(Germantown, TN) It was a packed out auditorium Sunday afternoon as suburban parents showed up to a town hall meeting to vent their frustrations over the unified school districts proposed budget.
It calls for massive cuts and many parents are concerned over how the district will maintain the quality of their children's education.
The theme parents kept going back to was that Memphis City Schools gave up their charter and city funding. Many wondered why its leaders should now have a say in taking away the suburbs precious resources. Parents are afraid their kids will suffer for it.
“What was once a democracy is now a dictatorship as they're telling us what we have to do,” said one concerned parent from the podium.
Hundreds of parents and school staff are advocating for changes to the budget as it makes sweeping cuts across the district. In the suburbs, it means losing nurses, assistant principles and teacher’s assistants that parents have come to love.
“I will fight to keep that for my children and the other children and I will fight against anything that will take that away,” said Amy Chestnut, who has children at Crosswinds Elementary in Collierville.
Concerns fell on the ears of unified school board members, David Pickler and Mary Anne Gibson, who say the board has to make up a $150 million shortfall in the budget. They're forced by Tennessee law to propose a balanced budget to the county commission.
“We've got to go to the county commission, we've got to advocate for a budget that reflects the real need and if we get that, then I think we'll have something that everyone will be proud of,” said Pickler.
As the budget stands, parents say it lowers the standard in the suburbs instead of raising it for Memphis schools.
“I look at some of the finances and economics of it and its going to cost more money at the end of the day, but what I can't accept is the idea that I'm going to get less, for more,” said Gary Yenser. “It’s unacceptable.”
Parents and school board members agree that everyone must work together for the sake of all Shelby County kids.
“We need to organize and mobilize and not accept the budget and we need to take it as far as the governor and even the president to get funding to educate our kids,” said Kelvin Hinton.
On Tuesday, school board members present their preliminary budget proposal to the county commission during a special meeting. They’re hopeful the county will give them the funding they need to maintain a high level of education.