Attorney general's opinion unlikely to stop suburban schools - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

AG's opinion unlikely to stop suburban school districts

It appeared that an effort by the Shelby County suburbs to create their own municipal school districts hit a speed bump Tuesday, but now it appears unlikely that a recent opinion by the attorney general will derail lawmakers' plans. It appeared that an effort by the Shelby County suburbs to create their own municipal school districts hit a speed bump Tuesday, but now it appears unlikely that a recent opinion by the attorney general will derail lawmakers' plans.

(WMC-TV) – It appeared that an effort by the Shelby County suburbs to create their own municipal school districts hit a speed bump Tuesday.

That's when the state attorney general released an opinion that the suburbs would have to wait until after the merger of Memphis and Shelby County Schools to create their own schools.

But now it seems the AG's opinion will have little to no impact on an effort by lawmakers to fast-track a bill that would lift the ban on forming special school districts.

University of Memphis Law Professor Daniel Kiel is also a member of the Memphis and Shelby County Schools merger Transition Planning Commission.

He says the AG's opinion isn't a court ruling.

So Sen. Mark Norris, of Collierville, has the power to move forward with a bill to allow Shelby County suburbs to form their own school districts by January 1.

"It's always within the purview of the state legislature to change laws," said Kiel.

If the state legislature passes the bill, it will prevent the Memphis and Shelby County Schools merger which doesn't take effect until August 2013.

And Kiel says the attorney general's opinion isn't likely to stop lawmakers.

"The attorney general gave us his best interpretation of what that statute stands for," he said. "That's different than a judge saying it. A judge has binding precedent."

That means the AG's opinion and the bill aren't headed for a collision course because the opinion cannot prevent the bill from passing.

"The attorney general's opinion is about the law as it's currently written and the bill that's sort of working its way through to eliminate the restriction on municipal school districts is about changing the law as it currently is."

But Keil also says the opinion could eventually have a little bite because an AG opinion establishes the state's position on the matter.

"It's the state's opinion, and to the extent that it affects the State Elections Department, it could have some fairly persuasive effects," he said.

If passed, Norris' bill could clear the way for the five municipalities to vote whether or not to raise taxes to fund their own schools.

The state senate approved the bill, but it must get through three more committees before a final vote on the house floor.

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