City Council passes resolution that approves charter surrender - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

City Council passes resolution that approves surrender of MCS charter

By Janice Broach - bio | email | Facebook

and Jason Miles - bio | email | Facebook

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - The Memphis City Council passed a resolution Thursday evening to approve the surrender of the Memphis City Schools charter.

Council members acted quickly Thursday after the Tennessee House of Representatives approved a bill that would have delayed the charter surrender - if approved by Memphis voters - for up to three years.

That bill, which was approved Monday by the Tennessee Senate, is waiting on Governor Bill Haslam's signature to become law.  It would also allow the creation of special school districts in Shelby County.

What happens next is uncertain.  According to a 1961 private act, the council's vote Thursday effectively dissolves Memphis City Schools, without the need for a public referendum.

But others argue that state law guiding the referendum holds more power than the private act, and that the surrender must be approved by Memphis voters.

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton said he believes lawsuits are likely.

"There a likelihood that there will be questions as to whether that entity now known as the Memphis City School system, by way of its board, really has any authority to act," Wharton said. "We don't know which way that will be decided.  My legal teaching tells me that they're out of existence."

Parents and children sat before the council, holding signs urging them to vote to surrender the Memphis City Schools charter.

"You need to take action and surrender the charter," said parent Martha Burkehead.

City Council members said they wanted the March 8 referendum to go forward, and could rescind Thursday's decision if voters fail to approve the charter surrender.

After its charter is surrendered - if it is surrendered - Memphis City Schools would still exist, according to Council attorney Allan Wade.  But at that point, the district would only exist for the purpose of transferring itself and its assets to Shelby County Schools.

Meanwhile, Shelby County School Board Chairman David Pickler said Thursday he was not surprised by the council's vote.

Pickler said he has grave concerns about the legality of the council's decision, but fully expected the body's response following legislative actions in Nashville to possibly delay a school merger.

Pickler said it seems the council is trying to have it both ways.

"On one hand, we heard them say this needs to be about self-determination," said Pickler.  "Give it to the people of Memphis to be heard on this matter.  Then today, they say we're going to go ahead and have a vote and make the decision for you, and go ahead and vote to surrender."

Pickler said his board could call a meeting with their attorney as soon as Friday in order to take an appropriate action.

Pickler believes Tennessee state law trumps any decision by the Memphis City Council and does not anticipate Thursday's vote will stick.

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