The Shelby County Board of Education Thursday approved Shelby County Mayor A C Whartons plan to build new county schools, including a controversial high school in Arlington.
The key part of the Wharton plan, approved earlier this week by the Memphis City Schools Board of Education, would let the new construction go forward without strictly following the standard funding formula for city and county schools. Instead of getting $3 for every $1 spent for new county schools, the city system would accept a package of money and existing schools in annexed areas.
The boards action is not the last word, only the last volley in an ongoing exchange between Wharton and Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton. Herenton wants a unified school system with a countywide board. Whartons plan preserves the separate county system. A unified system would be the 14th largest public school system in the country.
Bigger isnt better, it just costs more, said County Schools Supt. Bobby Webb.
At a Memphis City Council retreat Tuesday, Herenton argued that a unfied system would save money. Along with lawyers working for the city, the mayor also suggested the current school structure is illegal and might be dismantled by the courts.
Shelby County plans to build or expand 11 schools in the next three years, with the $45 million Arlington High School the biggest project. The total cost of all the proposed projects is $246 million.