Wharton Riled Up on Passage of Norris Bill

On February 8, 2011, in News 2011, by Mark Norris

February 8, 2011

Memphis, Tn – “I never told Mark Norris I supported his bill,” Wharton stated.

Yet, it was a statement published 8 years ago, by then Shelby County Mayor, A C Wharton in explaining his opposition to rushing school consolidation, that Collierville Republican State Senator, Mark Norris, deftly unearthed to support passage of his controversial school merger transition plan on Monday.

“We cannot have a shotgun marriage of these school systems. He said such a marriage won’t work,” Norris quoted.

The Tennessee Senate’s 20 to 10 passage of Norris’ bill setting up a suburban dominated 21-member transition team to deal with the possible consolidation of city and county schools sent a number of messages back to Memphis loud and clear.

Not the least of which was neither the Democrats of the Shelby County legislative delegation nor Memphis Mayor A C Wharton pack any punch at all when it comes to influencing a Republican ruled General Assembly bent on dictating the guidelines for a merger. That includes denouncing the state law that has allowed for 94 counties to make their own self-determination as to their own school systems.

“No, No , No that doesn’t mean you. That law is somebody else. But, the law didn’t say that. The law said any system. And why is it when one system uses it why all of a sudden it’s gotta be corrected. If it should be corrected it should have been 15 years ago, 20 years ago. It simply runs afoul of the basic notions of fairness,” said Wharton.

But, the humiliation Wharton endured even though he wasn’t there continued when Norris cited an 1890’s law on the books that appears to disqualify the Mayor of Memphis from appointing anyone to the school transfer transition team. It concerns the city’s on again off again funding for a designated special school district established in 1881.

“They do provide supplemental funding or they used to before they quit. But, they’re not a municipality operating a special district. Therefore the Mayor of that municipality does not have that standing,” said Norris.

“Unless those on the planning commission work in earnest and in good faith to come up with the best plan they can there maybe other alternatives,” Norris went on to say.

Wharton understands what he’s up against, “I’m not going to cower just because we’re up against some odds. But, you have to be honest with and we are up against some formidable odds here.”


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