Last night there were a lot of assertions given by Sen. Norris to rationalize the effective disenfranchisement of Memphis residents in the transition process. Most of those assertions either slightly misrepresented reality, or were patently false.
One of those assertions was that the Memphis City Council challenged the maintenance of effort law because they couldn’t afford it any more. That’s only part of the story, of course. At the time there was a great deal of talk about single source funding to normalize the property tax disparity between City and County residents.
When single source funding failed MCS challenged in court that Memphis must maintain their effort. That lawsuit succeeded.
However, Norris asserted on the floor of the Senate that because Memphis was derelict in its duty to pay some $57m to Memphis City Schools, it was somehow not entitled to have a seat at the table in the transition. This of course, ignores that Memphians have been contributing to their school district for eons, as well as the county district through their county property taxes.
Further, Norris implies that the City of Memphis is still not contributing to Memphis City Schools, which is a fallacy. In the FY2011 budget, the City of Memphis transferred out $60m to Memphis City Schools. In addition, the city government has been in talks with the City Schools on a settlement to the 2008 lawsuit.
So that’s one thing that’s just plain wrong about Norris’ argument. The other part of that argument is that MCS is a “special” special school district and that for whatever reason because of that the City government has no say over the School system.
Well, MCS disagrees with this assertion. From their FY2011 budget:
Memphis City Schools (MCS or District) is a component unit of the City of Memphis, which is defined as the oversight entity by Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) Codification Section 2100. Reporting for the District follows the criteria established by the GASB.
What does “component unit” mean?
A component unit is a legally separate organizations for which the governing board and/or management of the primary institution is financially accountable. It can be another organization for which the nature and significance of its relationship with a primary institution is such that exclusion would cause the primary institution’s financial statements to be misleading or incomplete.
Because MCS is accountable to the City of Memphis, and the City Council must approve the MCS budget as well as appropriate funds, Memphis is fully vested in its schools, despite what Sen. Norris would assert.
In the end, Sen. Norris just out and out lied about Memphis government and its involvement in the school system for a political purpose.