Stand for Children Tennessee is pleased to announce our candidate endorsements for the upcoming Shelby County Schools Board election.These candidates were selected using a rigorous endorsement process that involved extensive surveys and candidate interviews led by our endorsement committee made up of parents, educators, and community members. We believe that these candidates will be true education champions for the children of Memphis and Shelby County.

The elections this year are too important to sit out! Protests echo across our community and this country, and the next step is to vote. The educational future of our children is at stake, and it is up to us to fill these seats with representatives who believe that all children in Memphis and Shelby County deserve access to equitable education and resources to ensure a prosperous future.We are proud to endorse education champions who are committed to helping improve student outcomes, advocating for necessary and equitable funding to address student needs, and increasing potential for college and career success. Head over to our education champion page on our website to learn more about the candidates in your district.

The deadline to register to vote is Friday, July 7, and the absentee ballot request deadline is Thursday, July 30. Check your voter registration status, now, and if you’re not registered, sign up today! Access information you need to vote:

Congratulations to our education champion, Memphis City Councilwoman-Elect, Michalyn Easter-Thomas! We look forward to working with you to make equity in education a reality for every child in Memphis, Tennessee! 

Check out her campaign by clicking here

Early voting for the Memphis City Council Runoff Election is now open through Saturday! Voters in District 1 and District 7 have a second chance to change the narrative on the view of equitable education in Memphis and to change the educational future of our children. If you live in a runoff district, please use the few remaining days of early voting to let your voice be heard. Look up your City Council district here.

If you are unable to participate in early voting, I strongly encourage you to go to the polls on November 14th to cast your vote. Get ahead of the game by making sure you have a proper state-registered ID and looking up your assigned polling location. Take action by setting a reminder on your device to vote during your lunch break, or whenever the time permits. Let’s use this second chance wisely to elect officials who will fund students first!

During the general election, Stand For Children endorsed a slate of Education Champions, candidates for Mayor and City Council who we vetted and endorsed based on their commitment to our schools and children.

In District 7, we endorsed Michalyn Easter-Thomas and are excited that she earned enough votes to compete in a runoff election. A runoff happens when no single candidate wins more than 50% of the vote.

Due to historically low turnout and less media coverage, runoff elections can sometimes be decided by just a few votes. That means your vote counts more than ever in the Memphis City Council Runoff Election, and it is so important that you cast your ballot a second time on November 14.

I’ve known Michalyn personally for the past 5 years, after meeting her at an event her nonprofit held in North Memphis. Michalyn is rooted in District 7, a public school educator who believes in the future of our children. She is committed and responsive to the community she seeks to serve as an elected leader. I hope you’ll join me in supporting her during the runoff election! 

Early voting begins Friday, October 25th and ends Saturday, November 9th. Election day is Thursday, November 14th! For a list of polling locations, please click here.

Tell your friends and help spread the word! #AllInForMichalyn

Thank you to all our supporters who voted in the Memphis city election! Thanks to you Stand Education Champion Dr. Jeff Warren won a seat on the City Council for District 9-3! We’re enormously proud of all the candidates who took a chance to STAND for our children’s educations and made their future a priority in your campaign. But the work isn’t over! Memphis will hold a runoff election on Thursday, November 14.

We are still in the fight to get our education champion, Michalyn Easter-Thomas, elected as the Memphis City Council representative for District 7. Help her win this seat by doing the following:

  1. Be registered to vote by October 15th. You can register online here.
  2. Participate in early voting starting October 25th – November 9th.

If you can’t make it to early voting, then please vote on Election Day, which is Thursday, November 14th. The polls will open at 7:00 am and will close at 7:00 pm. A vote for Michalyn is a vote for your child’s future. Pledge to vote in the City of Memphis City Council runoff election.

Apparently, Memphis has “momentum.” As the City of Memphis celebrates 200 years and moves into its third century, many are excited to reflect on its history and to praise the city’s accomplishments. While I recognize the progress of the past two centuries, I would be remiss to not point out that Memphis’ homicide rate was the third-highest among the country’s 50 largest cities last year, 39% of Memphis children live below the poverty line (the second-highest rate in the nation), and Memphis ranks poorest among major American metropolitan areas. I cannot celebrate “momentum” if youth in Memphis are barely surviving the dangerous rapids of poverty, systemic violence, and educational neglect while our city invests far less than 1% of its $700 million budget in youth and education.

