Negotiations Halt Between Suburbs and County

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

(Memphis) - After months of negotiations the Shelby County municipalities and Shelby County just couldn’t  agree on a school plan. The talks started in November after a judge ruled the law allowing suburban school districts was unconstitutional. He said it singled out Shelby County.

So the mayors of Arlington, Collierville, Bartlett, Cordova, and Germantown asked the county if they could create charter schools.

The mayors said they didn’t get anywhere with negations so the talks stopped Friday.

"The commission was asking us to make decisions on things that really should be discussions between us and the school board," Bartlett Mayor Keith McDonald said.

County Commissioner Mike Ritz outlined a couple of the county's demands.

He said the county asked for 5 percent of each suburban school to be set aside for open enrollment, and if a suburb chose to add money to its system, the county wanted the city to  make a matching contribution to the unified system.

"What they call negotiating is giving into us,” McDonald said.”We're not going to do that."

But Ritz doesn't believe those details halted the talks.

“The county mayors while they were talking to us were working with the folks in Nashville to see if they could get the municipal school district law changed to make it legal,” Ritz said. "They found out this week maybe they can and therefore they didn't want to talk anymore.”

McDonald agreed that the suburbs are making headway in Nashville.

"We're getting favorable conversations with them no promises on anything, but I think that the legislature understands our need for local control and they are helping us with that," he said.

McDonald added that at one point the municipalities were allowed to create school districts but the Tennessee Legislature froze that in the late 1990’s.

“Nashville froze it and  Nashville has the right to open that back up. They can cry about that all they want to. That’s Nashville’s right,” McDonald said.

A federal judge still has to rule on whether or not the suburbs can have school districts based on a 2011 law. That case had been put on hold, while the county and the municipalities attempted to come up with an agreement.