Memphis-Shelby County Announces it Will Not Arm Teachers

District rejects legislative plan to put more guns in schools

Officials in Memphis have announced that their school system will not allow teachers to carry guns at school, despite a legislative decision that would allow districts to permit teachers who receive certain training to carry firearms on school grounds.

“We will not allow teachers to carry guns in our schools,” said Superintendent Marie N. Feagins, adding that the law is “controversial.”

Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner said “schools are for learning.”

“… And emergency situations should be handled by trained officers,” Bonner said. 

“And the district has made it a priority to keep them that way through security upgrades and updates,” MPD Interim Chief C.J. Davis continued.


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Pay Bump on the Way in Memphis

Minimum salary moved to $50K, all teachers will see pay increase

Districts across Tennessee are making moves to increase teacher compensation in the face of a growing shortage of applicants and long lists of open positions.

Chalkbeat reports that Memphis-Shelby County will move starting teacher pay to a minimum of $50,000 a year and bump pay for all teachers – raises that could amount to $4000 or more for most teachers.

Memphis-Shelby County Schools is raising its minimum teacher salary to $50,811 under a new agreement with its two teachers unions, delivering on their salary goals despite a $150 million budget shortfall next year.

Teachers, administrators, and board members, meanwhile, cheered the agreement, which raises the district’s starting salary by 8% for teachers with undergraduate degrees and ensures that veteran teachers receive raises once they have hit the top of the district’s 19-step salary scale.

The move comes even as lawmakers rejected providing additional state funds to assist school districts in raising teacher pay.

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Is That All?

Memphis-Shelby County Schools has a new budget proposal that offers teachers a 2% raise plus a $1500 retention bonus.

While this sounds nice – it IS more money, it really begs the question: Is that all?

Chalkbeat has more on the details of the nearly $2 billion budget proposal:

Memphis-Shelby County Schools teachers would receive a 2% pay raise and $1,500 retention bonuses as part of the $1.93 billion proposed budget approved by school board members Tuesday.

Fulfilling Superintendent Joris Ray’s promises earlier this year to invest in educators, the 2022-23 budget would also funnel nearly $12 million into educators’ tiered pay scale and add a new step on the scale for principals.

The budget, passed on a 5-0 vote, also directs $3.5 million to bump up the district’s contribution to employee health insurance premiums to 70% from 66%, and $3 million to raises for substitute teachers. 

While a 2% raise and a $1500 salary increase are nice moves, that’s simply not enough.

It’s unfortunate that Bill Lee’s TISA plan and current funding scheme aren’t dedicating more to public schools We currently have a surplus in excess of $3 billion at the state level and yet still struggle to fund public schools.

It’s a matter of priorities.

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Memphis Teachers to See Pay Raise

Thanks in large part to federal stimulus money, teachers in Shelby County will see a raise and the district plans to build new schools and renovate additional buildings if the County Commission signs off on the proposed budget unanimously adopted by the School Board.

Chalkbeat has more:

Shelby County Schools board members unanimously approved a proposed budget of $2.19 billion Tuesday night, an increase of nearly 60 percent over last year.

Highlights of this year’s budget include five additional prekindergarten classes throughout the district, more money for custodial services, new literacy programs, money for proposed new schools and renovations, and raises for certified and noncertified employees.

The starting salary for teachers will increase about 7% from $43,000 to $45,965, and the maximum salary will rise about 16% from $73,000 to $84,445. The new max salary will raise the salary cap on teachers who have graduate degrees and seniority.

The move in Memphis follows the announcement of a budget in Nashville that will mean teachers there will see an average pay raise of around $7000.

Both cities are using federal stimulus dollars to meet budgeting needs.

Of course, all of this is happening while the state is both sitting on a surplus expected to exceed $2 billion and also seeking to rapidly expand charter schools.

While the State of Tennessee has a record surplus, Gov. Lee and lawmakers have refused to make significant new state investments in public education.

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The Future is Now

Nashville education blogger TC Weber came out strong this week with a compelling argument that the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing an evolution in public education. His central premise: schools aren’t going back to “normal” after the crisis passes. Here’s a nice summary from his post:

My main point here is that if a district is treating its reopening plan as simply crisis management, and failing to adequately consider future implications, they are leaving themselves at a serious disadvantage. The time for crisis management was back in the Spring, we have since moved into the realm of evolution, and participation is not an option. If LEAs don’t develop their own future policies and protocols, others – including parents – will do it for them. The world ain’t returning to a shape that we are familiar with and the only option is to embrace and try to positively impact the future.

Read the rest here:

190 Days of NO

Ahead of a key vote by the Shelby County School Board to extend the school year there to 190 days (adding 10 days to the calendar), teachers are tweeting their disapproval.

Here’s a sample:

The Forever School Year

Apparently, that’s what’s being considered in Shelby County.

WMC-5 has more:

According to a letter sent by Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dr. Joris Ray to SCS teachers, the district is considering adding 15 days to the upcoming school year to make up for time lost when schools shut down early due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Highlights of the plan being considered include:

Fall break changing to a four-day weekend instead of a full week

Thanksgiving break starting Wednesday instead of the full week

The school year ending June 7 for students, nine days later than scheduled

SCS estimates the cost for the plan could be between $25 million to $30 million


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Voucher Leader Jumps Ship

Today, Shelby County Director of Schools Joris Ray announced new additions to his leadership team. Among them, Amity Schuyler, previously the Tennessee Department of Education’s point person on school vouchers. Gov. Bill Lee and his team have been counting on Schuyler to fast-track the state’s voucher scheme.

Here’s the announcement via tweet:

It’s unclear what this means for the future of a voucher program that Lee chose to fund in his emergency budget while cutting a planned investment in public schools.

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Staying the Course

While Nashville’s schools are looking at budget cuts in the upcoming year, Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris is proposing maintaining current operational funding and investing in school construction, according to Chalkbeat.

Shelby County Schools could receive the same funding as last year for day-to-day operations and possible additional funding for school construction in the next budget year under a proposed $1.4 billion county government spending plan unveiled Monday.

Mayor Lee Harris recommended maintaining the $427 million the county allocated this year for the operating budgets for all seven of Shelby County’s school systems. Shelby County Schools, the largest district in the state, receives the bulk of that funding.

Additionally, the mayor proposed spending an additional $33 million for school construction needs in all the districts. On top of that, he proposed another $65 million for schools, including $50 million for Shelby County Schools, that he hopes will be an incentive for school leaders to rapidly build new facilities “and give more kids a first-rate learning environment.”

Harris is proposing a $16.50 increase in the vehicle registration fee in order to cover the cost of this investment.

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