The Week that Was 

On February 13, 2011, in Tennessee Schools, by Mark Norris

Early on the morning of Friday, February 11, Governor Haslam signed his first legislation into law – SB 25. 

SB25, which I sponsored along with Rep. Curry Todd, addresses what Tennessee Education Commissioner Patrick Smith identified as “an anomaly in the law.” The question is how to consolidate a large school system into one less than half its size in an orderly way which assures a unified and balanced county school system. The case arose out of Shelby County, but it could happen in several counties with special school districts across the state.

Those opposing an orderly transition in Memphis, one with a plan and a timetable, played the race card early. Sad. 

Others tried to make it look as though the legislation was an effort to abort the referendum scheduled on March 8. False. 

In the end, on the evening of Thursday, February 10, the truer motives of “opposition to order” became apparent. The Memphis City Council, which cut funding to the City Schools and now refuses to satisfy a $57 million judgment for its abdication, attempted to dissolve the City Schools. No referendum. No debate. No questions asked. Just kill it. 

Perhaps their rationale is that, if dissolved, the $57 million liability is dissolved with it. Could this entire charade have been designed to avoid the City’s legal liability? Was the City’s filing a certificate of the schools’ dissolution with the Secretary of State just hours after the new law went into effect an effort to defraud its creditors (in this case, 103,000 school children)? 

Only time will tell. In the meantime, here are a few links to resources which delve more deeply into this issue. 

To see the presentation and passage of the bill in the Senate:

http://tnga.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=196&clip_id=3492

(Scroll down the menu under the video box and select SB 25 – you will be taken directly to discussion on the bill) 

To see AC Wharton on January 4 requesting the legislation we just enacted: 

http://www.myfoxmemphis.com/dpp/news/education/010411-mayors-work-together-on-transition-for-possible-school-district-merger 

To see my interview with Ernie Freeman the day the bill became law:

http://www.myfoxmemphis.com/dpp/news/local/10pm/021111-exclusive%3A-senator-norris-on-school-merger-bill 

Read my Op-ed in the Daily News:

http://www.memphisdailynews.com/editorial/Article.aspx?id=56222 

Thanks to everyone who has offered kind words of encouragement and support since this ordeal began just before Christmas 2010.

Mark

Comments are closed.