Skip to comments.Memphis voters OK school charter surrender
Posted on 03/08/2011 10:15:03 PM PST by SmithL
Memphis voters spoke very clearly, if not with overwhelming volume: The city wants a unified Shelby County school system.
The specific question on Tuesdays schools referendum read: Shall the Administration of the Memphis City School System, a Special School District, be transferred to the Shelby County Board of Education?
A total of 71,424 voters showed up to answer, and 47,812 of them (67 percent) pushed the yes button. Those who wanted MCS to remain as is turned out only 23,612 voters (33 percent).
The people were not led so much by fear as people thought they would, said MCS board member Tomeka Hart, a strong proponent of the referendum. People have a vision for what this could be and this transfer to a unified system is the best way to make that happen.
Memphis Mayor A C Wharton, who predicted two months ago that Memphis voters would approve it in a landslide, said: It wasnt any one message that resonated. Most people just felt this the morally right thing to do. As a matter of conscience, this is what we need to do.
Even before all votes had been counted, those opposed to the referendum were emphasizing that only 17 percent of Memphis more than 420,000 registered voters participated.
It is absolutely a shame that an issue of this magnitude had fewer than 20 percent of the voters turn out, said David Pickler, who has been the chairman of the currently all-suburban Shelby County Board of Education for 11 years.
Shelby County Election Commission chairman Bill Giannini, a Republican who lives in Lakeland, continually emphasized a similar point in several interviews.
The real winner today was the I dont know vote, he said.
However the numbers are interpreted, the next phase in the process of consolidating city and suburban schools begins today.
It was rather decisive (Tuesday) and we now move to the next phase, which is an orderly transition that gives us an opportunity to sit down and create a better system, said Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell.
Once early-voting results were released, 45 minutes after the 7 p.m. close of voting, it was clear that those running the YES for Unity campaign would have reason to celebrate 71.4 percent of 29,577 early voters had approved the referendum.
But even the 41,847 who came out Tuesday sent a clear message, with 64 percent approving.
Rhodes College political science professor Marcus Pohlmann, who has watched turnout in city elections slide enormously over the last two decades, said that given Tuesdays dreary weather, participation was neither horrible nor great.
Be that as it may, the results dont leave much question what those motivated to vote wanted, Pohlmann said.
The referendum was triggered by a Dec. 20 move by the MCS board, on a 5-4 vote, to surrender the charter in what members claimed was a defensive move. Pickler had been pushing for a decade for the suburban schools to receive special-school-district status from the state, effectively freezing the systems boundaries to prevent Memphis schools from consolidating.
Last month, the Memphis City Council voted unanimously to approve the MCS vote to surrender its charter, relying on a 1961 private act, but urged voters to participate in the referendum. The Memphis-dominated County Commission has already begun accepting applications for an expanded countywide school board.
A state law pushed through by Sen. Mark Norris, R-Collierville, calls for a planning commission and full implementation by 2013.
Court battles are expected, but Pohlmann, who attended many voter-education forums, said Memphis voters have sent a message any judge will understand.
Its pretty clear Memphians decided the opportunity was worth the risks, Pohlmann said. Nobody was saying it was a panacea and there are pros and cons, but in the end, it looks like people are willing to take a chance.
The pro-referendum Facebook group Friends United for School Equality was filled with celebratory posts but also a sense of determination Tuesday.
Jennifer Cameron Kellett, an MCS parent who has already turned in an application for the new school board, said friends had gathered on her front porch and were listening to the Sam Cooke song, A Change is Gonna Come.
I am proud to be a Memphian, she wrote. One small pebble can make some pretty big ripples.
You will be waiting for Superman, Mr. Mayor..
Can I presume there is about to be a run on Home Depot for ‘House For Sale’ signs in the suburbs? Home values just got whacked 25%. Good grief, those suburbanites just got their behinds handed to them. And they had no vote, no say at all?
They should run, not walk, to get away from that area as quickly as possible.
Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell?
How does one become “mayor” of a “county” unless your name is Boss Hog?
It has been many years since I had any info or thoughts about
pubic schools in Memphis/Shelby County.
My last year in school there was 1961.
I would assume that the county schools are the last bastion of education, and would expect county residents to be in outrage at being thrust into the Memphis system, which must be close to 90% African??
Memphis is PART of Shelby county, no matter how bad some like to forget. If they are stupid enough to live right next to it, then they deserve what they get.
I live in Memphis and think it sucks, but am tired of the suburbs “snotty” attitude like they are special or something. If you live near the sewer, don’t be surprised by “splashes” coming from it.
Heh...go figure....47 and this is the first time I heard of a “county mayor”...
You have had hundreds of years to create a better system. You have only made it worse.
There has been a elected mayor of Shelby County for most of my life if not all of it. It is a consolidated office for all of Shelby County, EXCEPT Memphis, which is why the county residents crying gets no sympathy from me. Its good enough for them in the past but not now.
I get to pay Memphis property taxes and Shelby County property taxes as a resident of Memphis, so why should Memphis NOT get to choose?
The county taxes are higher, by the way. The county residents do NOT pay Memphis taxes.
For most, its too friggin' late.
I don’t think it’s a snotty attitude so much as it is, “Good God! Look at all the new tax eaters in our school system!” The school taxes paid by suburbanites are now going to be spread a lot thinner. I bet the suburban folks are also just a tad concerned that “busing” for the sake of “diversity” is an unspoken part of the plan.
I would be out of there so fast I’d go through the door without opening it first.
It was too late 15 years ago unless they are serious and move at least an hour or more away. I am looking to move at least 100 miles away sometime in the next year or two due to family commitments.
Since I need a bigger house, I figure to get out of Memphis and I am not just moving 5 miles outside the city limits and think I REALLY improved things. I am heading for the country life.
Yes, it's all your fault.
Memphis residents pay city and COUNTY taxes so I don’t see how they can be tax eaters, since they pay county taxes, well except for the welfare rats!
By the way, on a road trip from Philly to Dallas back in 1998 we (the family) spent a day in Memphis and had a great time. Took the Sun Studio “tour”, the Graceland tour, and a riverboat cruise.
None of those things were run by Memphis is why they were good. The riverboat cruises are gone now. Shut down due to Coast Guard regs on wooden boats.
Sun studio and Graceland are privately run. We do have a few good things here. The drinking water is the best and Bar-B-Que is great. But like most large cities, it sucks overall.
East Tennessee sounds like the ticket to me. I retire next year.
LOL, common down south, where the little towns don really have a government, but is actually county managed. Most often poorly, but this case Memphis school were as bad if not worse than the DC schools. You know those tycoons of corruption, the ford family lives there.