Officials, parents discuss proposed cuts to CLUE

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The Shelby County School Board and district officials are just beginning the budget process, but they are already hearing from many concerned parents.

Perhaps some of the most vocal critics are parents of kids in the CLUE program.

The district is looking at cutting that program for some of its youngest students, pre-K through 2nd grade.

The law requires the district to provide services to gifted students based on an achievement IQ test, but SCS said CLUE offers another opportunity for gifted students who excel in other ways, like reading.

CLUE stands for Creative Learning in a Unique Environment.

"Well, heartbroken," said parent Caroline Smith, regarding her feelings on the proposed cuts.

Her son is a kindergartner at Snowden and is in the CLUE program.

"To be able to be in a group where he felt that he fit in, that he had peers, that he was stimulated," Smith said.

She said her son does not learn like other students.

In a district where literacy issues and other struggles nab headlines, CLUE targets the high-flyers, like Juanita Freeman's kindergartner.

"It's more focused on reading, so he's reading and he's spelling. You think about that, he's only in kindergarten," Freeman said.

According to Superintendent Dorsey Hopson, the program helps identify potential AP students early on but is not government-mandated.

"The reason that CLUE is even on the table is because when you have the significant budget cuts that we have to make, or that we may have to make, you look to programs that are not required," said Hopson.

Cutting these CLUE age groups will affect about 1,800 students and 34 teaching positions, saving the district about $3.3 million.

"Is it an issue? Yes. Am I upset about it? Yes. What can we do? We can advocate to the funding body," said School Board Member Stephanie Love, whose daughter is also involved in the program.

Parents WREG spoke with said they are reaching out to school board members and officials at the county and state level.

"I think if people understand the value of this program, well, there might be a chance that we can get the proper funding for this and keep it alive," Smith said.

Even with the cuts, the district said CLUE would still be available for students in 3rd grade and above.

The budget process is still underway.

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