Funding Sources Source (103,593 students) (47,342 students) State of Tennessee $428M (49.5%) $174M (50.7%) Shelby County Property Taxes (paid by all county residents – Memphian and non-Memphian) $255M (29.5%) $115M (33.5%) Shelby County Sales Taxes $89M (10.3%) $43M (12.6%) City of Memphis Property Taxes (paid only by Memphians) $84M (9.8%) N/A Other $8M (1.0%) $10M (3.0%)
County School District v. Special School District
State law: COUNTY is the default funder of public education for all children in county TCA 49-2-101
In the 1800s, Memphis voluntarily decided to create its own school district with permission of state legislature. This created Memphis City Schools (MCS) as a “special school district” (SSD).
This left non-Memphis left as the default Shelby County Schools (SCS)
There are 14 SSDs in TN. All but Memphis has taxing authority (i.e., it sets a property tax rate which is then approved by the state legislature)
Maintenance of Status Quo in funding and governance
Shelby County Schools free to continue pursuit of Special School District status in state legislature
Memphis City Schools free to consider other agreements to ensure sustainable funding
Pros & Cons: A Dialogue PROPONENTS SAY… OPPONENTS SAY… Educational opportunity equal for City v. County SCS gets As now; don’t ruin a good thing… … SCS gets 55/100 (an “A” on state report card) compared to MCS 45/100 (an “F”), & only b/c of better SES demography SCS has better strategies … then why not share those strategies w/ Memphis? End double taxation for Memphians Risk losing $78 mill in educ funding … $78 million only about 7% of total MCS budget End rigid ADA “3 to 1 split” funding requirement 3-1 split protected Memphis; helped with alleged $500 million in deferred MCS maintenance … Unified School Board w/ Memphis representation will protect Memphis
Pros & Cons: A Dialogue (Cont’d) Proponents Say…. Opponents Say… More efficient spending, end duplication Studies have shown no savings, costs go up … 2001 Pohlman Study, 2005 TACIR Study: Some savings in administration, but higher spending on teachers. (But isn’t a transfer of $ from administration to teachers a good thing?) There are examples of successes & failures. Gets away from “us versus them” mentality Triggers suburban white flight to private schools or other counties … Private schools are expensive, and neighboring counties are not better than SCS; this is NOT like 1970s---no one will be bused
Cons & Pros: A Dialogue Opponents Say…. Proponents Say…. There is no transition plan: chaos! County can maintain status quo in Memphis schools for the 12-18 months opponents say it takes to effect transition. In the meantime, transition planning can take place. Too many uncertainties re: curricula, transportation, differences in school policies, etc. Knoxville surrendered its charter in a similar way, and these issues were worked out During transition, SCS can harm MCS by abolishing optional schools, charter schools, etc . Memphis representation on a Unified School Board will protect programs popular among Memphians During transition, SCS can harm non-teacher employees by firing them, cutting salaries, etc. Memphis representation on a Unified School Board will prevent rash actions opposed by Memphians The decision is rushed and premature; best to wait 1-3 years for a comprehensive plan Waiting will allow state legislature to impose SSD status on SCS by fiat, and/or make it difficult or impossible for MCS to decide to surrender its charter
Cons & Pros: A Dialogue (Cont’d) OPPONENTS SAY… PROPONENTS SAY… Merger will threaten hundreds of millions of dollars in state and federal funding, which is based on school system-wide percentages of poverty Federal funding is based on student poverty and will not go away; at most, it will be shifted from less needy areas in the county to needier areas in the inner city Since SCS spends about $8000 per student and MCS $10,000 per student, merging the two will lower the rate to SCS level, reducing overall education spending by hundreds of millions of dollars Again, spending levels vary because of poverty levels of student population. Most of the $2000/student difference is federal funding, which will not change. The rest ($750/student) is based on the City’s contribution, much of which will be made up by the County Comm’n spread out over a wider, fairer tax base. Unified school system will be too big (150,000 students) “ Chancellor” model used in NYC can break system up into 4-5 subdists., ea. run by a superintend. & local advisory bd. w/ relative academic autonomy, all overseen re: non-academics by a Unified Bd. & Chancellor
A: Likely not. Pursuant to a 1961 Private Act applying to MCS only, the charter can be surrendered WITHOUT a referendum if the City Council approves MCS’s surrender. The Council has passed a resolution approving the surrender effective Mar. 21, if no referendum is passed by that time.
Q: Can Nashville challenge the City Council resolution?
A: They can try to have the Private Act invalidated as imporper “special legilation” without a “rational basis” under the TN Const.
Q: If they succeed, is there any other way to protect Memphians’ right to vote?
A: Yes. Legislation targeting Memphis would likely be similarly challengeable as invalid “special legislation” under TN Const. And general legis purporting to change or cancel the ongoing election process would likely be invalid under TN Const as “retroactive” legislation.
Q: Can Nashville give county voters a say?
A: Likely not. In addition to the problems above, this would raise serious issues under “one person one vote” as well as minority vote dilution under the Voting Rights Act. See Shelby County v. Burson (6 th Cir. 1997)