June 27, 2012

(Memphis) The Shelby County Commission filed a petition Tuesday to stop six suburbs from forming their own school districts.

The action comes with absentee voting already underway for the August elections.

Commissioners say the municipal school districts are unconstitutional and would lead to re-segregation, but opponents of the commissioners say the suit is all about money and power.

Senator Mark Norris, who helped craft the bill to lift a 14-year statewide ban on new municipal schools, says this lawsuit is not about eduction, it’s about consolidation.

Norris says just like the city voters who had the chance to vote on the school merger, those living in the six suburbs should have the chance to vote on forming their own school districts.

The petition, filed in federal court, claims the measure allowing the municipal districts was passed just for Shelby County and violates the state constitution.

County commissioners say the merger is also racially motivated since most of the suburbs are majority white.

Senator Norris disagrees, “The feasibility studies, the statistics all show very clearly that these communities have greater diversity. The schools that are being put to a vote would be more diverse than Memphis City Schools.”

Shelby Commissioners say the suburban schools would also have an advantage because they would be receiving county and state funds, but Senator Norris say those schools would also have to raise their own tax rates, along with county tax rates to support the schools.

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