Fight to redraw school district lines tabled

In addition to losing his battle to overturn Shelby County term limits, County Commissioner Walter Bailey lost a long-fought battle Wednesday to redraw school district lines. His hope was to reapportion the districts such that more African-Americans could vote in one district and - he'd hoped - elect a minority to the now all-white Shelby County school board.

Walter Bailey's push to have two SouthEast Shelby County school districts redrawn, to maximize minority voting in one, never got past the gate.

But it aggravated school board members like Ernest Chism, who would have been effected by a change. "It's everybody trying to get an edge and the people that are trying to help serve the kids of Shelby County get caught in the middle as the pawns," he said.

The whole debate was rushed this week, days before the filing deadline for school board positions, because of newly raised fears that the current school district map was illegal. But County attorneys said the map is fine and a majority of Commissioners voted to table the issue.

That means the fight is foiled and for Bailey, who may now be nearing the end of his career as an elected official, it means he won't have another chance. "I had hoped that we would have seized the opportunity today to do all we could to maximize the potential of a black being elected to the county school board. We're in dire need of that," Bailey said.

Other Commissioners say that's up to the voters, not the lawmakers.

"There has been an African-American on the county school board in the past. There's not now. The voters made that determination. So I certainly don't have any issue with that happening, but I'm not sure we should gerrymander a district to make it happen," said Commissioner Bruce Thompson.

And - at least this year - they won't.

The filing deadline for school board positions is next week.