MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Will there be a school vote or not? A federal judge says he wants to hear more, as residents of six Shelby County cities prepare to vote on starting their own school districts.
U.S. District Judge Samuel "Hardy" Mays met with lawyers on Monday evening, more than a week after the Shelby County Commission sued to stop the August 2nd referendum.
Voters in Arlington, Bartlett, Collierville, Germantown, Lakeland, and Millington are set to go to the polls that day and decide if they want to start their own school districts, and fund them with a tax increase.
"A lot of this has to do with our ability to vote, to have self determination, and so we have put ourselves in the hands of this federal court to make some determinations about that," said Bartlett Mayor Keith McDonald.
The Commission sued to stop the vote on the grounds it violated the Tennessee constitution, and the formation of municipal school districts would promote segregation.
On Monday evening, Judge Mays told lawyers he was "very reluctant" to address the racial issues without proof, meaning a trial or full hearing of some sort, complete with proof and expert testimony.
Judge Mays said he would expect that to take some time.
Instead, Judge Mays said the arguments would center around Article 11, sections 8 and 9, which focus on prohibiting special legislation effecting only one person or county.
The question: Is the law allowing the creation of suburban school districts in Shelby County constitutional?
"It is a big burden to say no election, but as the other parties that are afraid for us to go ahead, because it is also a big deal for a judge to set aside an election if 80 percent of the vote has been in favor," McDonald said.
Early voting in the six cities is set for Friday.
Judge Mays ordered all parties to have their arguments in by Wednesday at 5 p.m. with the hearing set for 9:30 a.m. on Thursday.