Thursday, July 21, 2011

Memphis Tennessee School Board Refuses To Open Schools Until City Pays $55 Million

(CNN) -- Schools in Memphis, Tennessee, will not open for the new school year until the school board receives at least $55 million of the money it is owed by the city.

The Memphis City Schools Board of Commissioners voted on the delay Tuesday night. However, Memphis Mayor A.C. Wharton Jr. told CNN Wednesday he is working toward a resolution, and "the children will not be caught in the middle."

The board vote indefinitely delayed school opening "pending the resolution of a long-standing funding dispute with the City of Memphis," school system attorney Dorsey Hopson said in a statement.

The board says it is owed a total of $151 million, according to the Commercial Appeal newspaper of Memphis. That includes what the city still owes for the 2008-09 school year, shortfalls on two subsequent school years and $78 million for the upcoming year.

The board wants $55 million immediately to open the schools, Martavius Jones, school board president, told CNN Wednesday. That "is the magic number," he said.

Board members passed a resolution asking that the remaining $23 million be paid after the city collects the funding in taxes, according to CNN affiliate WMC. Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash was directed last week to cut that $78 million from the current budget, WMC said.

Schools had been set to open August 8, with teachers due to report August 1.

"Someone has to assume responsibility for the collective education of the children in the city of Memphis, and I don't think the City Council can be exempt from that responsibility," board member Sara Lewis told WMC Tuesday night.

The school district sued the city in 2008 because of the funding dispute, Hopson said.

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