Kyle Asks State Education Commissioner to Intercede in School Stalemate

Newly reelected state Senate Democratic leader wants Kevin Huffman “to act as an independent, honest broker in the organizational restructure of Shelby County Schools;" claims GOP majority leader Norris backs move.

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State Senator Jim Kyle
  • State Senator Jim Kyle
Up to this point, the major moves in the Tennessee General Assembly regarding the merger/municipal-schools issue have come from Mark Norris, the Collierville Republican who serves as majority leader of the state Senate.

It was 2012 legislation by Norris (in tandem with state Rep. Curry Todd) that was just found unconstitutional by U.S. District Judge Hardy Mays, thereby halting immediate efforts by six Shelby County suburb s to create their own municipal school districts. The six suburban municipalities are on, Bartlett, Collierville, Germantown, Lakeland and Millington.

And it is the final section of the 2011 legislation known as Norris-Todd — the part which authorizes the six suburbs to initiate efforts toward such municipal districts, but only after city/county school merger occurs in August 2013 — that Mays continues to withheld judgment on.

Even as that judicial riddle plays itself out, a new legislative player has made a move: Senate Democratic leaderJim Kyle, newly reelected (but just barely) by his diminished tribe of Senate party-mates as Norris’ opposite number.

In a press release Monday from Kyle’s Senate office in Nashville, Kyle announced that he had asked Tennessee Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman “ to act as an independent, honest broker in the organizational restructure of Shelby County Schools” and claimed that he had Norris’ support for the approach to Huffman.

“We have seen what happens when we divide on ideology; it is unproductive. The political dynamics are what brought us to this point, and will drive us back if we do not choose to act differently.”,” Sen. Kyle said in the press release, excerpting a portion o his letter to Huffman.. “

Contacted Monday about his initiative, Kyle insisted that he was not taking a position one way or another in the ongoing schools controversy — neither on behalf of a countywide Unified School District nor on behalf of the municipal-school movement. He said he regarded Huffman as “an independent honest broker in the organizational restructure of Shelby County Schools” and an ideal go-between to get the two contending sides into a meaningful discourse.

The letter to Huffman can be read here in its entirely: .

Kyle said he believed his thoughts on the current stalemate were similar to those expressed last week by Governor Bill Haslam in Memphis. The governor referred to Mays’ ruling as “a fairly clear decision” and said, "I think at this point in time. I want to be encouraging everybody let's leave the courtroom behind and let's go sit down and have conversations that we need to prepare “

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