Shelby County, Tenn., municipalities seeking their own school systems may face challenges

May 4, 2012
Suburbs don't want to be part of merged Memphis-Shelby County district

From The Memphis Commercial-Appeal: Those opposed to the creation of municipal school districts in Shelby County, Tenn., believe significant legal barriers remain even after the state legislature's passage of a bill designed to allow as many as six municipalities to hold referendums for new school systems. The opponents say they are prepared to challenge the municipalities, which would like to have school systems separate from a merged Memphis-Shelby County district.

MARCH 2012...from The Memphis Commercial-Appeal: Suburban mayors seeking to create their own municipal school districts in Shelby County, Tenn., are deciding if they will take legal action to get referendums on the May 10 ballot. The boards of aldermen from the three largest suburbs -- Collierville, Germantown and Bartlett -- could consider measures addressing the matter as early as next week. State lawmakers have postponed considering bills that would lift a state ban on new municipal school districts, and the Election Commission has rejected the suburbs' requests to put the school referendums on the ballot.

Earlier...from The Memphis Commercial Appeal: An advisory opinion by Tennessee Atty. Gen. Robert E. Cooper calls into question whether suburban municipalities in Shelby County can hold referendums on forming new school districts prior to the official merger of the Memphis and Shelby County school systems. Cooper's opinion says Shelby County's suburban municipalities can take no actions to establish new school districts -- including holding referendums, hiring school staff and constructing or improving school buildings -- until the city-county school district consolidation is complete. That is to occur in 2013 or later. Several districts have planned referendums for May.

JANUARY 2012....from The Memphis Commercial Appeal: Legislation proposed in Tennesseewould transfer Shelby County school buildings to new municipal school districts that may be created. The bill would make it less costly for municipalities to form new school districts. In light of the coming merger of the Memphis and Shelby County districts, six suburban municipalities are looking at the possibility of removing themselves from the consolidated district and starting their own school systems. School buildings are a key factor in the potential cost for a new municipal system. Bartlett, for example, has put an estimated value of $65 million on the 11 buildings within that city’s boundaries — a cost that, if the suburb was required to pay for the buildings, would significantly increase the expenses necessary to start a municipal school district.

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