The Daily Churn: Monday

What’s churning:

UpdatedAs expected, K-12 schools and higher education were pretty much unscathed in the latest round of state budget balancing, announced by Gov. Bill Ritter this afternoon.

He proposed that the state keep its 2010-11 books balanced – and maintain a 2 percent reserve – by using $144 million in extra federal Medicaid support, taking advantage of about $77 million in higher-than-expected income tax collections, transferring $53 million from various special state funds to the general fund and making $6.2 million in cuts, including $1.3 million from the Department of Corrections and the rest from holding positions open and delaying hiring elsewhere in state government. (Such freezes don’t directly affect colleges and universities, which run their own personnel systems.)

Among the special funds being tapped are $9 million from the new medical marijuana fund and $9.4 million from a mineral tax fund used for college construction and maintenance. Other funds that distribute mineral revenue to local government also go hit.

Both sectors of education took significant cuts when the 2010-11 budget year started, although K-12 will get some relief through the recently announced $160 million in Edujobs funding. Education spending may be somewhat protected because further cuts could jeopardize the state’s Edujobs eligibility.

But never say never. Additional state revenue forecasts will be issued at the end of September and the end of December. As Ritter noted in a statement, “We face more struggles and more difficult choices in the months ahead. All options must be on the table in order for us to keep our budget balanced.”

The Race to the Top winners are scheduled to be released at 10 a.m. mountain time Tuesday. U.S. Department of Education officials e-mailed the news to state officials today, and the word was leaking out of education blogs and in Tweets. Colorado, with a $175 million application, is among 17 other states and the District of Columbia in the list of finalists. (Refresh your memory on the details of Colorado’s application.)

The president of the nation’s largest teachers union is in Colorado to talk about union-led school transformation. National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel spent the morning at Denver’s Math & Science Leadership Academy, a two-year-old innovation school created and led by teachers. Van Roekel was to tour the school, co-located at Rishel Middle School in southwest Denver, and participate in a roundtable discussion with Colorado Education Association President Beverly Ingle and Denver Classroom Teachers Association President Henry Roman. Van Roekel also was to serve lunch to students. We’ll post video later.

What’s on tap:

Students in the state’s largest school district go back to class. Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Cindy Stevenson will be welcoming students at the new Arvada K-8 School, which was formed from Russell Elementary and Arvada Middle School. Jeffco board members voted to close Russell this past spring to save money. The property has been sold to Jefferson County, which is expected to put a Head Start program there. (Our partner has video of opening day.)

Good reads from elsewhere:

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede