dollars and cents

Taking aim at the DOE, City Council proposes more budget cuts

City Hall (via Flickr)
City Hall (via Flickr)

Data specialists, new small schools, and empty seats in gifted programs could all go the way of cash bonuses to top-scoring schools if the City Council gets the budget cuts it wants.

The Council is proposing $170 million in additional budget cuts, on top of the millions Mayor Bloomberg already suggested, in an attempt to preserve a $400 rebate to homeowners that the mayor says the city can’t afford.

Almost $80 million of the proposed cuts would come from the Department of Education, the largest amount from any single city agency. Nearly $40 million of that would be programs associated with the department’s flagship Children First initiative, such as the school-based “inquiry teams” that analyze data about individual students. Other cuts would come in the form of delays, such as opening fewer schools each year and tabling plans to buy new data systems to manage enrollment and hiring information. And the proposal would require teachers to do jury duty on their own time, during the summer, so that schools won’t have to pay for substitutes.

The Council’s proposal comes weeks after Mayor Bloomberg rolled out his plan for how to shave the city budget. No cuts will be official until both sides of City Hall sign off on a compromise plan. A final version is expected in January.

Education committee chair Robert Jackson said council members didn’t consider cuts that would affect the classroom. From the press release:

“We have difficult choices to make in reducing the Department of Education’s administrative budget while making sure dollars are not cut from our children’s classrooms,” said Education Committee Chair, Robert Jackson. “I want to thank my colleagues in the Council for their efforts to reduce spending without diverting vital resources from the classrooms.”

Here are all of the education cuts the council has suggested:

  • Reduce budget for “Formative Assessments.”
  • Slow pace of new school openings. By temporarily slowing the creation of new schools, trimming the office of Portfolio Development and transferring the existing resources of closing schools to new schools, DOE could achieve savings.
  • Eliminate Data Specialist Allocation.
  • Eliminate Children First Inquiry Team allocation to schools. Require principals to review student & teacher performance.
  • Delay Special Projects. In FY09 DOE replaced private support for unspecified “Children First Intensive” project with City funds. Postpone project or find new private funding.
  • Delay implementation of [Open Market Hiring System] scanning project
  • DOE dedicated $6 million in FY09 for per diem arbitrators to clear backlog of administrative trials, but has not yet shown a corollary savings.
  • Delay Office of Student Enrollment and Placement enrollment RFP. Use existing resources to improve student enrollment process.
  • Reestimate Cost Increases. In FY09 DOE dedicated $50 million to covering special education “related services” cost increases and growth. Estimate is too large.
  • Fill Gifted and Talented empty seats. In FY09 DOE budgeted $2 million, but allocated only $1.24 million to schools for empty seats. In FY10 DOE should improve seat assignment to avoid empty seats in G&T classrooms.
  • Reduce Funding for Parents Coordinators. Support part-time or shared parent coordinators in smaller schools.
  • Extended Day Busing. Eliminate bus routes serving the extended day by matching extended time schedules with busing needs.
  • Require teachers to perform jury duty during summer months.

Download the full list of cuts proposed for all city agencies.

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.