Shelby County government vs City of Memphis over schools - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Shelby County government vs City of Memphis over schools

(SOURCE: WMC Action News 5) (SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)

Shelby County Schools is continuing to try and close the budget gap by making a pitch for $35 million more in funding from the Shelby County Commission Tuesday. SCS also received some heavy and fiery support from some Shelby County leaders, who said they are not getting enough support to help the struggling school district.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson told the Commission the district really needs about $27 million to close that gap. But, he's forced to ask for $37 million because SCS has to share a portion of all the money it gets with charter schools and Achievement School District schools.

Shelby County Government and the City of Memphis couldn't be further apart when it comes to who they believe is responsible for funding Shelby County Schools.

"The City of Memphis is not putting nothing in, zero," Shelby County Commission Chairman Terry Roland said.

Roland fired the first shots, and reloaded after the meeting.

"And to me, they're being like a deadbeat parent by not paying their fair share," Roland said. "Shame on them."

Roland was not alone in his sentiments. He was joined on the firing squad by Commissioner David Reaves. But Reaves took it further, aiming not just at the city, but at the mayor specifically.

"Memphis' priorities are not in order--particularly their mayor's priorities," Reaves said. "Education should be part of the basics."

Reaves was referencing Mayor Jim Strickland's "Brilliant at the Basics" tagline.

"I share their frustration," Hopson said. "It's hard to imagine a city that truly can reach its full potential if there's no financial support for education."

But, their shots did not go unanswered. Mayor Strickland fired back with rounds of his own.

"Shelby County Schools are the responsibility of Shelby County Government, not Memphis City government," Strickland said. He also said the attacks are misleading.

"Sometimes people forget that Memphians live in the county," Strickland said. "In fact, we're about 70 percent of the county. So, 70 percent of the money going to Shelby County Schools comes from Memphians."

Strickland had reinforcements of his own, joined by City Councilwoman Patrice Robinson. Robinson once served on the school board and backed up Strickland. She said even though they would love to help fund education, the city simply doesn't have the money right now.

"What services would citizens want to give up? They want to make sure that we pick up their trash," Robinson said. "They want to make sure that they're safe in their communities."

But Roland wasn't done. He said when it comes down to it, Memphis is simply not doing its part.

"The only city in Shelby County that's not contributing to education is the City of Memphis," Roland said. 

"Well, because they have their own municipal school districts," Strickland said.

"I don't see it at this time," Robinson said. "But we always can ask, and that's what we're going to do."

"Hopefully the citizens will come out and ask the city to do more," Hopson said.

Until then, the district has requested the $35 million needed from the County Commission in order to help close the budget gap.

The district has already cut tens of millions in the budget.

"I don't want us to get into a terrible government trap, which is where we assume that money equals progress and that money equals success," Shelby County Commissioner Heidi Shafer said.

"I think you're right," Hopson said. "You can't spend your way to prosperity, but you can't cut your way to prosperity either."

Because of the County's school funding rules, if commissioners were to give SCS the full $35 million, they would also be required to give proportional funds to municipal districts.

The County Commission will be voting on how much to give SCS next week.

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