Herenton Sounds Off On Shelby County Schools

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(Memphis) Former Memphis mayor and superintendent of schools Willie Herenton says he is all about competition in education because it raises the bar for everyone and increases the quality of education.

He believes the absolute opposite of that is happening right now because of the merger.

“That was not in the best interest of education in this community to merge the two school districts,” said Herenton.

Herenton said he believes all the school drama associated with the merger could have been avoided, because he thinks the district should never have merged in the first place.

“I think strategically it was not a good decision for this community or the boys and girls that depend on us for quality education,” said Herenton.

Critics of Herenton claim he partially led to MCS giving up its charter, because as mayor, he inflated the district's budget so much it could not be sustained.

Herenton points the finger at the city council, saying if they had approved his 50-cent tax property hike, MCS would have been funded at the same rate, but instead they gave up the charter.

“They made some strategically wrong decisions and we are feeling the effects of those decisions today,” said Herenton.

In addition to opening his own charter schools to provide other options for parents and students, Herenton is also siding with the suburbs saying they should open their own school district because it's what's best for the kids.

“I think the suburbs have every right to want their own separate school districts. I think in the American democracy, choice ought to prevail. As long as they pay for it!” said Herenton.

Though Herenton vows the merger was a bad idea, now that Shelby Schools have opened, he says many of the problems they face - from transportation to payroll - are to be expected and he believes they will all work themselves out in time.