mean participating in committees or pledging some future ADA capital. This entire endeavor directly impacts the future county tax rate. I think goodwill would go a long way in helping all of us get what we want, There has not been much of that lately. But I believe that exists on our school board..  So much we can do together.

We can fix this problem..