Backup plan developed in case municipal school vote is reversed

(WMC-TV) – Shelby County early voting is open and referendums for municipal school districts are on the ballot.

But even though the vote is going forward, the decision could be ruled unconstitutional. Regardless of the outcome, the board planning the merger of Memphis and Shelby County Schools has a backup plan.

"The people of suburban Shelby County will finally have the opportunity to have their voice heard and their votes counted," said David Pickler, Transition Planning Commission.

But votes being cast in the coming weeks could be thrown out in the coming months.

A trial about the constitutionality of the municipal schools law will start September 4, while the trial on equal protection will begin November 6.

It will be months before we know whether those votes will count.

"As any good boy scout, you want to have that backup plan, you want to be prepared," said Pickler.

The board that is charged with composing an action plan for the merger of Memphis and Shelby County Schools anticipated the legal challenge to municipal school districts.

"We did put in place the multiple achievement path and as part of that there is a structure that's called the charter management organization," said Pickler.

Charter schools can be established in any part of the community with the approval of the school board.

"They could go to existing public schools and with a vote of 60 percent of the teachers or 60 percent of the parents in that particular school they could vote to convert to a charter school status," Pickler explained.

Pickler said charter schools are a good option whether municipal schools succeed or not. But, he admits charter school performance needs improving.

He says only 17 percent of charter schools nationwide actually out-perform their public education peer.

Charter schools could wind up generating revenue for the larger Shelby County School district.

The district could be a vendor to charter schools in services such as nutrition, transportation, special education.

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