VOL. 7 | NO. 5 | Saturday, January 25, 2014
A story from The Memphis News
On newsstands throughout the city
Editorial: Don’t Rush Setting New District Lines
The Shelby County Commission is working on district lines for the Shelby County Schools board again.
For those who haven’t been keeping up, and even those who have, what was a 23-member school board as of October 2011 slimmed down to a seven-member school board last year.
But the county commission had plans to plump it back up to 13 members and appoint all six new members a year before the six seats could go on the ballot for voters to select the new board members.
Its reasoning included a desire to make the school board the same size as the commission – which goes to 13 single-member districts with the 2014 elections – using the same district lines for both bodies.
But the map of district lines for a 13-member school board wasn’t an exact match of the map for the 13 county commission districts. The commission made some district changes because heaven forbid any incumbent should be drawn into the district of another incumbent.
U.S. District Judge Samuel “Hardy” Mays said commissioners could expand the school board to up to 13 members. But he never said they could appoint the six new members. He ruled the six new positions would be filled by voters in the 2014 elections.
Yet before voters can make those decisions, this is too much for commissioners to resist tinkering with.
County commissioners have the maps out again and are talking about another set of district lines. This time nine school board districts are on the map and the districts would cover only the city of Memphis and the unincorporated county that would make up the Shelby County Schools system once the six suburban school systems are up and running and the demerger is complete.
And some of the school board districts are not contiguous.
The county commission would vote on this plan after the start of the filing season is already underway for candidates in the 13 school board races currently scheduled to go on the Aug. 7 ballot. Several candidates have already pulled their qualifying petitions in the school board races.
The political will of suburban leaders is to have these school districts up and open for classes come August.
But what if they don’t? It’s a possibility Shelby County Schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson has considered and is planning for.
A case could be made that the Shelby County Schools board should remain a body with districts that cover all of Shelby County. But we concede an argument could also be made that the legacy Shelby County Schools board did not include the city of Memphis in its districts in a controversy that went to court and was decided there.
At the least, we think any call is premature until suburban leaders know for certain if their respective school systems will open to students in August.
Hands off the school board at least until then.