By Lori Brown,
January 12, 2011

MEMPHIS, TN – Tennessee Governor-Elect Bill Haslam received a science lesson Wednesday at the Memphis Bioworks Foundation. Then, he was in the hot seat with a type of science question of his own:

Should Memphis City Schools dissolve into Shelby County Schools?

“The issue ultimately is a local issue, and will be voted on locally,” Haslam said. “The second question is, who votes locally? I think ultimately the courts will make that decision.”

“My part is to say, it does matter that we get a great education for every child,” he added.

The former mayor of Knoxville, Haslam said you cannot compare this forced consolidation attempt to what happened there in 1987,

“The situation and atmosphere was so different I don’t know that there are a lot of lessons that can be applied,” he said.

If Memphis City Schools dissolves into Shelby County Schools, the combined district would become the 14th-largest school district in the nation. It would be, by far, the largest school district in Tennessee.

“This is one of the reasons its different than Knoxville and Chattanooga,” he said. “This is a situation where you’re having a much larger district folded into a much smaller district.”

Haslam said an attention to detail will be important.

“Size can be good or bad. It’s true in companies – large companies are not necessarily good or bad. They can be more efficient and more effective. With that, you have to be careful of this, that you don’t loose that individual representation at every level,” he said.

Senator Mark Norris will introduce a bill this week that could stop the forced consolidation. His bill would require Shelby County residents to be included in the vote.

Haslam said he wants to see how the discussion unfolds before he weighs in on the bill.


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