Shelby County Schools’ next budget will include teacher and hourly employee raises, more school resource officers, and additional behavior specialists, based on early conversations among Memphis school leaders.
It will also include money to expand school improvement efforts aimed at keeping low-performing schools out of the state’s reach.
And to do it all, the Memphis district will need to take at least $15 million out of its reserves, according to preliminary numbers. District administrators are scheduled to present a proposed budget for the 2018-19 school year to school board members 4 p.m. Wednesday.
From the archives: Why Shelby County Schools has $84 million sitting in a savings account
The budget so far doesn’t include any major new initiatives as the district circles its wagons to strengthen strategies already in place.
Last year, the Memphis district for the first time since the consolidated district was created in 2013 started its budget-setting process in the black after years of severe cuts. That budget included a raise for high-performing teachers, a $300,000 boost to struggling schools, and adding two schools to the district’s Innovation Zone for its lowest performing schools.
Here’s what we know so far about what has been discussed to include in the 2018-19 budget:
Teacher and hourly employee raises: Calling on the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., who came to Memphis 50 years ago on behalf of public workers battling low wages, Hopson announced last month all hourly full-time employees would make at least $15 per hour under his budget. That would cost about $2.4 million and impact about 1,200 employees such as warehouse workers, teaching assistants, office assistants, and cafeteria workers.
Hopson also said Monday the budget would include money for teacher raises for the third straight year. About 90 percent of teachers are considered high-performing and would be eligible for pay increases.
Very excited to discuss recommended 2018-2019 budget with Board this week. Budget includes raises for teachers, $15 living wage, funding for summer learning, additional pre-k classes and more support for students/schools. NO teacher layoffs. NO health insurance premium increase.
— Dorsey Hopson, II (@SCSSupt) April 9, 2018
More school resource officers: Measures to increase school safety have been at the forefront following a fatal school shooting in Florida that has sparked lots of student activism. In the midst of countywide task force on school safety, Superintendent Dorsey Hopson told WMC he wanted to add more law enforcement officers in schools. Just how many and to which schools has not been released.
Overhaul career and technical education: As part of the state’s shift to not only prepare students for college, but also directly enter the workforce, Shelby County Schools is planning more classes and certifications focused on hot career fields like health care and information technology.
Behavior specialists: One of the wish list items board members had was to expand the district’s 19-member team that works with students to get to the “why” behind their misbehavior and prevent suspensions. The team so far has found success in reducing suspensions and represents one of many positions slowly being brought back from previous budget cuts.
Add American Way Middle to the iZone: The long-struggling school has been the center of controversy with the Tennessee Department of Education as the state rolled out its first school improvement plan under its new accountability model. It’s unclear, however, if the move to the iZone, which typically costs about $600,000, will save it from state takeover in 2019.
Expand the Whitehaven Empowerment Zone: Another initiative aimed at staving off state intervention is set to grow by five schools: Geeter Middle, Manor Lake Elementary, Whitehaven Elementary, Oakshire Elementary, Robert R. Church Elementary, and John P. Freeman Elementary. The move reaches beyond the original scope of the program to include schools outside of Whitehaven High School’s feeder pattern.
Continue funding “critical focus schools”: This school year was the first under Hopson’s plan to invest in 19 struggling schools instead of just closing them. Antonio Burt, an assistant superintendent over low-performing schools, said last month plans on how much money will be allocated to the initiative are still being determined.
The public can hear more about the budget during the board’s work session Tuesday, April 17. The school board is expected to vote Tuesday, April 24 when there will also be a public comment period. The budget would then go to the local funding body, the Shelby County Board of Commissioners, for approval.