VOL. 110 | NO. 7 | Wednesday, January 10, 1996
1/10 jts County Commission
Commission puts off debate on school districts
By JAMES SNYDER
The Daily News
The Shelby County Commission Monday postponed, at the request of the sponsors, a vote on resolutions that would pave the path for a change in the city and county school systems.
Instead, commissioners decided to continue debate in their education and legislative committees on Friday, inviting parties to the matter to reach a compromise on several controversial issues.
While the commissioners agree the county school district must be split to conform to laws requiring popular representation on the county school board, they disagree over whether the county schools should be broken up into two or more new districts and how.
Both sides agree the subject needs examination. Depending on how the district is split, county money to city schools could be cut while newer districts raise their own revenue through independent taxation.
Commission Chairman Julian Bolton argued that the commission is leaning toward a two-district split, which he said would give rise to de facto segregated county schools. His resolution to split the district into more entities also was pulled from a vote.
Any plan to split the county school district still has a way to go. The state must approve of the redistricting plan. Four of the five items were requests that the Shelby County delegation to the Tennessee legislature introduce bills that would allow special redistricting in Shelby County.
The commission also addressed conditions at the county Community Services Agency caused by the federal budget debate.
Commissioners accepted $2.4 million from the state to fill a funding gap created by the debate over the federal budget. Due to the budget impasse, the Community Services Agency had only six months of funding from block grants, said Peggy Edminston, director of the county division of community services. The state decided not to wait any longer for the debate to resolve itself and fulfilled the funding for some programs.
The commission also authorized spending $1 million for capital improvement projects in the county, including acquiring land for a school in Cordova, said commissioner Cleo Kirk.
The county and city governments must determine whether the school will be run by the Memphis or Shelby County school districts. Commissioners also approved a charter to create Shelby County Head Start Inc., a non-profit corporation to administer federal funds for Head Start, an early-age education program.
With a county program, Edminston said, Head Start will have greater visibility and a better ability to raise money, which is doubled by federal matching funds.
"Head Start is really a critical program," said Edminston. "The earlier you can help children, the better off you are."
The commission held a second reading on an item proposing rezoning in Cordova. The rezoning would allow the creation of close-knit commercial and residential communities that would encourage foot traffic and neighborhood commerce, said commissioner Mark Norris.
The proposal, which should reach a final vote in two weeks, follows a trend loosely known as New Urbanism that breaks away from typical suburban community design.