#MCS Following the Media 2/16/11-2/17/11

Quick Note:I’ve updated the Media Coverage page finally. Sorry, totally forgot about it.

Today marks day three of early voting in the MCS transfer referendum. As of this writing, 343 people have returned ballots, though yesterday’s participating voters have not been added to the total. Click here to see the dates, times and locations of early voting polling locations. Early voting continues through Thursday, March 3rd.

Wednesday, WREG posted a story that pointed to inconsistencies in Mayor Wharton’s position in regard to the school referendum. Really, this is about some political gamesmanship on the part of those who support Sen. Norris’ bill. The key learning in this is that sometimes a general call for help returns unexpected results. In this case, the call for clarity further muddied the waters in terms of the law, creating three standards…one that applies to Shelby County, and two others that apply to the rest of the state. Certainly, Shelby Co. was an exception to the rule to begin with, but rather than create an additional exception, the call for clarity was to normalize not further bastardize the differences between the rules for Shelby Co. and other counties in the state.

Of course, that didn’t happen. As a result, Sen. Jim Kyle has proposed a bill that would essentially turn back the changes in the law that the Norris bill made. Considering the balance of power in Nashville, I don’t know how successful Kyle’s efforts will be, but at the very least it’s a start. Also, last week the Shelby Co. House Democrats pledged to introduce their amendments, which were swatted down in the debate in the House over the Norris bill, as individual bills. A quick search shows that these started popping up in the last few days, to little fanfare.

In a blog post yesterday morning the Commercial Appeal’s Zack McMillan asks the questionIs huge countywide school board such a bad idea?“. Pointing to boards of several private schools, McMillin asks a good question. For several years I have advocated more direct representation throughout all of Shelby County’s elected bodies. In both the Memphis City Council and County Commission, the districts are so large (ranging from 75k to over 300k) that it is not only cost prohibitive for many people to mount a campaign for local office, but that even the smallest district is larger than any State House district, and most State Senate districts, creating a scenario where representation in local government is more diffuse than in state government. This is just plain bass ackwards in my view.

If we want more accountability throughout all of our governmental institutions, including the schools, we have to have more direct representation. Running for local office is already a huge time commitment for little pay, particularly on a school board where compensation is limited by the state to $5000/yr. Raising the bar further by maintaining huge districts across several jurisdictions makes it even more difficult for qualified, but not independently wealthy candidates to run for office. Further, the constituencies these individuals represent become so diffuse that it makes it more difficult for elected representatives to “vote their district”, further hindering accountability and the possibility of positive reform.

Finally, in an editorial published yesterday in the Tri-State Defender Bernal E. Smith II comes out in favor of voting “Yes” on the MCS referendum.

For many of the past several election cycles the voters of Memphis have been marginalized, trivialized and disenfranchised in many ways and on numerous levels. Despite these efforts it is my belief that nothing in a true democracy trumps the will of the people expressed and exercised through voting.

Now we have this opportunity to vote on the future of public education in our community.

A vote “NO” is a vote for the status quo, a vote to keep doing the same things the same way while expecting a different result, the very definition of insanity.

A vote “YES” is a vote for a better future, a vote for a more progressive Memphis and Shelby County and a vote for better education for all of this community’s children so that they may have a greater opportunity at a better life.

Vote “YES” on March 8!

I couldn’t agree more.

Coverage Note: This weekend I’m heading down to Jackson, MS with the University of Memphis Mock Trial team to compete in the Regional tournament. Wish us luck. If all goes well I’ll have some good news about ORCS to he held here in Memphis this March.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Shafer clarifies reason she abstained from voting to give Memphis spots on new school board
Metro Charter Supporters Quiet on Schools
Early Voting For Memphis Schools Merger Referendum
Alignment … and Chaos
School Charter Showdown: OYSI Obtain Internal Email

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Listing of school forums
U of M researchers to present study on impact of suburban special school district on Memphis
Is huge countywide school board such a bad idea?
Yes to school referendum!
TN Sen. Kyle Files Bill To Reverse School Charter Law
Flyer’s Jackson Baker to Speak on School Merger Panel
Senator Kyle Proposes Repeal of Memphis Merger Law
Kyle Files Bill To Repeal Norris-Todd
Proposal To Repeal Memphis School Merger Law
School Merger War of Words
County Commissioner Chris Thomas Objects to MCS Public-Information Plan on Referendum
MCS Starts ‘Just So You Know’ Campaign on School Merger
Schools Forums Hit Other Notes In Controversy
MCS Board pays outside firm $14,500 to run referendum information campaign
Merger Debate: Keith Williams and Dr. Warner
MCS Hires Marketing Firm For Referendum Education Campaign Using Taxpayer Money
Shelby County School Board debates extending Aitken’s contract for ‘stability’ during talks

Ed. Note: Below are two articles addressing the Metro Charter “dual majority” suit. I include them, not because this issue has anything directly, to do with the schools situation, but because the suit seeks to strike down a state law requiring a dual majority to merge City and County operations. This is relevant to the schools issue because of TCA §§ 49-2-1201 through 1208… the section of the code that State Sen. Mark Norris included in his original bill to govern consolidation of districts. In particular TCA §§ 49-2-1206 b(8) which requires

(8) The county election commission shall canvass the returns and certify the results as if separate elections were being held within each incorporated municipality or special school district that maintains a separate school system, and also within the area of the county outside of municipalities and special school districts maintaining separate school systems.

The primary opposition to this change in law revolved around the dual majority vote requirement that essentially gives a minority of the population veto power over the majority. If the suit for the Metro Charter section of state law is successful, it is quite possible that such a ruling could also be applied to other sections throughout the TCA that require dual majorities.

Metro Consolidation Case Stays Alive
Judge won’t dismiss voting suit on Memphis, Shelby County dual-majority requirement

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