I should be an expert on the schools merger issue by now. I've read and edited the equivalent verbiage of War and Peace on the subject. Jackson Baker alone has probably written 50,000 words about the merger and the political machinations surrounding it. John Branston's not far behind.
And I've had the distinct, um, pleasure of reading the approximately seven million web comments made on all those school merger articles. There's a group of six or seven folks who seemingly have little else to do but argue with each other about the subject, 24/7 — members of what we on the staff lovingly call the Bat-Shit Crazy Merger Debate Society (BSCMDS). All of them are experts. And all of them are already writing comments on this column.
But despite all this, I can barely keep up with the proposed dates for possible municipal school elections, the Transition Planning Commission, the Unified (ha) School Board, etc. I do know this: We used to have a city school district with 100,000 or so kids, the majority African American. And we had a smaller county school system that was racially mixed but majority white. The names are going to change. That's about it.
When Shelby County made noises about forming a separate district, the Memphis school board surrendered its charter, giving the responsibility for educating city kids to the county. In response, six suburban communities are now attempting to form their own municipal districts. I get why: If I lived in Collierville, I'd prefer to have a local, smaller system run by fellow Colliervillians (or is that Colliervillains?), rather than being part of a large all-county system.
The suburbs will get their way eventually. It will cost them dearly — in raised taxes (they'll be paying to support two school systems), regular muni school elections, plus busing, maintenance, payroll, and all the other associated expenses of running schools. Not to mention, the coming legal battles on all fronts, from who gets what buildings to who gets to claim which students for ADA payments.
We will end up with a county school system that looks a lot like the current MCS, only it will have more money and a few more kids. With any luck, the Transition Planning Commission will come up with some innovative proposals to improve what's already in place.
And my White Station freshman stepson will end up graduating from a county school, without even having to move out of the city. It's like magic.