There has been a bit of a blowback from last week’s budget session of the Shelby County Commission, in which the majority of Commission members seemed so supportive of Shelby County Schools’ request for a $14.9 budget increase that some observers were calling the meeting a love-fest.
Heidi Shafer, the Shelby County Commission’s budget chair Shafer is taking the lead in walking back that enthusiasm. She said on Monday that she would be scheduling an additional “education-only” budget session “as soon as we can before we vote on the 20th” to discuss the ramifications for local school funding of the state’s Basic Education Plan, as well as future maintenance-of-effort and OPEB (Other Post-Employment Benefits) obligations.
On Tuesday Shafer announced that the education review meeting would be held at 3 p.m. Monday in the Commission’s chambers.
One reason for the nearly uniform support given SCS superintendent Dorsey Hopson during his budget-request presentation last week was the fact that an award to his district of $14.9 million would apparently invoke a version of the ADA (average-daily-attendance) formula and require an additional amount of some $5 million to be distributed proportionally among the six municipal school districts created in Shelby County’s suburbs over the last year.
Given the financial strains reported in some of those systems, the SCS request thereby opened up prospects for some relief.
Acknowledging the fact, Shafer said that was a reason why she wanted to see if the budget increase would create long-term obligations for the county and the municipalities under the maintenance-of-effort formula recognized by the state and, in the case of the City of Memphis vis-à-vis the old Memphis City Schools system, mandated by the courts.
“There are so many complications to the whole area of school funding that we really just need an extensive examination of it all,” Shafer said.
Another matter to be discussed on Monday, according to both Shafer and Commissioner David Reaves, a veteran of both the former (suburban-only) and latter-day version of the Shelby County Schools boards, will be whether the state is short-changing local school districts in its distribution of funding under the BEP.
The Hamilton County School District (Chattanooga) is suing the state over what it claims is under-funding by the state, and school districts in Tennessee’s three other metropolitan areas, those of Memphis, Nashville, and Knoxville, are pooling their efforts in a lobbying effort to redress the current state funding formula.