D-Day Monday For School Merger Plan

On February 4, 2011, in News 2011, by Mark Norris

Mike “The Watchdog” Matthews, WREG.com
February 4, 2011


• TN State Senate votes Monday on plan for transition if Memphis voters approve city/county school merger
• TN House of Representatives scheduled for Thursday vote
• Memphis City Council delays voting on surrendering charter which could force merger without vote

(Memphis 2/4/2011) The day is Monday. The Tennessee State Senate is scheduled to vote on a plan that goes into effect if Memphis voters decide they want Shelby County to run their schools.

Sponsored by Sen. Mark Norris (R-Collierville) the plan would set up a transition team of twenty one people who would have three years to work out merging both systems into one.

Watching this will be members of the Memphis City Council, who have a plan that, if needed, could end the Memphis City Schools in the snap of a finger.

Memphis City Council members could vote to surrender the charter.

If they do, it’s over. There wouldn’t be a need for a referendum vote, even though they say not only will there be a vote, they’ll abide by whatever voters decide.

The council plan is their bargaining chip.

In fact, Memphis City Councilman Shea Flinn says it’s their only real bargaining chip. Flinn thinks a deal can be worked out with members of the General Assembly. “I had the good fortune to serve in Nashville on a temporary basis for three months,” he said. “I know Senator Norris and I believe him to be a very honorable man.” Flinn says when Norris decided not to fight the referendum, or demand county voters be involved, it was a major concession. Still, he will follow Monday’s motions. “You have Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) saying he was going to block the vote. You have Senator (Brian) Kelsey (R-Germantown) introducing legislation. There could be other Senators or members of the House who could put in some impediments that impair the rights of Memphians.”

Former Memphis City Council Chairman Harold Collins hopes there’s a compromise. “I am optimistic for my colleagues,” he says. Collins, however, doesn’t think there’s any chance that legislators in Nashville will compromise. He wanted the city council to immediately surrender the charter and put the merger wheels in motion. “We have seen how members of the General Assembly feel about Memphis and its citizens,” Collins said. “I think citizens need to take stock in that. And they need to recognize that we have potentially fewer friends in Nashville than we thought we had.”

The Senate will be gaveled into session on Monday afternoon.

The schools issue is expected to be brought up for a vote early Monday evening.

The House of Representatives will take up identical legislation Thursday afternoon.

If approved, Governor Bill Haslam has promised Memphis officials he won’t sign anything until he gets their opinions.


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