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The budget outlook just got better for Shelby County Schools

Dorsey Hopson became the leader of Shelby County Schools in 2013.
Dorsey Hopson became the leader of Shelby County Schools in 2013.
Mike Brown/The Commercial Appeal

Weeks after hinting about extra money in next year’s budget, Superintendent Dorsey Hopson says the district has nearly $22 million more to invest in Memphis schools.

That means more money for expanding after-school and summer programs, hiring teacher coaches, raising principal salaries, and expanding the district’s Empowerment Zone for low-performing schools in Whitehaven.

Hopson told the school board this week that the windfall comes out of conservative numbers used in preparing next year’s budget before official state numbers arrived. In addition, Finance chief Lin Johnson had prepared the spending plan to incorporate an anticipated loss of revenue if the General Assembly approves a pilot voucher program in Memphis. But even if approved, vouchers wouldn’t become available until late 2018.

Some highlights of Hopson’s proposed new investments are:

  • $2.6 million for summer enrichment programs including an ACT camp and expansion of the new summer learning academy;
  • $2 million for principal and assistant principal raises;
  • $1 million to develop an evaluation tool for non-instructional employees;
  • $788,000 for 10 additional science instruction coaches;
  • $570,000 to expand the Whitehaven Empowerment Zone to include Holmes Road Elementary and A. Maceo Walker Middle, in addition to the current Whitehaven High and Havenview Middle;
  • $240,000 for 20 bus monitors;
  • $125,000 to hire a director of school improvement and accountability

The additions generally accommodate wish lists offered earlier this month by school board members. But notably missing is additional school counselors. Hopson’s initial budget included 35 more counselors, but many schools are below the state’s recommended counselor-to-student ratio.

Board member Kevin Woods requested also that the district come up with a way to track the work of school counselors.

“We do a lot of talking about teachers and how we evaluate teachers, but I would love to get a report on how we measure guidance counselors,” he said. “The fact that a kid can go from ninth grade to 12th grade and very well may never engage with a guidance counselor is problematic.”

This week’s fiscal news continues momentum for the beleaguered district, which kicked off its budget season without a shortfall for the first time in years. Just last month, Hopson announced new investments totaling nearly $50 million.

The revised $985 million budget still taps $18 million in reserves.

Below is Hopson’s presentation on his revised budget proposal:

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