The school year is underway for the Memphis City Schools system. And reporters as well as two dozen attorneys directly involved in the case continue their watch on the Memphis federal court website for a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Hardy Mays on the schools consolidation lawsuit.
Meanwhile, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said today (Monday) that the Obama administration is about to establish a system to be used to consider granting waivers to states that want relief from No Child Left Behind federal education standards.
We’ve had quite a bit of coverage since late July about Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam seeking such a waiver for Tennessee – the first state to formally seek such a waiver but one of numerous states looking for such relief.
Duncan will outline a more specific process today, but he has said already it will be open to all 50 states.
The increasingly specific work of education reform is included in our ‘Back to School’ cover stories this week in The Memphis News.
We won’t reinvent the wheel in this blog post and recap what’s in the story. Just a few points about how the start of the school year became such a high point in several years worth of education related drama and how it was resolved.
Last month, the Memphis City Schools board threatened to delay the start of the school year until it got several different amounts of funding owed by the city of Memphis from past fiscal years.
What resulted was a payment plan for the current fiscal year that gives each side in the political dispute something they can call a victory.
The school system will get $77 million of the $78 million it requested from City Hall.
The City Council gets to reduce funding to $68.4 million based on a state enrollment count that shows a drop in enrollment of 2,500 students.
What makes this brand of political face saving possible is that the city will pay about $9 million it owes from the fiscal year that ended June 30. That is what the money is allocated for, but it will be used in the fiscal year that began July 1 along with about $1 million from the school system’s reserve fund to come out to $78 million.
As the funding standoff, the latest since the council’s 2008 decision to cut school funding, appeared to resolved, a controversial set of teacher layoffs that seemed to target the very teachers MCS is trying to attract worked itself out.
The school system is working to keep more new teachers to reverse a trend in which 40 percent of teachers in their first three years with the school system leave the school system. The statistic is at the core of the Teacher Effectiveness Initiative, the primary reform program backed by funding over several years from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. TEI is also a cornerstone of the statewide education reform plans
The layoffs in their initial form seemed pointed at teachers just starting their careers and weighted in favor of teachers with more seniority.
The layoff process, referred to as “bumping” is a waiting game of nerves for teachers. But this year’s bumping process featured the best indication yet that MCS reform efforts may be about to emerge in the foreground of a political landscape that has obscured them for the last year or so.