Memphis City Council approves MCS charter surrender

By Jason Miles - bio | email | Facebook and By Kontji Anthony - bio | email | Facebook

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - The Memphis City Council voted to approved the Memphis City Schools charter surrender effective March 21, 2011.

The final vote came without dissension after several council members expressed a similar opinion.

"If we want to dissolve our charter, that decision belongs to the citizens of Memphis," said Memphis City Councilwoman Wanda Halbert.

The council affirmed the Memphis City School Board's December 20 vote to surrender the district's charter, which was seen as a way to combat efforts by area lawmakers in Nashville to try and allow suburban voters to participate in the referendum.

Memphis City Councilman Shea Flinn said if Memphis voters are disenfranchised in the eyes of the council, forced consolidation could occur without the need for a public vote.

"If Nashville acts in accordance with the current legislation, this council can come back within 24 hours notice and end the discussion," said Flinn.

The discussion among council members included sharing the opinions of constituents, like those who wrote Councilman Jim Strickland.

"I think surrender should be done because MCS administration and school board are incompetent," Strickland read.

Councilwoman Janis Fullilove quoted another constituent concerned about the motives of consolidation opponents.

"Some of those white men in suits are missing nothing but the hoods on their heads," Fullilove read.

The new twist in the Memphis City Schools charter surrender fight occurred after a surprise resolution was proposed by Flinn Tuesday.

"A resolution sponsored by myself and Councilman Harold Collins that directs us to accept the surrender," said Flinn.

Flinn said the aim is to ensure only Memphis voters have a voice in the matter after efforts in Nashville to try and allow county voters to participate.

"That is not fair," said Flinn.  "It's giving a minority population the veto power over the majority and it is patently undemocratic.  We have means at our disposal by accepting this to prevent that from happening to our citizens."

The forced consolidation will be effective March 21, unless a referendum including Memphis voters only is held before then.

The resolution approved by the council includes a provision calling for a series of hearings to try and educate the public on the complicated issue.

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