Charter Surrender Showdown: Norris Bill Moving Ahead

On February 2, 2011, in News 2011, by Mark Norris
February 1, 2011


• Norris crafting bill that will go before committee Wednesday
• Bill calls for roadmap, county wide vote
• Opponents say Norris is not being transparent

MEMPHIS 02/01/2011) — One state lawmaker is getting an awful lot of attention this week. State Senator Mark Norris is crafting a bill he says would provide a roadmap if Memphis votes to transfer the administration of the Memphis City Schools to the Shelby County Board of Education.

If the roadmap in his bill is followed, it would end with a county wide, single majority vote.

The Norris Bill is scheduled to go before the Education Committee on Wednesday at 1:30 in the afternoon. Many of his colleagues expect the bill to come to the floor for a vote on Monday. Even those against the bill concede, stopping it would be like jumping in front of a speeding train because of the new Republican majority.

Shelby County Legislative Delegation Chairwoman Senator Beverly Marrero called a special meeting Tuesday. She invited the entire delegation, including Norris. None of the delegation’s Republican members attended the meeting which was held at Memphis City Hall.

Senator Marrero says she wanted Norris to come and talk to the delegation and explain the bill. Norris says he couldn’t attend because he was in Ripley speaking to the Rotary club.

Some politicians who did attend, say Norris is showing a lack of transparency as he crafts the bill. “We should all be privy to what’s being planned at least 24 hours in advance,” said Memphis City Council Chairman Myron Lowery. He was one of many local politicians in attendance.

Senator Marrero says she was given the impression Norris would brief the entire delegation before the bill went to committee, but now says it’s clear that won’t happen. “Normally you get amendments a day or two ahead of time,” Marrero said. “These have been the most closely held amendments in the history of the Tennessee Legislature to the best of my knowledge.”

Those who support the charter surrender wish there was some way to put the brakes on the Norris Bill. But Norris says if anything needs to slow down, it’s the speed at which surrender supporters are moving forward. He argues there isn’t a proper plan in place. According to the bill’s summary, it “prescribes certain procedures to govern the abolition of certain special school districts.” In other words it “prescribes” the aforementioned roadmap.

But Shelby County Commissioner Steve Mullroy argues the roadmap is more of a set of roadblocks. “They (the roadblocks) have never applied to any other city throughout Tennesse’s history,” Mullroy says. “You have to ask why is Memphis so different, why should the rules be different for Memphis.”


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