dollars and cents

City Council to examine proposed school budget cuts tomorrow

When the City Council scrutinizes the Department of Education’s planned budget cuts tomorrow (at a hearing scheduled for 1 p.m.) members might want to have aspirin on hand.

That’s because, like the budget itself, the department’s Power Point presentation of the cuts it has identified would give even the most seasoned analyst a headache. The image above is just one page of the dizzying document.

The cuts are divided into five “buckets,” ranging from the central administration to District 75, the city’s district for severely disabled students. How deeply schools and students are actually going to feel the mid-year cuts isn’t at all clear, nor is it clear exactly how the proposed cuts add up to the $185 million the mayor asked the DOE to cut from its budget by Nov. 21.

Some questions, among many, that education committee members might ask:

  • How many of the planned cuts are a result of the mayor’s budget announcement? At least a few of the programs targeted for elimination come as no surprise. The DOE quietly canceled its midyear class of Teaching Fellows earlier this fall, for example, and the citywide science test was already delayed once last year; science teachers we’ve spoken to never heard that the tests had been rescheduled.
  • What are schools cutting from their budgets? A DOE spokeswoman told me earlier this month that many schools had already allocated most of their funds for this year, and that the DOE would have to work closely with principals to help them find fat to trim.
  • How many of the cuts affect initiatives put in place since Joel Klein became chancellor? When I looked at the preliminary cuts distributed at the mayor’s budget briefing, I could only find one: the elimination of extra funds for schools that received high progress report grades.
  • At the Panel for Educational Policy meeting on Monday, where the presentation was given, Manhattan PEP member Patrick Sullivan suggested eliminating funds for interim assessments and standardized testing for the city’s youngest students. Has the DOE considered those options?
  • How much does each line item free up in the DOE’s budget? How much money has the city been spending to hold trainings about ARIS, its data system, in private locations? How much have consultants been paid to help with ECLAS, an early childhood assessment that is supposed to be easy for teachers to administer and analyze? This could be an opportunity for council members to find out budget details that the DOE hasn’t always made available.
  • What is the DOE’s plan for dealing with the state budget cuts proposed by Governor Paterson, if those in fact go through? He proposed withholding $255 million from the city this year, significantly more than the mayor has asked for. The DOE would be unlikely to be able to protect its core Children First programs should a cut of that magnitude become reality.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.