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Opinion | With $2.2 billion budget, Shelby County Schools leaders will be under pressure to show improvement | Otis Sanford

Local 24 News political analyst and commentator Otis Sanford shares his point of view on the $2.2 billion budget for Shelby County Schools.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Some people might call it mindboggling money. Others will say it’s a much-needed windfall. But no matter what you call it, the new budget for Shelby County Schools is indeed historic.

At a cool $2.2 billion dollars, this is clearly the largest budget for any local school district ever. The primary reason for the 62% increase over last year’s budget, is more than $700 million in federal stimulus money.

And the district is promising to put the funds to good use. Initiatives include handsome pay raises for teachers – ranging from 7% for starting teachers to as much as 16% for longtime veterans. Plus, there is an aggressive spending plan for new schools and renovations to existing ones.

All of that is promising. But with this historic budget comes elevated expectations that academic performance will improve as well. SCS should be in a position now to hire and retain quality teachers who can get the best and most out of their students.

There is no question that the COVID-19 pandemic did immeasurable damage to student learning. SCS held virtual classes for a year. And despite noble efforts, quality learning was hit and miss.

So congratulations on this monumental budget. $2 billion dollars is real money, and our students deserve the best. But come this fall, school leaders will be under pressure to show noticeable academic improvement without any excuses. And that’s my point of view. 

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