Moving on to Memphis

One School Board candidate in Memphis has attracted significant attention and financial support from pro-privatization group TennesseeCAN. The group bills itself as a grassroots advocacy organization, though it is not clear if the work here will benefit Tennessee or Minnesota.

Chalkbeat has more on TennesseeCAN’s efforts in Memphis:

TennesseeCAN spent more than $26,000 on behalf of candidate Michelle Robinson McKissack for mailed advertisements, phone calls, and texts in late June, according to the group’s disclosure forms.

The group also sent an endorsement letter to Shante Avant and contributed $3,000 to her campaign last week, said the organization’s spokeswoman.

The story notes TennesseeCAN has long been supportive of using public money to fund private schools:

But since starting its advocacy work in the state in 2011, TennesseeCAN has been best known for supporting vouchers that would allow state money to pay for private school tuition as an option for students from low-income families. State lawmakers sought to pilot a program in Memphis, despite the fact that parents and policymakers in the city strongly opposed the measure. Vouchers could siphon off more than $18 million annually from public schools.

Both candidates supported by TennesseeCAN have said they oppose vouchers.

While the funds spent in Memphis, especially in favor of McKissack, are significant, the dollar amount pales in comparison to what was spent in the Nashville School Board races in 2016. That year, TennesseeCAN ally Stand for Children spent more than $200,000 on four School Board races in Nashville and lost all four.

With the election in Shelby County just around the corner, it will be interesting to see if the TennesseeCAN investment gets the desired result.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport


 

Shelby County Schools Seek More State Funding

The Commercial Appeal reports that the Shelby County School Board has passed a resolution asking the state to properly fund public schools through the state’s BEP funding formula.

The board is asking the state to pay $10,000 more toward teacher salaries and fund 12 months of insurance premiums for district staff, instead of 10. The requests are also the top recommendations from the state Basic Education review committee from last year.

If the two requests were funded, SCS would receive $99.5 million in state funding, enough to give teachers the biggest raise they’ve had in years, while also offsetting the cost of monthly insurance premiums. The cost for the year now is spread over 10 months.

For more than two decades, the state has paid health insurance on a 10-month basis. Last year, the cost to cover 12 months was estimated at $60.4 million. This year’s estimate is $64 million.

In 2007, the state attempted to address the BEP funding shortfall by passing BEP 2.0, but that program has never been fully-funded.

Tennessee consistently ranks at or near the bottom of the country in terms of per pupil spending. Additionally, Tennessee’s teacher salaries consistently grow at a pace below the national average.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport