As COVID-19 Crisis Continues, Memphis Lift Launches New Campaign to Recommend Policy Changes in all Public Schools in Shelby County


Editor’s Note: When I first met Ms. Sarah Carpenter I was immediately impressed with her passion for education and her city of Memphis.
I have visited Memphis on a few occasions and have even been criticized by political opponents for visiting there. As a legislator, I see my role as someone who has to have concerns for areas–from Memphis to Mountain City.
I personally think Memphis often gets a bad rap. I have visited a few schools in Memphis and was impressed with the caring teachers, parents, and ‘can-do’ attitudes of the students.
One school, in particular, was Libertas School of Memphis, a Montessori school.
I see someone like Rep. John DeBerry who cares deeply about the inner city and desires effective positive change. Sadly, some folks don’t want any change. They want to keep the same status quo of brokenness and failing schools. When someone like Rep. John DeBerry tries to make a positive impact they suffer persecution. Recently the Tennessee Democrat Executive committee voted to take Rep. DeBerry off the ballot(I didn’t even think that was legal). The faaaaaaar-out, but not so groovy democrats have strayed so far off the reservation that they voted to take the most most influential black lawmaker out of office–Folks I can’t make this stuff up.They literally usurped the people of Memphis right to choose their elected representative.
I will argue that Rep. John DeBerry John has been an effective 26-year state representative who once marched with the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Tennessee State Rep. John DeBerry, a black Shelby County Democrat, is an independent thinker, which at the moment makes him Public Enemy No. 1 in the eyes of the state’s Democratic Party.
According to the TennesseeStar “On April 8, the majority-white TNDP executive committee voted 41-18, with two abstentions, to remove DeBerry from the ballot. Rutherford County’s Brandon Thomas, a black member of the executive committee and a candidate in the August 2020 Democratic primary for House District 49, is the only black known to have supported DeBerry’s removal from the ballot.”



New Parent Manifesto Calls for Citywide Action to Close the Digital Divide, Individualize Learning, and Empower Families with Flexibility


First-of-Its-Kind Commitment to Quality Education Already Has Hundreds of Parent Signatures

(MEMPHIS) – The Memphis Lift, a coalition of parents and grandparents of K-12 students, today announced the launch of a new “Parent Manifesto” – a document that calls on Shelby County public school leaders to take decisive action on behalf of children who need it most during the COVID-19 crisis. As the world continues to grapple with the pandemic, the virus continues to highlight incredible, longstanding economic and educational gaps across our city. Without action to improve remote learning, close the digital divide, and develop an individualized plan for each student’s academic growth, the consequences of the virus for our children could be dire.

Before the pandemic struck, only 1 in 6 children attending low-performing schools could read on grade level in Memphis, while only 2 out of 10 children can perform math on grade level. Of the 81 lowest-performing schools in the state, 55 are in our city. COVID-19 is only making the situation worse. New studies show that students next fall are likely to retain about 70 percent of this year’s gains in reading and less than 50 percent in math. Existing achievement gaps are likely to widen significantly because of the virus.

That’s why today, Memphis Lift called for several concrete steps from policymakers on a new commitment to quality education that already has hundreds of parent signatures. The new demands in the manifesto are aimed at driving accountability during the COVID-19 crisis in Shelby County public schools. They include:

  • Individualized Learning: Each student must receive an individualized plan for academic recovery. Those individualized learning plans for each child must come from an assessment of student learning that is given after the start of the 2020-21 school year and must include input from families and the exact steps the schools will take to address any learning gaps that exist.

  • Closing the Digital Divide: The digital divide must be closed before schools re-open. Every student needs a connected device loaded with the district’s learning program. But devices are nothing without internet access. It is time for broadband to be a free, universal service. We demand that the FCC provide no-cost internet access to all families. Although Memphis school leadership recently announced steps to get laptops and devices into the hands of children, it may not happen until November for some – far after the school year starts. It also won’t include training for parents.

  • Respecting Parents: Black and brown people are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Parents deserve a choice. If they’re not comfortable sending their children into school buildings, they should be able to enroll them in a district-provided remote learning program. Districts should collaborate with local and state elected officials to create a plan to eliminate requirements for parents to appear in-person at school for conferences, orientations, and more. Schools need to anticipate that there are parents with underlying medical issues who are not going to be at school, period.

  • Choice: Remote learning must deliver real instruction, with educators assigned to it full-time who have proper technology skills and training. If a district is not able to provide good remote instruction programs, families should not suffer. They must be given the option of choosing a program in another district, with our funding following our children.

  • Financial Relief: Schools must get rid of all fees and supply lists. Supplies should be provided by districts or their community partners, cleaned, and distributed to students. Black and brown people don’t have money for supplies right now, and it’s unclear whether children will be going back to school.

“No parent or grandparent should ever have to choose between supporting a child’s learning and putting food on the table. But that’s what this COVID-19 crisis is doing. It is affecting children in poverty most. That’s why parents are standing up, demanding change, and fighting for a brighter future for their children and grandchildren,” said Sarah Carpenter, Memphis Lift’s Executive Director. “If you live in Memphis and are poor, you’ve always had a very little chance of getting a quality education. We can no longer accept the status quo, especially in the age of COVID-19. This manifesto gives parents a real voice to drive change in our schools and our communities. Our children can’t wait, and our leaders must act now.”

The full manifesto is attached.

About Memphis Lift 


The Memphis Lift is a movement by and for parents (and grandparents) whose children attend or are zoned for chronically low-performing schools. Founded in June 2015, The Memphis Lift network has grown to become a passionate group of over 1,000 volunteer parents, grandparents and concerned family members and community members who feel their children have been underserved in failing schools and their voices and concerns have not been heard. The Memphis Lift is a parents’ movement to build widespread awareness of the criminal manner in which many Memphis school students are underserved; and to build widespread demand for high quality schools and radical changes in public education to disrupt systemic educational inequities through choice and healthy competition. We are insisting that our voices and concerns are heard and that changes are made.

We appreciate all you do for parents and children in Shelby County.

Best regards,

Teresena Medlock

Director of Special Education

The Memphis Lift Parent Institute

1637 Britton St.

Memphis, TN 38108


Office: 901.276.0850

Cell: 901-850-4941