Can the Supremes just decide schools standoff now and save us all lots of money, time, energy?

Today's news that State Sen. Mark Norris of Collierville, the Republicans' majority leader, will introduce a bill designed to prevent Memphis City Schools from forcing consolidation without the consent of suburban voters creates yet more questions that attorneys will be paid to provide answers their clients prefer.

So I'm wondering -- could we just go ahead and stop the bickering and just ask the Tennessee Supreme Court to decide how Memphis and Shelby County should organize our public schools?

Rather than wait until probably next year for them to make final rulings on an array of subjects, could we just save lots of time, energy and money and have the Supremes weigh in now?

Among the things we presume the Supreme Court may eventually determine:
  • Whether the referendum held at a date to be determined among Memphis voters properly constitutes a transfer of administration and a de facto consolidation of schools;
  • Whether Norris's 2011 act to force MCS into a year-long consolidation process requiring final approval by city voters and suburban voters in dual referenda has any legal bearing on a process that was officially put into motion in 2010;
  • Whether county voters were disenfranchised by the city voters dissolving MCS and forcing consolidation;
  • Whether a new suburban Shelby special school district created by private act only for Shelby County and breaking tradition of private acts requiring approval by three-quarters of a county's state senators is constitutional;
  • Whether Shelby County taxpayers must absorb the City of Memphis funding of city schools under the state's maintenance of effort law.
Obviously, these things must play out in legislative bodies, in elections and through legal filings, but in the end, it sure seems all of this is headed toward an endgame at the Tennessee Supreme Court.

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As the process for merging Shelby County's schools accelerates into action, we'll provide bonus coverage here at, with a particular focus on the 21-member transition team and the 23-member unified school board. Comment early and often. If you have any tips or suggestions you wish to share, contact Zack McMillin at or 529-2564.

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