MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Maybe this is what it'll look like when it's time to try and get to heaven. There will be a meeting room filled with people from all walks of life, and there you are sitting in the hot seat. Every day Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell's seat gets a little warmer, especially when talking about the budget for the Memphis/Shelby County Unified School District. "It's going to be the greatest priority we face going into the budget session," Luttrell says. "We will need to really try to pull together the funding and do what we need to do."
They'll be told what they need to do, in many cases, by the Tennessee Basic Education Program (BEP). It forces them to provide certain programs and to pay for things whether they have the money or not. According to Mayor Luttrell, "The reality of it is, if we get full funding of the Basic Education Program, it would solve most of our financial problems as far as public education in Shelby County."
There's a better chance of a snowstorm forming in your pants than getting legislators to agree to pay for the whole BEP, so commissioners are asking only for just a teeny-weeny bit more. "If they just funded it with another two percent," according to Shelby County Commission Chairman Mike Ritz, "it could mean tens of millions of dollars for Shelby County."
Of course the money would go to schools all across the state. It would come here as well, no matter what happens in the municipal school fight. "It would make no difference," says Commissioner Terry Roland, "if you talk about municipal schools, or unified schools, or charter schools, whatever. Every student would get the money."
The request will be sent to the Shelby County Legislative Delegation.