MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The fight for a $15 an hour living wage just got a new ally in the Shelby County school system. Superintendent Dorsey Hopson says he will present a plan to the school board within 30 days to raise the pay of some 1,200 full-time employees who currently earn between $10 and $14 an hour.
The plan would cost about $2.4 million, but only about $900,000 would come from the district`s operating fund.
Hopson`s proposal received near universal support from school board members at a time when Memphis is grappling with the longstanding and nagging issue of poverty.
It is what brought Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to the city 50 years ago to support sanitation workers who – as Dr. King said – were paid starvation wages.
Fifty years later, a National Civil Rights Museum and University of Memphis study shows that poverty is as pervasive today as it was in 1968 if not more so.
The fact that hundreds of low wage school system employees have children in county schools and the district often cites poverty as a hindrance to academic success, means Hopson is on the right track.
The fight for $15 has not yet gained widespread acceptance, but at least the school district is taking the lead on an important issue at an important time.
Commentary provided by Otis Sanford