At the beginning of the search a year ago, school board members committed to having a new, permanent MSCS Superintendent before the start of the 2023-2024 school year, and that the current interim–who has no background in education–would not be a contender for the position. 

Now, the 2023-2024 school year is right around the corner, and we still do not have a new superintendent. With Board Member Sheleah Harris’ mid-meeting resignation and the unwarranted bans of five activists speaking on behalf of students, community trust in the School Board is at an all-time low. Instead of using the pause to reset and bring integrity into the process, the Board restarted the search by establishing new minimum qualifications that watered down important long-standing policy criteria. These changes would allow the current interim to be considered as a finalist despite failing to meet the original minimum criteria. 

The Momentum Memphis Coalition is deeply concerned for our students as this process continues to be full of politics, power plays, and a disregard for community input. We will gather at the MSCS Board meeting on Tuesday, June 27 at 5:30 PM (in the back parking lot) to speak to these concerns and state our demands.

In 2021, the Moral Budget Coalition (MBC) united to advocate for the government budgets in Memphis and Shelby County to prioritize investments in people and communities, especially those in under-resourced areas. The Moral Budget Coalition has reviewed the new investments proposed in Mayor Harris’ budget for essential infrastructure improvements to Regional One Health and school capital projects that include bringing new high schools to Frayser and Cordova. We believe these investments align with our values and support a budget that prioritizes improving the quality of our public school systems and medical services. 

New investments such as these sometimes require bringing in new revenue. The mayor has proposed increasing the wheel tax (motor vehicle registration fee) to provide the needed revenue this time. Since our founding, the MBC has been a strong proponent for generating new revenue, recognizing that conservative state laws and decades of fiscally conservative local leadership have limited our options for providing the resources we need to invest in under-resourced people and communities. Because this type of tax is regressive, we met with the mayor to identify opportunities that could limit the impact on those with the fewest resources. 

We support the investments for Regional One and new schools. We support viable revenue options that fund these investments. The County Commission should not dismiss the current revenue solution without having a clear, viable solution to secure these investments that can achieve the votes needed to pass. We encourage all County Commissioners to vote to approve the wheel tax increase on its first reading at the June 5th meeting. This allows the Commissioners and the public to review and compare any alternatives that should arise at the meeting. If there is an equitable proposal that will limit negative impacts while showing viability and sustainability, we look forward to seeing that and comparing it to the wheel tax proposal.

Now more than ever, it is critical to elect candidates that represent a vision for shifting away from the status quo toward valuing and investing in our people and communities. We need representatives in office that believe we can and must invest in our young people to achieve thriving lives through schools and community support. We can no longer tolerate leaders in the criminal justice system who continue to push the same failed policies that provide neither true justice nor public safety.

Stand for Children TN comes to these endorsements with our new mission in mind – to be a unique catalyst for education equity and racial justice, to create a brighter future for us all. For the Shelby County primary election on May 3rd, Stand considered endorsements in several races that we believe will have a lasting impact on the progress and prosperity of our communities in Shelby County. We also made a shift in our process to invite individuals from coalition partners to join us at the endorsement table to provide even more diverse interests and representation in our decision-making.  Many of these races are competitive in the primary election, and we hope that our endorsement will make a difference.

The candidates we endorsed in these races demonstrated – through past experience, current perspectives, and stated goals – that they aligned most closely with our values of improving public safety through non-punitive systemic approaches, supporting youth opportunity and success (both in and out of school), and investing in our communities.

  • Janika White for Shelby County District Attorney
  • Reginald Milton for Juvenile Court Clerk

Shelby County Mayor and Commissioner Endorsements

  • Mayor Lee Harris for Shelby County Mayor
  • District 4: Brandon Morrison
  • District 5: Quran Folsom
  • District 6: Charlie Caswell
  • District 7: Kathy Temple
  • District 10: Britney Thornton
  • District 12: Erika Sugarmon
  • District 13: Michael Whaley

Endorsement Process

Our endorsements come after a rigorous 10-week process that was led by a committee of individuals with diverse backgrounds, work and lived experiences, and perspectives. All of the committee members have supported the work of Stand and our affiliated coalitions and projects over the years. These dedicated leaders continue to take their role and responsibility in this process seriously.

