LOSE CITY SCHOOL CHARTER, HERENTON TELLS ROTARY

LOSE CITY SCHOOL CHARTER, HERENTON TELLS ROTARY

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Mayor Willie Herenton wants the city school board to give up its charter in order to achieve consolidation with Shelby County or at least support a referendum on the question.

Speaking to the Memphis Rotary Club Tuesday, Herenton revived the charter surrender idea that has been floated at least twice in the last 12 years of his administration without a favorable response.

He said he sent a letter to the school board asking members to expedite consolidation by charter surrender. He said the board should at least allow Memphians to vote on consolidation of the school systems by that method.

The idea was previously proposed by Herenton in 2003 and, in a different form, in 1993 when a task force said the city of Memphis could legally surrender its charter but should consider alternatives.

Herenton spoke for about 15 minutes and answered a few questions in general terms. He said that doing nothing will hurt the city and county schools and increase the financial strain on both city and county government.

The school board has three new members but is not likely to dissolve itself. In 2002, the board declined to act on yet another task force plan to overhaul the way schools are funded.

Herenton said his opposition comes mainly from suburban mayors and their constituents and he wants to see if Memphians will start a grassroots movement in favor of consolidation.

The Rotary Club members applauded politely, but some raised questions about the practical impact of a charter surrender. One member said it would open parts of Memphis such as the Wolfchase Galleria shopping mall to annexation by suburbs.

The mayor said Memphis is currently competing with Louisville for a California-based biomedical company and that Louisville has the advantage of having been consolidated since 2003.

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