Many believe that the solution to creating better opportunities for our youth can be found in attracting more businesses to deliver more jobs or getting the Grizzlies to donate a basketball court or cracking down on schools and parents to “do better”. While these things can make marginal improvements to the city, we must first build a sturdier foundation on which to improve. What good are jobs when the population is ill-prepared for the jobs of tomorrow that could deliver them from the atrocities of poverty? What use is a basketball court when parents are too afraid to send their child to use it? What more can teachers do when so many of our students leave our classrooms to endure the traumatic and violent experience of poverty on a daily basis?

As an educator, I know that we cannot continue to apply the same solutions hoping to solve the problems that our youth consistently face. To do so is quite literally the definition of insanity. Our solutions must be bold and innovative – qualities that the city has never in its 200 years attempted to embrace.

We need direct, strategic investments in areas that will positively impact the future success of our youth if we want to produce more successful schools, safer neighborhoods, and a thriving city.

All students, regardless of their academic, social, or behavior struggles, deserve direct investment in the neighborhoods, programs, and schools in which they are raised. To enable that, the city should create a dedicated fund that is specifically set aside to support Memphis youth with greater equity. Such a fund will ensure that the level of investment in youth will not waver with each election.

Currently, the only dedicated funding for youth from the City of Memphis is 0.3% of property taxes for Pre-K only. One penny of the current tax rate of $3.19 amounts to about $1.3 million. While this is worth a nod, imagine the impact if the city increased its investment tenfold. Only 3% of the revenue generated from property taxes could generate about $13 million each year to invest in youth!

We ought to take a cue from other cities where youth funds have been provided by budget allocations or appropriating a set-aside of property or sales taxes. In 1991, San Francisco voters decided to set aside 4% of property taxes for the nation’s first children’s fund. Voters overwhelmingly renewed their decision in 2000 and again in 2014, guaranteeing funding until 2039. In Baltimore, 80% of voters decided to set aside $12 million each year from property taxes to invest in youth.

In 2004, the Memphis Youth Guidance Commission was created to serve as an objective, nonpartisan youth research and advocacy body for city government, but it has been mostly dormant since the 2012 school merger. This apolitical body could be a starting point for conducting research to determine funding priorities and ensure accountability for a fund to benefit youth and K-12 education initiatives.

Those opposed to such initiatives, like many incumbent members of city government, may remind us that, since 2012, “Memphis is out of the education business.” Their reasons over the years have included maintenance of effort (a state mandate to continue funding at a certain level) and lack of accountability from the school district. For that reason, I must point out that a fund administered by a third party allows for an innovative way to pay for youth and education programs that does not trigger maintenance of effort, can maintain a high standard of accountability, and has the benefit of increasing equity in local funding. The district and other public education-related non-profits could apply for funding to support targeted, evidence-based programs focused on areas such as early literacy, high school success, and college and career preparation. None of these things are being adequately supported by state and local funding to Shelby County Schools. Furthermore, I would argue that education itself is largely underfunded based on the needs in our Memphis communities.

Just last year, city leaders decided to allocate roughly $260 million (nearly 40% of the entire municipal budget) for the Memphis Police Department. This amount increases yearly, yet Memphis is still considered unsafe. It is clear that a constant increase of funding to the police department will not, by itself, actually improve the city. If the City of Memphis can afford a quarter of a billion dollars for the MPD (including dollars spent spying on activists and citizens who challenge injustice, killing Black citizens in need of mental health services, and over-policing communities while paradoxically leaving them underprotected), then surely it can spare $13 million (a meager 5% of its current police budget) to invest its youngest residents and the future of Memphis.

As an educator and community advocate with Stand for Children, I know we cannot afford to sit idly by while our government negligently ignores its moral obligation to our children. The need is clear. Funding opportunities are plentiful. A body to monitor this fund already exists. All that is missing is a government and elected officials willing to prioritize youth.

If the current occupants of city hall are unwilling to do what is right by investing meaningfully in our youth, then we must do the hard work of replacing them. As Marian Wright Edelman once said, “If we don’t stand up for children, then we don’t stand for much.” Stand up for Memphis youth with me by organizing and voting in the city elections on October 3.

