Memphis Suburbs Explore Other Options for Own Schools

Memphis Suburbs Explore Other Options for Own Schools

The fight for suburban schools in Shelby County is far from over, even though a federal judge just ruled they are unconstitutional.
MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - The fight for suburban schools in Shelby County is far from over, even though a federal judge just ruled they are unconstitutional.

The suburban communities wanted their own school systems up and running by next August. Newly-elected school board members were supposed to be sworn in this weekend. That's not happening now, so those in charge are looking at their options.

"Obviously we are disappointed," said Germantown Mayor Sharon Goldsworthy. "We had been very hopeful that the legislation would be found constitutional and we'd proceed with the formation of municipal school districts."

But, Arlington Mayor Mike Wissman added, "It will delay our process, but not stop our process."

It's a delay because while the judge ruled municipal districts can't be formed right now, the ban on suburban schools may be lifted in the future - but only after the Memphis and Shelby County schools become a unified system in 2013.

In the meantime, Memphis suburbs are looking at other options.

"We have three or four options: one is an appeal, one is to find legislative relief in Nashville, one would be some kind of an agreement on some kind of municipal charter system. And then there are a lot of others - vouchers, virtual schools - there are so many things going on in education in Nashville, there could be some kind of municipal remedy that's not even been thought of yet," said Bartlett Mayor Keith McDonald.

Goldsworthy calls it a journey that almost all suburban residents want to take.

"Our voters gave us a mandate when, by an overwhelming margin, they authorized us to proceed with development of a municipal school district," she said. "While we knew where we wanted to get to, we were pretty certain that there would be some potholes and detours and rough spots along the way."

Remember, voters in suburban communities approved raising the sales tax to help pay for these municipal schools. Some communities raised property taxes as well.

So what happens now that the judge has ruled the municipal schools can't open next year? We're told the money will still be collected and put aside for future education expenses. Voters would have to go to the polls to reverse the sales tax increase.

In the meantime, the money will be spent on current and future legal expenses to continue the fight. But there is no doubt some in the suburbs will feel duped. They agreed to raise taxes for a specific reason.

The suburban mayors plan to meet with their legal team in the next week to go over the ruling and consider their options.
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