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<br />Next move up to City Council

Skeptics remain, but the arrow is pointing toward a resolution of the flap that has threatened the on-time opening of the 2011-12 Memphis City Schools academic year. by Tony Jones
Special to the Tri-State Defender

Skeptics remain, but the arrow is pointing toward a resolution of the flap that has threatened the on-time opening of the 2011-12 Memphis City Schools academic year.

After doing a two-step, the Memphis City Schools (MCS) Board of Commissioners has backed a scenario that would have students in class as scheduled on Monday, Aug. 8. The elements include City Council approval of the board’s $884 million budget request to the City Council, which will consider the matter at a special called session on Tuesday (Aug. 2).

The planned school opening fell into jeopardy last week when the board voted to postpone the start of the school year indefinitely until the city paid up on money the board is owed.

Council Chairman Myron Lowery had not been reached for comment by TSD press time, but District 3 Councilman Harold Collins said the prospect of Council approval was favorable.

“This has been one of those deals where people have thrown a grenade requesting funds we don’t even have yet,” said Collins. “The tax bills haven’t even been distributed yet, so that’s money we really don’t have. I expect it to pass, but we will pay close attention to the amount requested. Enrollment is declining and that will be a factor.”

On Tuesday night, the MCS board embraced a funding plan that would direct about 80 percent of the city’s required contribution to the schools by early October, much earlier than what has been the recent norm. That move would put MCS in position to get rolling until later in the month when the coffers to what eventually would total about $450 in state funds would open up.

 The board’s agreement stipulates that the city embrace the payment arrangement, which would include a first installment by Aug. 5 of $12 million.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the Rev. Dr. Kenneth Whalum Jr., said he still didn’t trust city government.

“The only reason I am voting with you all on this one is because you supported me at the beginning of all this,” said Whalum. “And I hope it does work because nothing should hinder our children from going to school.”

But, said Whalum, “you ought to see the proposals I have ready just in case they don’t.”

An enrollment decrease that the board learned of after crafting its budget proposal means that the city is obligated to pay $68.4 million for the 2011-12 fiscal year, down from the $78.2 million in the MCS budget. That translates into cuts and MCS Supt. Kriner Cash said he is already squeezing blood from pennies.

“I’m operating on a day to day budget basis, and that is no way to run a school system.  We are going to have to cut and cut again unless the city gives us the funds due to us,” said Cash.

Mayor AC Wharton said he has every expectation that the council will approve the budget and that the schools will open on time.

“I’m not dwelling on how we got this way, placing the blame on anyone or launching rockets. There’s always good to come up out of bad, so if we get nothing but a (payment schedule) out of this, at least we have that,” Wharton said in a TSD interview on Wednesday.

Still, schooling often is confused with education, said Wharton.

“Quite the contrary to what many believe, supporting education is not about spending money. Schooling is what goes on in those brick buildings; education goes on 24 hours a day.”

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