By Kontji Anthony,
January 11, 2011

NASHVILLE, TN – Tennessee State Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris is preparing to join the Memphis City Schools charter surrender fight.

Norris has written a draft of legislation that could stop Memphis schools from surrendering its charter if Shelby County residents are not included in the vote. The bill will be filed sometime this week.

If it’s passed before Memphis voters approve the charter surrender, efforts to merge the school systems would slow to a crawl.

“Unification without unity is not unification at all,” Norris said. “It’s more akin to a hostile takeover. I haven’t said that is what we have here, but if people are talking about unifying the systems, and they don’t have unity in doing so, they’re not achieving their objective.”

In this case, Norris said, size matters.

“This would be the first time that a smaller system is being taken over by a system that’s more than twice as large,” he said.

Norris’ amendment says any school system transfer that would increase student enrollment by 100 percent or more, should fall under consolidation.

“What that is is a consolidation of systems,” he said.

Under consolidation rules, suburban residents would be allowed to vote on the matter.

“At the end of the day, they do call for a countywide vote,” Norris said. “That’s already the law, is what I’m saying.”

And the consolidation process could take five years or more.

“There’s a whole section of Tennessee Code, about ten pages, that sets forth the procedures,” Norris said.

Under consolidation rules, a planning commission would have up to two years to conduct a study, and they could conclude consolidation is not the way to go.

A new commission could be formed if they don’t come up with a conclusion.

Norris’ amendment would have to be approved before the Memphis charter surrender vote. It’s unclear if it can move through the Legislature than fast.


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