Group Heads to Nashville to Push for School Merger
(Memphis) A group of concerned parents, teachers and students are heading to Nashville Tuesday to rally against new bills that would allow suburban school districts.
The group is representing Stand for Children, a grassroots organization that has long been an advocate of consolidating schools in Shelby County.
Stand for Children met with representatives from Shelby County, attended a meeting of the house committee on education, and even met with lawmakers across the state.
Jaclyn Suffel, the manager of curriculum, training and development for Stand for Children in Memphis, used to be a teacher at Craigmont High School.
Referring to Knox, Davidson and Hamilton counties, she said, “We’re really seeking to find allies in other counties and also trying to spread the word about these bills and seeing where our legislators stand.”
Suffel said the group opposes allowing municipal and special districts. They’re concerned particularly about the latter, which would create a taxing authority keeping tax dollars only within those boundaries.
“The county residents would no longer be paying into the bigger picture, and that would seriously defund Memphis City Schools since the majority of our property taxes come from the county,” Suffel said.
Rep. Ron Lollar (R – Shelby County) said, “That is a concern, but it’s just not a valid concern.”
He said that by law, a school cannot be funded less than it was the previous year.
Lollar said, “This is not about Memphis. This is about cities in Shelby County, that would like to have the concept of neighborhood schools.”
Suffel countered that by saying the Transition Planning Commission has allowed for “sub-districts” to give each region a level of autonomy over its schools.
After a meeting with Sen. Brian Kelsey (R – Germantown), Suffel said that Kelsey supports municipal and special school districts, but indicated he may not support giving a special district taxing authority.
Other education bills include raising the cap on the number of school districts allowed per county.
The bill proposes allowing seven districts instead of six, for a county of at least 25,000 people. Such a change would allow every suburb in Shelby County to form its own district.