Billboards used to push Memphis funding for schools

A week after Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland largely dismissed a new coalition’s call for $10 million in city spending on schools, the group is taking its message to billboards, reports Chalkbeat Tennessee.

Fund Students First — comprised of elected officials, education advocates and public school leaders — posted two billboards Friday in high-trafficked streets in downtown and midtown Memphis. The campaign is being underwritten by Stand for Children, a national education advocacy group with offices in Memphis and Nashville.

One billboard says:

standforchildren

The other says:

standpolice

The (second) message plays off a controversial billboard campaign launched earlier this year by the local police union in an attempt to tie the city’s high murder rate to vacancies in the police department. Under Strickland’s proposed budget for next year, that department would receive a significant boost.

That message alludes to the mayor’s call for more job training for youth and young adults, even as the city has refused to set aside money that could be tapped by public schools.

The education campaign highlights frustration over years of tenuous funding for Memphis schools, but especially since the city school system voted to give up its charter in 2010 and merged with the suburban Shelby County Schools in 2013. County government is now the sole funding agent for consolidated Shelby County Schools, which last year prompted County Commissioner Terry Roland to refer to city government as a “deadbeat parent.”

…Strickland has said the city faces “serious and well-documented budget challenges” due to the gradual elimination of the state’s Hall income tax and required increases in the city’s pension fund. He added that Memphis taxpayers decided in a 2011 referendum that they did not want to be “double-taxed” by putting in money to education through both city and county coffers.

Note: Stand for Children also operates a PAC that spent more than $700,000 last year supporting or opposing candidates for local school boards and the state legislature last year. Previous post HERE. In Nashville school board races, the group was accused of illegally coordinating independent expenditure efforts with campaigns, but the Registry of Election Finance board dismissed the claim. That previous post HERE.

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Former Knoxville News Sentinel capitol bureau chief Tom Humphrey writes about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.
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