PEP Talk

Fariña insists that flat school budgets still a 'win' for principals

Chancellor Carmen Fariña defended the city’s proposed education budget on Thursday night, arguing that principals will find their schools in good financial shape next year—even though that they won’t receive any extra money in their school budgets.

“It’s still a win,” Fariña said during a discussion with members of the Panel for Educational Policy, referring to next year’s additional $730 million in state education aid. That money has been allocated for pre-kindergarten, after-school programs, and arts education, among other programs.

Fariña was responding to PEP members who questioned whether the city was appropriately disbursing funds. Brooklyn representative Fred Baptiste said that while he appreciates the large spending increases for new programs, school budgets don’t give principals enough discretion.

“The chancellor is saying that there are pots of money that will help schools, but I’m still concerned,” Baptiste said after the meeting.

At a City Council hearing this week, Fariña and education officials noted that the citywide after-school, pre-K, and arts education spending would save principals money by replacing some costs previously borne by individual schools. On Thursday, Fariña added that principals would also be able to free up money by slashing outside professional development because of a contract agreement that would allow more time in the school day to do in-house teacher training. 

Fariña said she knew of some schools, particularly large high schools, that spent as much as $100,000 to outsource teacher training.

“That will not be needed anymore,” Fariña said, “because that amount will be embedded in the contract. So principals won’t need to pay for that.”

But finding that money might not be as simple as Fariña has suggested. One principal, who asked to remain anonymous because he wasn’t familiar with details of the budget, said that schools will likely still need to outsource teacher training in some cases, especially if staff needs to be trained to use a new classroom technology or adopt a new strategy to teach literacy.

Before the panel meeting, Fariña held an eight-minute question-and-answer session with reporters—the first time in nearly two months that Fariña took questions from the media on her own. The chancellor’s availability to reporters has become increasingly scarce after she faced criticism for making a few off-the-cuff remarks early in her tenure.

There, Fariña discussed the city’s new teacher evaluation system, though she admitted that she was still unfamiliar with some of the changes embedded in the proposed teachers union contract.

Fariña was asked about the decision to use teachers, rather than independent evaluators, to evaluate other teachers after they’ve been rated ineffective. Fariña initially said that the other teacher would be present for additional support, although the role of the evaluator in this specific case is to verify if a teacher’s ineffective rating, which could result in his or her termination, is valid.

“To be honest with you, I have to go back to that to make sure that I answered correctly,” Fariña said after reporters asked for clarification.

At the panel meeting, the city approved more than 200 contracts for pre-K providers, ranging in size from $95,000 to $3.7 million. The panel also approved a $280,000 contract to conduct background checks on pre-K providers.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.


For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.


Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.