Torpedoes and Avalanches

It has been a crazy week in the world of education in Shelby County. Lets bullet point the developments:

1) Shelby County School Board had two meetings. Tuesday night was specifically the normal scs working meeting. Towards the end of Tuesday nights meeting, an agreement was presented to the board that had been drafted and passed by the county commission and modified by our board attorneys. The agreement was a contract with the bond holders of Shelby county that basically gave them the right to sue us if we gave property away for free if they could prove that the transaction would create a need to build new buildings and more school debt. The goal was to trump any state law that would give property to municipal school districts utilizing contract law. This  agreement was the brain child of Steve Mulroy and supported by Jeff Warren. The unfortunate part about this ill-fated agreement was that it unnecessarily opened up Shelby County to huge frivolous lawsuits. Understanding that this agreement was not needed, this majority of the board voted to reject it. It needed  12 votes, it got 9.

2) In tandem a bill has been working through the tn legislature that would remove the prohibition on municipal school districts state-wide. Senate sponsor is Norris and house sponsor is McCormick. The bill would be effective January 1st, 2013.  The bill made its way out of senate education but got sidetracked in the house education subcommittee where the bill sponsor allowed the bill to get rolled to next week. In this session, Jimmy Naifeh made his infamous remarks about municipal school districts being about segregation.

3. The TN AG offered an opinion that municipalities could not create municipal  school districts until consolidation is complete. The next day the election commission decided to not put the referendums on the ballot.

So what really is going on? There are a multitude of positions and posturing right now that will confuse even the most savvy political expert.

1) Lifting the prohibition on municipal school districts – This legislation has gained support in many counties across the state as cities are looking to create smaller school districts. This will be in-house sub education committee this week. This this legislative session winding down, there are just a few more short weeks for this to get done this session. If not, it will not come back up until 2013. This bill has already passed Senate education committee. All this bill does is lift the prohibition on muni-districts. It does nothing else. This bill would take the bite out of any argument about muni districts being ripe to litigate based upon Norris-Todd.

2) We have to retain the decision-making process on these buildings without boundaries provided by the state or the county. The path to everyone getting most of what everyone wants is by local agreement. If we can stand down on the rhetoric and “road bombs” like Jeff Warren tried to create, we should be able to get it done.

3) The immediate future of muni school referendums are unclear as each city determines what they feel is best. There could be legal challenges to the ruling by the election commission. Worst case scenario is that Norris-Todd rules the day and muni school districts start 2014. What does this all mean to you and I?

Keep on keeping on. Your children are getting a great education. This will play out in due time. .

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