Haslam, Norris Talk Schools amid Grant News

On March 18, 2011, in News 2011, by Mark Norris

March 17, 2011

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Tennessee Senator Mark Norris of Collierville had words of advice for the Shelby County Commission. Also, some reassurance was offered from Governor Bill Haslam on keeping the local school districts local.

The County Commission wants to appoint a new school board, which is in direct conflict with the new law passed that was sponsored by Senator Norris.

Meanwhile, Governor Haslam said he wants to help with what’s going on in education here, but still stay out of it.

In Brief:
-Haslam, Norris in town to announce $10M grant to Memphis Research Consortium
-Talks quickly diverted to school consolidation
-Norris downs Shelby County Commission for creating school board, contrary to state law
-Haslam denies state takeover of Memphis City Schools

Good News, But Let’s Talk About Schools

State Senator Mark Norris sat with Governor Bill Haslam to announce a $10 million research grant for the Memphis Research Consortium, a group of collegiate-level educators, hospitals, and foundations.

But it was local public education on everyone’s minds; namely, how the Shelby County Commission is trying to make its mark.

“I encourage them to come along with us, join arms and move forward,” Norris said. “They’re wasting their time.”

Senator Mark Norris’ bill, which is now law, contradicts the county’s creation of a new Shelby County School Board to prepare for Memphis City Schools joining with Shelby County. First with 25 members, now a new plan has emerged for seven newly appointed members.

“Quit wallowing in the past, we’re trying to do a lot of good things in education reform,” Norris told the county commission.

Governor Haslam said he’s here to help if needed, adding, “what happens in education in Shelby County and the city of Memphis is critical for the entire state.”

Haslam contradicted a comment made by Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey last week, who said the state should take over the struggling Memphis City Schools.

“The state of Tennessee is not anticipating taking over the Memphis City Schools,” Haslam stated.

Senator Norris said the Shelby County Commission has guaranteed an appearance in court. “At this point, given their behavior, only a judge can answer.”

Research Grant to Provide Jobs

While school consolidation was a hot topic with the lawmakers, it didn’t detract from the good news Haslam was in town to share.

The $10 million research grant was specifically earmarked in the Governor’s budget proposal unveiled earlier this week. It was one of the few items mentioned specifically in a budget full of cuts.

While Haslam said the state has $1.4 billion less to work with than last year because of federal cut backs, the grant will provide jobs and solve problems in West Tennessee.

“It means being able to bring in more people to do the cutting-edge research that’s happening right now in Memphis,” Haslam said of the grant.

Norris called the budget as a whole “responsible and refreshing, it’s really building on our strengths.”

Haslam’s budget is expected to pass easily in the Republican dominated legislature.


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