Shelby County Schools brings need for funding for digital devices to city council


MEMPHIS, Tenn. — One of the topics of discussion at Tuesday’s Memphis City Council committee meeting was Shelby County Schools‘ $5 million to go toward digital learning.

The district said the money is crucial for students.

Council members heard a presentation from SCS’s chief of staff about the need for $5 million to help fund digital devices for students for the upcoming school year. 

The district said it will be providing 95,000 devices, tablets for pre-K through second grade. Third grade to 12th grade will receive laptops.

They will also include insurance and hotspots for 24,000 students.

The devices will be leased, so in five years they will have the option to be upgraded.

The district will be using about $36 million of its CARES ACT funds to go toward the investment. 

City councilman Frank Colvett asked if the district had the $5 million they had penciled into their plan.

“We do not have the $5 million, no,” SCS Chief of Staff Patrice Thomas said. “If the city council was to not approve this today, we would be forced basically as a district to go back and do a review and an amendment for our budget for FY21.”

While acknowledging it’s a worthy investment, several council members questioned why the money wouldn’t be coming from the county commission. Others said the pandemic has highlighted the digital divide and the need to invest in children.

The full council still needs to discuss this and officially decide.

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