Luttrell disagrees with Naifeh's fiery school comments - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Luttrell disagrees with Naifeh's fiery school comments

Shelby county Mayor Mark Luttrell. Shelby county Mayor Mark Luttrell.

(WMC-TV) – Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell is responding to an explosive comment made by a veteran Tennessee state representative about the school merger battle.

In last week's Education Subcommittee, Speaker Emeritus Jimmy Naifeh called the effort by county suburbs to avoid the merger with Memphis City Schools "segregation."

Naifeh's controversial comments came after Republican House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick moved to pass House Bill 3234. The bill allows municipalities to create their own school districts.

Naifeh said a vote would be inappropriate because McCormick did not bring the language of the bill to the House floor.

Naifeh then got fired up when the chairman responded that language wasn't necessary because the bill would simply delete the subsection of the law that prohibits municipalities from creating their own schools.

"Let me tell you something Mr. Chairman, you're the chairman of this committee," Naifeh fired back. "You make the decisions. I don't care what that staff is up there telling you."

Naifeh then condemned the bill along with other legislation that delayed the Memphis/Shelby County School merger.

"The only thing that they were doing with that bill was segregation… that's the only (thing) that this bill is dealing with is segregation."

"I think that was a bit strong," said Luttrell after hearing Naifeh's comments. "I don't think it's a fair statement. I do think it's a statement we hear often."

But Luttrell said area schools that are working to reinvent education should be supported and not impeded.

He said now is not the time for "emotional rhetoric."

"Race has been thrown into this. Urban/suburban interest has been thrown into this. Rural/urban has been thrown into it," he said. "Let's settle down. Let's keep our powder dry and let's keep our eye on the objective and that's educating our children."

In the end, the Education Subcommittee delayed the item.

The discussion is expected to resume Wednesday.

Click here to watch video of the subcommittee's meeting.

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