Lawmakers Debate What’s Behind School Merger Lawsuit
(Memphis) The Shelby County Commission fires the latest round in the school merger showdown. It decided in executive session to file suit Tuesday in Federal Court.
Commissioner Mike Ritz says a big part of it has to do with money, “We’re convinced it’s going to be a more expensive proposition to have municipal school districts for the county.”
But Commissioner Chris Thomas doesn’t buy Ritz’s claims. Thomas said, “In my opinion, Commissioner Ritz has made up a lot of numbers.”
The petition filed in court is to block the August 2nd elections.
Commissioner Walter Bailey says creating new school districts for the municipalities isn’t just about money, but racism, “I think you have some municipality politicians, whom I think quite frankly and it’s fairly obvious, that they appeal to bigotry.”
Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris of Collierville says race isn’t a factor, “They can say we’re living in the 60s. We have moved on and we think diversity is a good thing.”
Last year voters in Memphis gave approval to surrendering the Memphis City Schools charter. Norris says Memphis shouldn’t be complaining now.
Norris said, “The irony of this is the City of Memphis had a special district. They decided to abandon it and give up the ghost and dissolve it. That was their choice and their folks got to the vote on that and now the shoe is on the other foot.”
U.S. District Court Judge Samuel Mays weighed-in on whether Memphis City Schools was a special district and whether the Norris-Todd law outlining how the merger could proceed was valid, but the ruling is still leaving a community divided.
Bailey said, “You’ll have whites outside the City of Memphis attending their own schools primarily with a sprinkling of blacks and in the city of limits, you’ll have predominately black.”
Norris said, “Judge Mays ruled that it advances the public interest and it’s not special legislation and not unconstitutional and it applies to more than just Shelby County, perhaps even more in the future.”