The start of the academic year for Memphis public schools could be delayed indefinitely if the mayor's office does not reach an agreement with the local school board soon.
The increasingly likely delay is the result of the fallout from a multimillion dollar budget disagreement. The Memphis school board – which voted in favor of the delay on Tuesday – has asked the city to pay it $55 million before the start of the academic year to meet the board's annual budget requirements. The city traditionally pays the money it owes after Sept. 1, but the board demanded the city pay up sooner after raising doubts that Memphis has the money it needs to fund the schools.
Because of the dispute, the possibility now looms that schools won’t start Aug. 8, when they were initially scheduled to open, Reuters reports.
In a Wednesday press conference, Memphis Mayor A.C. Wharton indicated that if the school board was hoping for quick funds, it was out of luck. "I want to dispel the image being projected that we have the money hidden away somewhere," he said. "That is revenue projected to come in, but we have not got it yet. We don't have the funds until they come in. That's all it is."
Around the city, many parents are worried about the consequences of a delay on their children and their jobs. "I am about to blow up," Debora Finney, a parent of Memphis school children, told the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. "To me, a working parent, I now have to spend money for child care. I have to find child care. Not only are we going to be strapped for money, if we get stuck at work, who is going to be there for our children?"
In all, the city's school budget is about $1.2 billion, funding it receives from federal, state, and private sources. The city of Memphis contributes less than 10 percent of the schools' total budget.