School funding crisis headed to court - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Andrew Douglas

School funding crisis headed to court

The funding crisis at Memphis City Schools is headed to court.

Late Wednesday evening, Action News 5 learned the school board filed a lawsuit against the city.

"The city of Memphis is obligated to fund us at a level that meets the maintenance of effort test as set for by the state," MCS attorney Dorsey Hopson said.

In a petition filed Wednesday, Memphis City Schools states: "The Charter of the City of Memphis, as well as the State of Tennessee, obligate the City of Memphis to approve a budget that represents a maintenance of effort."

That maintenance of effort means the same funding as last year's budget, $93 million, which is $73 million more than this year's budget.

"I don't make the facts, and lawsuits are decided on facts on the law and I feel good that the facts are on our side," city council attorney Allan Wade said.

Wade insisted there is nothing in the charter that obligates the city to fund the school system, so any "maintenance of effort" would be against the city charter.

"The lawsuit should not be against us. It should be against the state of Tennessee because we believe they do not have any authority to withhold money from the school district," Wade said.

The lawsuit came less than 24 hours after the city council and school board members discussed a compromise.

"Hopefully we'll have something formal to announce real soon," city council member Harold Collins said.

"I'm very hopeful, of course I am... it buys us additional time," Stephanie Gatewood said.

But it seems that was just talk. Now there is a petition in court filed with an injunction hearing set for later this month.

Governor Phil Bredesen, who was in Memphis Wednesday, weighed in on the issue. "What the city council did was a clear backing away from their responsibilities to fund schools."

Action News 5 will follow how this issue plays out in court with the injunction hearing set for the morning of June 26.

Click here to e-mail Andrew Douglas.

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