More than 250 suburban parents attended a town hall meeting about the proposed unified school system budget; nearly 50 took to the microphone to express concerns and raise questions.
"So much that is valued and used every day and has made Shelby County what it is, and we're taking it away. I've not seen anywhere on paper or heard anyone say, ‘What is Memphis City Schools giving up?'" asked one parent.
The meeting addressed the unified school system's proposed $90 million budget gap, which school board member David Pickler says is closer to $150 million.
Pickler joined fellow school board member Mary Anne Gibson at Sunday's town hall, where many parents expressed concerns about the unified school system cutting Shelby County Schools methods and leaving in Memphis City Schools ways.
One parent stood up and said, "They are the ones that gave up their charter and they seem to be running the show because they have more votes on this committee."
But parent Kelvin Hinton from Bartlett, a product of Memphis City Schools, stood before the crowd and said that the merger is happening and that the two sides need to work together before they truly harm the children's education.
"We heard from some of the parents that Memphis City Schools gave up their charter. Well, the kids didn't give up the charter. We still have an obligation and a moral duty to educate those kids," says Hinton.
Many parents suggested ending the nationwide superintendent search and hiring current Shelby County Superintendent John Aitken in order to save money in the proposed budget.
One parent spoke, saying Shelby County Schools are successful with $8,200 per student while he says Memphis City Schools operate on $10,200 per student. He continued, "I want to keep what we have but at $8,200. So if they have 100,00 students, that's $220 million. My question is where did it go?"
While Pickler reaches out to parents who will soon join the unified school district, he says some have already chosen the direction they're going.
"A year ago, we were looking at having 152,000 children served by this combined district, and now you're looking at 133,000. That shows already people are voting with their feet," says Pickler.