VOL. 126 | NO. 49 | Friday, March 11, 2011
Ramsey: State Should Run Failing Memphis Schools
LUCAS L. JOHNSON II | Associated Press
NASHVILLE (AP) – Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey said Thursday that the state should consider taking over failing schools in Memphis and possibly in Nashville.
The Blountville Republican told reporters that the Memphis City Schools system is not being run efficiently and that certain schools should be taken over before a proposed merger.
He said he discovered that "there are more people that work for the Memphis City School system that don't teach than do teach," and that "the school system owns over 500 automobiles."
"That just shows the inefficiency of that school system and that the money is not necessarily going to put better teachers in classrooms but seems to be just to employ people," he said.
Earlier this week, voters in Memphis chose to dissolve the city schools system and hand over control to the county. A state law is in place to delay a merger for up to three years.
During that time, Ramsey said, he'd like to explore taking over those schools that are failing. And if the takeover is successful, "then we may move to Davidson County."
However, he added that the schools in Nashville seem to be trying to improve.
"In Davidson County, they seem to have a plan to at least start turning that around," Ramsey said. "Memphis City Schools system voted to go out of the school business."
Martavius Jones, a Memphis City Schools board member who has been one of the leaders of the merger effort, took issue with Ramsey's characterization of the city schools. He said a school system the size of Memphis' – which has 103,000 students – is operated differently from a rural system.
"The way that you would operate a school system of that size is in stark contrast to a school system the size of Memphis city schools," Jones said.
Ramsey's comments came after the Senate voted almost along party lines for a proposal that would make it more difficult for teachers to get – and keep – tenure.
The legislation by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam passed the Senate 21-12. Sen. Douglas Henry of Nashville was the only Democrat who voted for the measure.
Haslam spokesman David Smith issued a statement after the vote that the governor wants to be clear that "this is not a partisan issue."
Earlier this week, Haslam urged lawmakers to tone down their rhetoric as they prepare to take up the education proposals, saying he's been disturbed by the level of discourse at the Capitol in recent few weeks.
"There has been more of a partisan divide, which I don't think is healthy for solving problems," he said.
When asked about the governor's comments, Ramsey said Thursday: "There's always going to be some partisan barbs thrown back and forth. That's part of the legislative process."
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