State says it will withhold money from Memphis schools - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Anna Marie Hartman

State says it will withhold money from Memphis schools

In bold move earlier this month, the Memphis City Council cut $73 million from the Memphis City Schools budget.  Now, a school district that was already strapped for cash stands to lose millions of dollars more.

State Representative G.A. Hardaway says the city council is obligated by law to fund city schools with at least the amount of money in last year's budget. If they don't, he said, the Tennessee Department of Education has the power to withhold more than $400 million in funding from Memphis City Schools. 

"They don't have an option," Hardaway said Friday. "It's not a voluntary thing at this point."

Members of the Rainbow Push Coalition have already filed a lawsuit hoping to force the city council to reverse its funding cut.  The Memphis City Council last week voted to give the schools only $20.2 million of the system's $93.5 million request.

With so much as stake many, wonder whether Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton can get the city council to reconsider by vetoing their budget. 

"I think he's genuinely concerned about how this will play and out how whether it will have a positive or negative affect on Memphis City School students," said Rainbow Push's Joseph Kyles.

The state had been expected to provide $423 million toward the total operating budget of $931 for the next school year.  Tennessee Education Department spokeswoman Rachel Woods said school districts have until Oct. 1 to present a balanced budget.  Woods said the department told Memphis it would withhold state funds if local officials did not meet the requirement.

State leaders say the nearly half billion dollar budget cut could wipe out the city school system. 

"This is going to throw the whole city the whole county in chaos, and the state of Tennessee, and I promise you nobody is going to sit idly by and watch this happen," Hardaway said.

We hoped to speak to the attorney for the Memphis Board of Education for this story, but a spokesperson for the district said no one can comment on the matter at this time.

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