Well, it was a day that looked like it would go out with a bang, and ended up going out with a whimper.
Nearly every media outlet led the morning with questions about the possibility of compromise. But honestly, the compromise that was offered was a joke, giving MCS nothing but three years of delay. After 4 hours of debate, the board voted the compromise down 7-2 and adjourned. The only yea votes were Kenneth Whalum and Freda Williams.
During that 4 hour meeting, MCS Commissioner Jeff Warren proposed a change to the compromise. I haven’t had time to review the exact language of that change, but based on my recollection, it wasn’t substantial enough to make the compromise any more palatable. Ultimately, the board never voted on the altered compromise.
The next MCS School Board meeting is scheduled for January 24th, though an agenda was not available at the time of this writing, so I have no idea what issues will be taken up at that meeting.
At this point it’s up to the Election Commission to set a date. They have scheduled a special meeting today to do that very thing.
The Memphis City Council also got involved in the dispute, passing a resolution that, upon the effective date, would surrender the charter, effectively ending the dispute. The effective date of the resolution is March 21st, after the expected election day. However, the City Council could meet, on 24 hours notice, to change the date, effectively surrendering the charter if legislators in Nashville move to mandate a countywide vote.
Councilman Shea Flinn proposed the resolution, which passed 11-0 with two abstentions. Councilmen Morrison and Ford abstained because they are employees of Shelby County and Memphis City Schools respectively. Flinn noted he would prefer the people be given an opportunity to vote on the issue, and that this was more of a countermeasure against potential state legislation than anything else.
The man who has been leading the effort to force a countywide vote, Sen. Mark Norris of Collierville, has hired a PR firm which released this fluff interview. I don’t have anything against Howell Marketing as a company, but this seems like a fumble. If the only interview you can get that pushes your agenda is from a paid flack, maybe your message doesn’t resonate.
The legislature just started a three week recess while bills are filed and some organizational processes get underway. Based on my calculations, that puts the legislature back in session on Feb. 7th, some four weeks before the expected election day in Memphis. Had the delays in scheduling the election not happened, thanks to Shelby County Elections Commissioner Bill Giannini and State Elections Coordinator Mark Goins, early voting might have been underway by that date. Which raises more legal questions about what the state can do to change the law once the process has begun.
According to the State Legislature website no votes have been taken so far on the measure. However, news reports indicate that the bill has passed the Senate twice and the House once, meaning it must only pass the Senate once more, and the House twice more to go to the Governor. That could happen as soon as February 8th.
Finally, the Shelby County GOP inserted itself into the process with this tweet:
Way to distort the issue guys…
Since this story began in November, it’s gone down different side roads and taken several U-turns. The key thing to remember is the fundamental issue at hand: Should Memphis City Schools surrender its charter and effectively merge with Shelby County Schools or not? State law and case law addresses many of the questions that people have raised. Schools won’t close the day after the vote. There will be a transitional period that may be hard, or contentious. But the answers to questions and potential consequences of this action are as unknowable as what you’re going to eat for lunch on January 19th, 2012.
We’re being asked to pick a path. Once that path is decided, and redistricting begins in the County Commission, a lot of the unknowns will be resolved. Until then we should focus on whether we want to stay the course by keeping MCS in tact or chart another direction. Honestly, it couldn’t be simpler.
Depending on what happens at today’s Election Commission meeting I may have an update later in the day.
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MCS Considering Possible SCS Compromise
Proposal could take charter vote out of school board’s hands
Memphis City Council approves MCS charter surrender
Memphis City Schools board meeting tonight to consider merger compromise
City Council Approves MCS Surrender
Memphis City Council Affirms School Vote To Surrender Charter
MCS Board Votes Down County Compromise
MCS Board rejects charter compromise after 4-hour meeting
MCS Board Rejects Compromise
City Council Adopts Resolution Supporting MCS Charter Surrender
Memphis School Board Rejects Shelby County Schools Agreement
MCS Board Votes Down Schools Standoff Compromise