Compromise deal proposed to open Memphis schools on time

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 22, 2011 12:08 AM
Compromise deal proposed to open Memphis schools on time

MEMPHIS, Tenn (Reuters) - Memphis officials came up with a payment plan on Thursday that may allow city schools to start on time after the school board voted to delay classes until it gets $55 million in city funds.

The plan, which still must be approved by the school board, was a response to the school board's vote on Tuesday to indefinitely delay the scheduled August 8 opening of schools until it received the funds.

Parents and teachers in the 103,500-student system reacted with anger and confusion to the board's action, which drew national attention to the city. The school system's proposed operating budget for this year is $884 million.

The proposed compromise hammered out by city council members and the mayor would give the school board $15 million in August, followed by monthly installment payments. Mayor A C Wharton said the plan would "disperse money to insure the timely and orderly opening of Memphis City Schools."

The plan must be approved by the school board and full council, both of which are scheduled to meet in the next five days.

"A payment schedule makes all the sense in the world," said City Councilman Shea Flinn, one of the architects of the proposed compromise.

The root of the problem is distrust among school board members that Memphis would honor its annual funding commitment of around $78 million. The matter is complicated by the school board's decision last December to surrender its charter and merge with the nearby suburban Shelby County school system. That issue is tied up in federal court.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston)