#MCS Following the Media – 1/21/11

Now that the date has been set for a citywide referendum on the issue, it appears that a great deal of the rhetoric and whatnot concerning the ability of Memphis to determine the future of its school district has calmed a bit. That doesn’t mean it will stay that way, that just means that is the current condition. In reality, I expect that this will again be challenged on some level in the days ahead, likely due to State Sen. Mark Norris’ bill which seeks to take that self-determination away.

It looks like the newly minted DA will be investigating allegations lodged by County Commissioner Terry Roland that Memphis City School Board member Stephanie Gatewood was somehow unduly influenced by another elected official in exchange for her vote on the Charter Surrender. When Roland initially made the allegation, it seemed to come more from a “tin foil hat” type conspiracy theory than anything else. Now, with the DA involved, there are some that think it may be more legitimate, but until some formal determination is made, I wouldn’t jump to any conclusions.

The Gates Foundation has weighed in and reported that they intend to stick with Memphis schools, despite what happens in the referendum. This answers one of the many questions out there regarding monies the current city system receives from outside sources.

Ken Hoover, who lost his bid to replace current Shelby County School Board President David Pickler in November, is circulating a petition to establish a municipal district in Germantown. Approximately 27% (10881) of Germantown residents are age 0-20. Currently the combined tax rate for Germantown and Shelby County property taxes is 5.445. Establishing a municipal school district would cost the residents a great deal more as they would still continue to pay County taxes for Education, and receive revenue as a result. But based on the current cost of acquiring the existing buildings from the county, or building their own, Germantown would find itself in a similar situation as current Memphis residents from a tax rate perspective. Good luck with that in tax averse Germantown.

Finally, there’s the future, which seems to be what people are focusing on now, including the Shelby County Commission. On Wednesday the Commission began talks about what a new, unified Shelby County School Board would look like, though, as this morning’s CA reports, there’s a great deal of dispute over who actually has the power to determine the size and makeup of the board. Indeed, in looking at state law, the issue is contrived. To be honest, I can’t really make heads or tails of the law on this as there are so many conditions and seemingly contradictory passages that I don’t know which or what applies in this instance. Further, looking at other instances of charter surrender doesn’t net much information as much of relevant state law has been altered since, and none of the efforts have similar scenarios. So, for right now at least, I’m in “wait and see” mode. Perhaps I’ll get more guidance on this in the coming days.

Wendi C. Thomas: Merger can help untangle red tape
Shelby County D.A. hears charge that commissioners tried to influence Gatewood’s charter surrender vote
Gates Foundation Grant to MCS Safe from Merger
Hoover Petitioning for Independent Germantown School District
Suburban Towns Consider Starting School System
County Attorney Punts Roland Charges on Alleged Gatewood Deal to D.A.’s Office
Money from Gates Foundation grant to remain in place
Parent Favors MCS Charter Surrender to Oust Superintendent Cash
Views differ on unified school board; Pickler, commissioners at odds on size, power to appoint

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