A young girl sits in her 5th grade classroom eager. Her teacher delivers a rather ravishing and seemingly empowering lesson on the development of the Declaration of Independence. 

“Freedom,” she tells the class, “liberty and justice,” she delivers in a murmur. The stars glistened in her eyes as she envisioned a life for herself that was full of hope, prosperity, and happiness. By the time the girl returned home to her neighborhood, which was a 50-minute bus ride from her school, the sparkle in her eye slowly dwindled and reality had become more eminent than ever before. 

That 5th grade girl developed an uncanny understanding of two harsh, intangible obstacles living in her own backyard: disparity and inequity. That girl is me. 

Whenever I have an opportunity to partake in the democratic process of voting, I think of the fifth grade me who sat in class with an ambitious attitude and a heart full of hope, but also understood what the world around me told me was likely to be true for someone from my background. 

When I vote, I vote with the intention of representing the youth in our city who cannot have a voice in our elections yet, but deserve a world of justice, liberty, hope, and freedom. I vote for a community that can flourish and be allotted the opportunity to strive. I vote for representation that is authentic and passionate about equity.

Join me in exercising your right to vote for Memphis mayor and city council members. Early voting is open through Saturday, September 28. Election Day is October 3. Sign the pledge to vote now.

We’re excited to announce our education champions running in the 2019 Memphis election. Cast your vote with confidence that each of these leaders will act with urgency in office to raise our graduation rates and improve our education outcomes for Memphis youth.

Endorsed candidates:

  • Tami Sawyer – Mayor
  • Britney Thornton – District 4
  • Michalyn Easter-Thomas – District 7
  • Darrick Dee Harris – District 8-1
  • Erica Sugarmon – District 9-1
  • Mauricio Calvo – District 9-2
  • Dr. Jeff Warren – District 9-3 

The City of Memphis Municipal Election will be held Thursday, October 3, 2019. Early voting will be held from Friday, September 13 through Saturday, September 28.

Voting in local elections is vitally important because it’s where we can make the most impact. This year in particular, we have an opportunity in Memphis to set a course for the future of our city – to decide whether we will preserve the status quo or whether we will move Memphis forward by electing progressive leadership that truly represents the interests and values of our community, no matter what neighborhood they might live in. That’s why we need to vote.

It’s no secret that alongside Memphis’ great history of civil rights activism is a long and troubled history of racism and poverty, crime and violence. The City of Memphis has not been “in the business of funding education,” as we are so often told by members of our City Council. In 2014, the city budget went from investing $65 million in K-12 education to $0. By comparison, our budget for police is over $270 million. These same elected officials seem dumbfounded about how to address our city’s issues of crime and poverty, particularly among our young people. Unfortunately, these are not issues that can be policed away.I’m a new Text block ready for your content.

As we close out our Bicentennial year, Memphis must look forward and decide what kind of legacy we want to leave to our children and future generations. That’s why this election is so important. We have an opportunity to change the tide and begin to address these issues with a plan for the future that includes real, substantial funding for the education of all our young people. That starts with electing leadership that is committed to equity and will stand for our children!

Sign the pledge to vote in the Memphis city election and make sure your voice is heard!

Early voting is underway and will run through Saturday, September 28.

Election Day is Thursday, October 3! Please encourage your friends, family members, and co-workers to get out and vote! The future of our City and our young people depend upon it!

Every election season, I take my children with me to the polls. I show them how the process works and tell them who I’m supporting and why. I explain how people before them made great sacrifices so that we could have the right to vote.

For generations, women and people of color in this country were denied a voice. And still today, there are some elected officials who try to stop us from exercising our right.

Don’t let them win. Vote!

I hope my kids – once they turn 18 – never take their right to vote for granted. I hope you won’t either.

At such a critical time in our country, voting is a simple yet powerful way to make your voice heard. It really can make a difference for your children and your community.  

With all that’s going on right now in Memphis, in Tennessee, and across the U.S., we can’t afford to be silent.

For too long in America’s past, entire groups of people were denied a say. This election, let’s all use our voices to write America’s future.

Make a plan to vote today.