Wharton expresses disappointment in new school merger law - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Wharton expresses disappointment in new school merger law

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Mayor A C Wharton Mayor A C Wharton
MEMPHIS, TN -

By Anna Marie Hartman - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Memphis Mayor AC Wharton expressed his disappointment over Gov. Bill Haslam's signing of a state law that would delay the merger of Memphis and Shelby County Schools.  

"This bill was flawed from its inception," Wharton said. "It set out to change the rules in mid-game."
 
The stakes got higher Thursday on a competition between state and local government to take control over school consolidation . The Memphis City Council voted Thursday night to support a city schools charter surrender.  

So what happens next?
 
"If the voters tell us no, we have to go back to the job that we were doing," city school board commissioner Martavius Jones said.

Jones said the Memphis City Schools board can begin to wrap up its affairs after March 8th, if Memphis voters approve a city schools charter surrender referendum.  There's no time limit set on how long that will take.
 
"We can't instantly hand over a billion dollar operation to any other entity in a matter of days or months for that matter," Jones said.
 
Mayor Wharton will be the point person to work with the county school district in developing a smooth consolidation plan.  But with the state's bill signed into law before the Memphis vote, who will ultimately win this consolidation power struggle?
 
"As I've said, these are two trains trying to get to the same location, and the first one to get there first accomplishes the result," Memphis City Council attorney Allan Wade said.

Wade has confidence in the state law the school board used to surrender its charter - a law that's been on the books since 1961.
 
"But a judge would have to determine, 'Well can you change a law that has retroactive application,' Jones said. "All we're doing right now is making sure that we have enough ammunition for a legal challenge."
 
If the issue winds up in court some say the strongest argument will be the voice of the voters.  
 
"Governance by the people has always had a special place in Tennessee jurisprudence," Wade said.

Wharton said Friday he has plans to pursue legal action against the law Haslam signed into law Friday.

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