City and suburban interests have a chance to put a divisive issue behind them.

Commercial Appeal
August 10, 2011

Parties to the lawsuit that challenged the consolidation of Memphis and Shelby County public schools could provide attorneys with years of work challenging various aspects of U.S. District Judge Samuel “Hardy” Mays’ ruling in the case.

Shelby County Schools could continue to search for a way to avoid consolidation. Memphis City Schools could challenge the makeup of the transition committee.

Or they could be responsible stewards of public resources and get moving on an ambitious effort to build the best public school district in the state.

Schools debate. Those are among the choices before MCS, SCS and other entities with stakes in a merger that, if Mays’ ruling stands, will be complete in the fall of 2013.

The ruling is a fair, even-handed and practical adjudication of the issues over which the merger proposal has been fought. It sets into motion a process that could, if the parties cooperate, unify the entire county behind the education of Memphis and suburban schoolchildren on an equal basis.

If the ruling stands, teachers’ rights will be protected and a new unified school board will include equal representation throughout Shelby County. Memphis City Schools will cease operation, complying with the board’s vote to surrender its charter in December and subsequent ratifications by the Memphis City Council and the city’s voters.

If the ruling stands, consolidation will be accomplished in a deliberate process set out in a new state law sponsored by state Sen. Mark Norris and state Rep. Curry Todd, Collierville Republicans.

Appeals, on the other hand, could delay the process for years and at great cost to the public and great cost to public schoolchildren throughout Memphis and Shelby County, accomplishing nothing of value.

Efforts to amend or negate the decision altogether would only accentuate divisions that have hampered the community’s progress in public education and economic development.

The economic and cultural success of Memphis and Shelby County depend to a great extent on the ability to raise educational achievement across the length and breadth of the community. A clear path to that goal exists, if only we will take it.

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