Tennessee AG says residents outside Memphis cannot vote on charter surrender

By Kontji Anthony - bio | email | Facebook

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - A storm of another kind is surfacing in the fight to surrender the Memphis City Schools charter. Tennessee's Attorney General, Robert Cooper, released a new legal opinion Monday on the heels of a report by the Shelby County attorney.

Cooper's opinion supercedes all other city, county and state decisions thus far, and says anyone who lives outside of Memphis cannot vote on the charter surrender.

Last month, the Shelby County Election Commission asked Tennessee Election Coordinator Mark Goin to answer that question, but Cooper's opinion came first.  Right now, the vote is stalled because Goin said the Memphis City Council must approve the referendum before the people can vote on it.

The opinion issued by Cooper on Monday restates the law that an election can be scheduled by petition of 25 voters.     

One group has already filed a petition.

Earlier, Shelby County Attorney Kelly Raynes released an opinion that lays out the repercussions of a Shelby County Special School District versus a Memphis City Schools charter surrender.  The opinion shows why the timeline is critical in the Memphis City Schools charter surrender fight.

The opinion says if Shelby County Schools becomes a special school district before the city schools charter is surrendered, the school systems remain separate.  The county would take over city schools and the special district would have its own, separate board and boundaries.

The county attorney's opinion conflicts with the Tennessee Election Coordinator Mark Goin's opinion that prevented the Election Commission from setting a date for Memphis citizens to vote.

Goin said the charter surrender must be approved by the Memphis School Board, the Memphis City Council and citizens, but the county attorney's legal opinion says either the Memphis school board and citizens vote, or the Memphis school board and City Council vote. But, not all three.

According to the opinion, even if Shelby County Schools agrees to hold off the special school district, the Tennessee State Legislature can create the special school district, and they don't need the majority of votes from local lawmakers.

Sunday night's snowfall, and subsequent cancellations, delayed Monday's district line redrawing until Wednesday, and the Chancery Court closure delayed a new lawsuit over the Election Commission hold-up.

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