MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - It all comes down to one simple point. If a state law regarding the formation of municipal school districts only affects Shelby County, it is unconstitutional.
The lawyers lined up like children on the first day of school. As Judge Samuel Mays began hearing their arguments in federal court, that one simple point seemed to get lost in all the legal minutia.
"Really a lot of it is not relevant, as far as I can tell," noted State Senator Mark Norris (R-Collierville), one of the architects of the state Norris-Todd legislation in question.
Norris said it was clear the Transition Planning Commission (TPC), which was established to determine a plan for merging the Memphis City and Shelby County school systems, wanted nothing to do with municipal school districts.
"It's clear they didn't want to consider municipal districts; that's not to say they should not have done so," he said.
Memphis City Council attorney Allan Wade wants the Norris-Todd plan thrown out. He said the municipal schools issue was just "thrown" at the TPC.
"We'll put a witness on the stand to show what the Transition Planning Commission did, how long they went through what they did, how deliberative they were, how organized they were, and to expect them to have integrated [municipal school districts] into a plan at the 11th hour is - it's nonsense," Wade stated.
There was more nonsense, according to one witness, Dr. David Swanson, a demographics expert from the University of California Riverside. There is no way the five counties in Tennessee that could be affected by this plan will ever have enough students to be affected by this plan, he testified.
Another factor in this hearing is the timeline. Municipalities had hoped to get their school districts open and ready for students in time for the 2013-14 school year, which is when the city and county systems merge. With that hinging on the outcome of this trial and the likely appeals process, chances are municipal students will attend school in the unified district whether they like it or not.