VOL. 126 | NO. 243 | Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Jones Talks Court Challenge Depending on School Sale Terms
By Bill Dries
A move by countywide school board member Martavius Jones to set ground rules for any transfer of school buildings to a suburban school district ended abruptly Tuesday, Dec. 13, as Jones pulled the resolution at a school board work session.
But it is hardly the end of the discussion about what would happen should Shelby County’s suburban municipalities all together or in some combination seek to establish a school district separate from the soon to be consolidated countywide school system.
Jones has proposed a resolution that would have had both superintendents work with their staffs to come up with a policy recommendation on the terms for selling or giving school buildings to such a school district.
“I don’t know exactly what the Tennessee General Assembly will do in Nashville,” Jones said referring to talk of some legislative action on the transfer of school property. “Let’s say the General Assembly says that the unified school district is required to deed over properties that are located in the municipalities to that municipal school district. That does not prevent me as an individual citizen from being a part of a class of Memphians who could contest that as private citizens … in a court of law.”
All six suburban towns and cities in Shelby County outside Memphis have hired the same consulting firm to advise them on options for creating a separate school system. The reports from the consultants are due next month.
The cost of school buildings and the resulting debt their purchase at market value might create for a suburban city or combination of cities is expected to be a critical factor in any decision.
Arlington leaders formed a political action committee this fall with a goal of affecting legislative races on the 2012 ballot and to lobby in Nashville.
Under terms of the Norris-Todd law governing the consolidation of Shelby County’s two public school systems, a move toward special school district or municipal school district status could not begin until the August 2013 merger of the two school systems. It would require specific approval from the Tennessee legislature.
The two school systems remain separate until the start of the 2013-2014 school year, although a single countywide school board took office in October. The board oversees the two school systems which are run for now by two separate superintendents and staffs.
Jones said his decision is not an attempt to stand down in hopes the suburban leaders and legislators will not pursue their options.
“I’m not naïve,” he said when asked about the possibility.
“There’s no law right now,” he added. “I think the General Assembly would start with a blank slate and they could craft it however they would want it to look.”