Norris bill passes Tennessee Senate

On February 7, 2011, in News 2011, by Mark Norris
February 7, 2011

NASHVILLE, TN (WMC-TV) – The Tennessee Senate passed a bill Monday night that would control the timeline for the Memphis City Schools charter surrender.

Senate Majority leader Mark Norris, an east Shelby County Republican, sponsored the bill, which would delay a merger between Memphis and Shelby County Schools. The bill would take two and a half years to provide an orderly transition to combine the districts – if Memphis voters approve the MCS charter surrender.

The bill passed in the Senate in a 20 to 10 vote, along party lines. It needed 17 votes to pass.

Before the vote some Democrats argued the state should stay out of it.

“They feel like they have that they are being treated very paternalistically by the state of Tennessee and by the members of this body,” State Senator Beverly Marrero, a Memphis Democrat said.

Norris said Mayor A C Wharton himself recommended not rushing the process, which he says is the purpose of his bill.

“He said rushing consolidation would divide city and county residents,” Norris said quoting Wharton. “He said, and I quote, ‘We cannot have a shotgun marriage of these school systems’.”

Norris said he felt relieved after the vote.

“I was able to accomplish the beginning of a process where the sides are going to have to work together,” Norris said.

Norris’s bill would create a unification education commission made up of 21 members, leaving some Democrats with concern that the commission would favor suburban voters. But Norris says that is not true, and that local elected leaders can appoint who they want.

The bill also allows special school districts to be created if Memphis voters approve the merger. Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle, a Memphis Democrat, says that could lead to tax hikes for Memphians.

“Tonight the state senate voted a property tax increase in Memphis Tennessee,” Kyle said.

That’s because, he says, if Special School Districts get taxing authority, they could take away county tax dollars from city schools.

A companion bill must still be approved by the Tennessee House.

The house convenes at 9:00 AM Thursday. The bill is expected to pass in the house.


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