The Politics of School Buildings

The past couple of weeks have been whirlwind reports for all of our municipal governments and their abilities to create their own school system. I attended some of these meetings and was impressed at the level engagement from our Bartlett Board of Alderman. For the most part, I found the questions and concerns to be pretty valid. I also found that although the consultant was thorough in his report, he really did not cover what the cost to the taxpayer would be in the case the buildings had to be purchased. Although not totally cost prohibitive, to pay for the buildings would be painful.

Enter in Rep. Curry Todd from Nashville: One Tuesday, he filed three bills that could effect consolidation in this county. One bill effectively requires the county schools board to hand county schools located in the new school system to the new school board. The second bill allows the creation of county municipal school districts where multiple cities could form one school district with one superintendent and board. The third bill allows the municipal governments to work with the commissioner of education to begin the process.

The most explosive of the three bills really has to do with buildings. The bill really codifies practices that have happened in the past when the county transferred property to the city of Memphis when areas were annexed. This rule is actually in state law. However, the law is silent on when a county school system transfer property to a new school system. That opens up the opportunity for a group of people to file a lawsuit. Mr. Todd is working to make sure that it is defined in law to remove that argument.

That will leave only a class action lawsuit that Martavious Jones has already said he would file. Unfortunately for him, it can be argued that citizens in the county could file a class action lawsuit claiming that they have not had access to buildings they have paid for 100 years.

The reality is that we don’t have to fight over these buildings. There is no reason to. We have all paid for them and you cannot measure and compare apples to apples in terms of equity.I think that our board is prepared to work with each other for whatever number of districts arise. I think some will work outside of our board to stop it: To no avail…


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