The entire committee researched all candidates, and we followed these steps in making our endorsement decisions:  

  1. Committee members developed questions for a written survey based on Stand for Children’s principles and values, and we made an intentional effort to reach out to all candidates in the races we considered. All committee members had access to each candidate’s survey responses.
  2. Dates of follow-up interviews were scheduled with all interested candidates who responded to our survey by the deadline.
  3. The committee members developed interview questions for each candidate based on their survey responses and the office for which they were running. 
  4. The committee then conducted in-depth face-to-face interviews with each candidate, and recordings and notes were available for the rest of the committee members to view ahead of the deliberation process.
  5. Each candidate was then given careful and robust consideration, as we worked to achieve consensus in our final decisions, with final input and approval from Executive Director Cardell Orrin. 

I’m tremendously proud of the rigorous time and energy that the endorsement committee invested in this process. I want to thank those who worked so hard through candidate questionnaires, interviews, and vigorous deliberation to deliver these thoroughly vetted endorsements to you. These decisions were not made lightly, and we stand by these candidates as we continue our work to move Shelby County forward to create a brighter future for us all.

Today is Transit Equity Day in Memphis, rescheduled from early February due to inclement weather that hit our region at that time. Even though several events for the week were canceled or postponed either due to road conditions or internet connectivity issues during the storm, we continued working to collect the stories & experiences of transit riders. Even with extreme weather, people have places to be. 

When people can’t get to where they need to go because they depend on Memphis’ public transit system, we ought to recognize the reason why… For years, the Memphis City Council has underfunded and cut dollars for our public transit system, which means long waits and commutes, cuts to routes and service hours, missed appointments, and missed opportunities for hundreds of thousands of residents trying to make ends meet and get ahead. 

When City & County Leaders prioritize investments in essential services like public transportation, our communities are safer and healthier. Our City and County leaders need to know that Public Transit = Public Safety. Issues like funding public transit are revealing the necessity of implementing a participatory community-centered budgeting process in Shelby County. We will be facilitating this process via the Moral Budget Coalition in the coming weeks and months to ensure all of our voices are heard in setting priorities for how the budget is spent! 

When City Council Members don’t invest in people, our communities suffer. Stay tuned for more updates on the community-centered budgeting process, and meanwhile, if you or someone you know rides MATA, let us know how the underfunding of public transit has affected you!

No matter our color, background, or zip code, voters should pick their leaders, not the other way around. We marked this Martin Luther King Day by partnering with Civic TN to gather signatures for a petition that tells our legislators that we need a fair redistricting process that keeps communities together and strengthens our voting power.

Every decade, we the people are supposed to get the chance to draw new district lines that will move us closer to “one person, one vote” and give our communities equal access to the decision-making processes that determine resources for schools, hospitals, roads, and other essential services that our government is supposed to fund. 

But that’s not what happens. 

More than 50 years after Dr. King started calling for fair redistricting, we are still fighting the same fight. Right now, a small handful of Tennessee’s politicians are taking it into their own hands to redraw districts across the state behind closed doors. Without public input and accountability, these politicians are free to draw districts that serve their own needs, often splitting up communities of color and weakening their voting power. A fair redistricting process is directly connected to voting rights, racial justice, and economic justice, and we must speak up as loudly and as often as possible to change this undemocratic process.

The districts that get drawn this year will shape our lives and communities for the next decade, and these unconstitutional maps will be up for a vote in both the State House and Senate as soon as Thursday, January 20. We need as many of you as possible to tell our lawmakers that nobody knows our communities better than the people that live in them, and we the people need to have a say in how our districts are drawn. Please continue the work to honor Dr. King by taking action with this petition and contacting your legislators to call for a fair and transparent redistricting process!

To rid society of racism and the tremendous suffering, strife, and wasted potential it causes, it’s not enough to not be racist.

We need to be antiracist.

Being antiracist requires growing to recognize and equally value the dignity and humanity of every human being, but not just that.

It also means confronting racism and teaching those in our care to do the same.

Educators overwhelmingly want to be antiracist.

According to a survey conducted by EdWeek, 84% of teachers want to teach from an antiracist perspective.

Here’s the problem: only 14% feel they are well-equipped to do so.

Today, Stand for Children is launching the Center for Antiracist Education (CARE) to bridge this massive gap.

Led by widely respected educators Maureen Costello, Val Brown, and Kate Shuster, guided by a distinguished Advisory Board of educators and researchers including Dr. Ebony Elizabeth Thomas from the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad from Harvard, Dr. Kris Gutiérrez from the University of California, Berkeley, Dr. Hasan Kwame Jeffries from Ohio State University, and National Teacher of the Year finalist Juliana Urtubey, and backed by more than a dozen leading national education organizations, CARE will:

  • Empower teachers to identify racism in learning materials,
  • Provide useful guidance to teachers on materials that align with antiracist principles,
  • Offer valuable professional learning through a first-of-its-kind certification program, and
  • Conduct research and evaluation to rigorously assess the impact of its resources.

