If You Can't Beat 'Em, Be 'Em!: City Schools and County Schools Prepare to Trade Places



This is what you call an anomaly.

The latest development in the Memphis suburbs’ resistance to the automatic school-system consolidation that would occur with the success of a referendum to dissolve Memphis City Schools is this: Several of the outer-Shelby municipalities — Collierville, Germantown, Bartlett, and Arlington specifically among them — are actively considering creating their own school systems.

Legislation is being hatched in the Tennessee General Assembly to this end, and officials of all the cities named, and perhaps other suburban entities, are looking into the concept of a municipal-school network.

An anomaly, we said. Nay, an irony: If the project, which would involve the municipalities having to levy taxes on their residents in order to purchase existing school structures from Shelby County and to augment operating expenses, goes forward, and if the March 8 referendum of city residents should, as expected, authorize the dissolution of MCS, the current city schools would have traded places with the current county schools.

As things stand now, the urban network Memphis City Schools, technically a special school district, is funded by Shelby County but receives a substantial sum also from the City of Memphis — some $78 million annually, which, however, has been jeopardized in recent years by the Memphis city council’s reluctance to pay it, even in the face of a court order. Otherwise, the county schools and city schools both receive their funding from Shelby County government, by state law the ultimate authority responsible for administering public education.

But if the MCS charter goes, the city schools become the charge of whatever Shelby County school system remains and the direct and sole responsibility of Shelby County government. In effect, they become the county schools, while, if the separate municipal-school network in the outer county (a special school district by another name), goes forward, the county schools in effect become city schools.

Both systems will continue to be funded by Shelby County government (supported by taxes from both city and county residents), but the municipal network of schools will also draw heavily on those entities’ “urban” taxpayers, in the manner of MCS at present. Meanwhile, Memphis taxpayers will be off their own extra hook with the passing of MCS.

To repeat: the city schools will be county schools, and the county schools will be city schools.

How’s that for a Thought of the Day?

Or, to put that another way: If you can't beat 'em, be 'em!

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