VOL. 125 | NO. 227 | Monday, November 22, 2010
MCS Officials Discuss Charter Surrender Options
By Bill Dries
County government’s IT discussion isn’t the only evidence of an afterlife for other forms of consolidation in the wake of the Nov. 2 consolidation referendum.
Memphis City Schools board member Tomeka Hart advocated a surrender of the MCS charter Thursday as school system leaders discussed a response to coming state legislation that would permit the county school system to get special school district status.
Such status has been a long-held political goal of the Shelby County school board, with legislation proposed each session of the Tennessee legislature for the last decade.
The goal is to effectively rule out consolidation of the two public school systems in Shelby County.
Hart said Thursday she favors a quick move to the ballot for a referendum on a city school charter surrender to checkmate the special school district legislation. Such a referendum would require a vote by the Memphis school board and a referendum of city voters.
Hart reacted viscerally to data from the University of Memphis showing special school district status for county schools with taxing authority would create two education taxing districts – one for each school system – with no overlap and no three-to-one funding based on average daily attendance of each school system that favors the larger MCS.
The result, according to the 2008 study, would be higher taxes within Memphis to provide the same level of funding for city schools from a smaller tax base.
Shelby County government is now the major local funder of Memphis schools and the only local funder of the county school system.
“I reject all contention that somehow the whole issue is we just need to talk to Shelby County schools,” Hart said. “I’m really sick and tired of people acting like there is something else going on other than what is going on.”
Fellow board member Jeff Warren, however, advocated just that – more talks and discussion. He also questioned what surrendering the charter would accomplish for either school system.
“Politically, I don’t think we can pull option three in time,” he said, referring to the consolidation gambit that Memphis City Council member Shea Flinn referred to as a “nuclear option.”
The Shelby County legislative delegation to Nashville is split on special school districts legislation and includes the most vocal proponents and opponents of the concept.