Norris bill on school unification heads to State Senate - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Norris bill on school unification heads to State Senate

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By Anna Marie Hartman - bio | email

NASHVILLE, TN (WMC-TV) - A bill proposed by Tennessee State Senator Mark Norris that would set a three year transition period for the unification of Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools - if the MCS charter surrender is passed by voters - was approved Wednesday by a Senate Committee.

Under the bill's provisions, Memphis and Shelby County School districts would have to wait three years to merge, even if Memphis voters approve the Memphis City Schools charter surrender on March 8th.

During the three year period, a 21-member committee consisting of members appointed by both school boards and the mayor of Shelby County would work out a transition plan.

"Considered judgement is better than a rush to judgement," he said. "This has never been designed to veto the Memphis vote."

Norris revised a senate bill that would rewrite what's been ruled a vague provision in state law that allows Memphis City Schools to surrender its charter.  The new law would require an education commission to study the consolidation of schools and formulate a plan for a smooth transition.

Norris backed off a plan that would have required Shelby County voters to vote on the issue, but added a caveat that the state would lift the ban on forming a special school district, something the Shelby County School district has been seeking for years.   

Some committee members question why the state is meddling in a local issue. 

"It seems to me that I've listened for the last several years to people complaining about Washington controlling us, and here we are in Nashville trying to control Memphis," Sen. Andy Burke of Chattanooga said.

But the majority of the State Education Committee disagreed with Burke, and passed the bill 6 to 3.

Click here to read more about the bill.

Moments after the bill was passed by the committee, the Memphis City Council announced an emergency meeting, to be held Thursday afternoon, about the Memphis City Schools Charter Surrender vote.

At that meeting, the council will consider voting to make their endorsement of the Memphis City Schools Charter Surrender effective sooner than March 21st.  

The council voted in January, but pushed back the date when their vote would become effective to insure the citizens of Memphis could vote on the issue first. The move is an attempt to block any other legislative body from blocking the March 8th city of Memphis vote.

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