Please share the news about this important new resource with educators you know and encourage them to sign up for more information at

Standing with you,

Jonah Edelman

HB 7021/SB 7024 would require all school districts in Tennessee serving any grades K-8 to provide in-person instruction for students for a minimum of 70 days in the 2020-2021 school year by June 30, 2021, and the full 180 days in the 2021-2022 school year.

The bill threatens the autonomy and wisdom of local elected education leaders and local health departments who are already carefully analyzing positivity rates for covid-19, related hospitalizations, ICU availability, covid-19 deaths, teacher absences due to quarantines, and the vulnerability of their communities. Local elected leaders are also keenly aware of learning loss issues and are utilizing various methods to improve learning in virtual spaces though more funding – not less – is needed to fully implement their plans. The bill does not provide for peer-reviewed health and education data and is yet another intrusion on the autonomy of local elected leaders especially school and local health officials.

This bill could also potentially further aggravate mental and physical health disparities of Black students, their families, and other communities of color, as well as educators and staff in our districts.

The two districts most likely to be affected by the legislation have already filed lawsuits about being underfunded by the BEP, with the case likely to be heard in October 2021. To threaten to remove all or part of the funding from these districts for not being able safely to re-open schools for in-person education further jeopardizes student learning and the resources needed by teachers and other educators. Each district has worked with partners to provide in-person learning centers for students, such as the YMCA, allowing parents and family members to be at workplaces that require their physical presence.

While this legislation appears to be targeted at Shelby County (Memphis) and Davidson County (Nashville), it could inadvertently impact other school districts that have been forced to some virtual learning due to increased covid-19 deaths and positivity ratings such as Rutherford, Robertson, Sevier, Anderson, and Blount County school districts as well as Maury County and Knox County. (see attached reports/articles) These moves by districts to virtual learning are impossible to predict with the volatile infections still spreading across our state and the lack of adequate vaccines for frontline and essential workers, including teachers, and with no vaccines for students who can infect other family members.

Instead of a requirement for in-person education that threatens funding for all students in a district, this should be a local educational option funded and guided by state grants and state technical services that families can access locally as needed.

Here is your monthly reminder to register and attend our next virtual joint Momentum Memphis Education Task-Force Meeting on Monday, December 7th, at 6:00 pm via Zoom. Hear updates on our advocacy efforts from task-force leaders and learn how you can get involved in our fight to make education equity a reality for all students in Memphis and Shelby County. Please use this link to RSVP.

You’re also invited to outreach coordinator Regina Clarke’s virtual “End of the Year Exhale” on Tuesday, December 8th, at 6:00 pm via Zoom. Join Stand along with educators, parents, students, and community members as we exhale on all things education! Learn about solutions and available resources to ensure success as we move from 2020 to 2021. To attend, please use this link to register.

Outreach coordinator Paul Garner is also hosting our “Organizing Fellowship Preview” on December 15th, at 6:00 pm via Zoom. We’ll revisit Stand & Momentum Memphis’ work over the past year, our upcoming plans and advocacy efforts to move forward, and a short preview of workshops we’re offering through our forthcoming Momentum Memphis Fellowship. Join us by using this link to register.

 See you then! 

Here is your monthly reminder to join us for our joint virtual Momentum Memphis Task-Force meeting on Monday, October 5, via Zoom at 6:00 pm. Hear updates on our advocacy efforts from our task-force leaders and coalition partners as we continue to fight for equity in education for all students in Memphis and Shlelby County. 

Also, join us tomorrow for our bi-weekly Education Equity Happy Hour at 5:30 pm via Zoom. Grab your favorite refreshment and join other parents, educators, and community members for a laid back discussion on recent local and city government decisions, upcoming Stand events, and how you can join and take action with the Momentum Memphis Education Task-Force Committee!

Until then, be sure that you are registered to vote in the November 3rd election by checking your voter registration status here, and that you’re counted by taking the Census here. Both of these critical events have a deadline of Monday, October 5. I strongly recommend that you take time today to ensure that you’re ready to cast your ballot during early voting starting October 14 to avoid long lines and practice social distancing.

 You can also get involved by volunteering to help increase voter turnout! We’ve partnered with Continue the Dream – Voter Alliance to increase voter engagement by registering Memphians to vote and encouraging the largest turnout possible for this election. If you would like to help with voter registration and sharing critical voting information to all, please sign up here.