No way around budget cuts, MCS officials say

By Kontji Anthony - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Top officials inside Memphis City Schools on Tuesday compared the financial challenge MCS is facing to what most Americans are going through in their daily lives.  As bills continue to rise, they said, the district has been forced to make difficult decisions about what it can do without.

The Memphis City Schools budget crunch has put almost 600 jobs on the chopping block, including 400 part-time teacher's aides.

"If there was anything that we could marginally do without, that was the basis for the cuts," school board member Martavius Jones said Tuesday.

"As the cost of educating our students increased over the years, our revenue has either remained flat or has declined," MCS Chief of Staff Alfred Hall added.

Jones and Hall said there was no way around the cuts.

"No matter what we did, or how we tried to address, the gap continued to widen over the years, and we were faced with the challenge that we would no longer be able to operate maintaining that deficit," Hall said.

Hall and Jones said say the $90 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation cannot help with daily operations.

"Whenever we receive a grant, we have to specifically use it for that purpose, and that purpose alone," Jones said.

The pair added that the Memphis City Council's decision to contribute funds to city schools helps, but it doesn't solve the problem.  The city has this timeline to contribute $50 million for the current school year:

  • $20M - May
  • $20M - June
  • $10M - October

Source: MCS

"The City Council is still looking towards funding schools for the next fiscal year, which starts in July," Hall said. "But that does not alleviate the gap that we're still faced with from the cuts that took place in the 2008-2009 academic year. That is still being tied up with the courts."

One item the administration fought to keep was new text books, because they felt they could not meet new standards with old materials.

Hall and Jones also pointed out that almost 200 of the nearly 600 positions cut are already vacant.

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