Municipal Schools

If the governor does not veto a bill passed Monday, then the suburbs outside of Memphis will be able to restart a process to open municipal schools which they originally began in 2012. Last August, all six suburbs passed referendums to open their own municipal school districts, only to have those referendums voided by U.S. District Judge Samuel "Hardy" Mays. The new legislation will allow each suburb to hold another referendum on whether or not they want to open municipal schools.

This week on the Behind the Headlines Radio Roundtable, host Eric Barnes, publisher of the Memphis Daily News, talks with TN State Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle and Ken Hoover, who won a seat on the now-vacated Germantown School Board, discuss Judge Hardy Mays ruling on municipal school districts. 

The results of August referendums on municipal school districts and November school board elections in all six of the suburbs outside of Memphis were voided by U.S. District Judge Samuel “Hardy” Mays tonight.

All six of the suburbs outside of Memphis elected municipal school boards, but they are still waiting for a ruling from a judge. Federal judge Hardy Mays is weighing whether or not the state law, which opened the door for municipal schools in Shelby County, is constitutional.

The presidential contest is expected to drive voter turnout across the nation and the state. Almost 1.5 million Tennesseans cast ballots early. That’s the second-highest early voting turnout in state history, just shy of 2008 totals.

All six suburbs in Shelby County are holding municipal school board elections. Enthusiasm for these races is very high outside of Memphis. In total, 64 candidates are running for 32 positions. The most contested race, Collierville school board Position 2, has drawn five first-time candidates despite the fact that a federal judge could throw out the results if he finds that the state law, which is allowing these elections to happen, is unconstitutional.

Early voting is underway and residents in Memphis and the unincorporated county are voting on a half-cent sales tax increase.

Outside the early voting location at the Agricenter, Nancy Ream said she and her husband voted for the sales tax increase, “my understanding is that it is supposed to go for Pre-K money and this is a community that really does need money for Pre-K, for kids under five. We need to get those kids in school as fast as possible.”

All sides in the lawsuit agreed to waive their right to a jury trial and let U.S. District Judge Samuel “Hardy” Mays decide the case by himself.

Now that the courtroom phase of the trial is over, it will be up to Mays to decide whether or not the suburbs outside of Memphis can open their own municipal school districts. If he decides that they can, then it will also up to him to decide when.

The ballot question in Bartlett asks voters whether they want to form a separate school district and whether they are willing to pay for it. 

Federal court Judge Hardy Mays ruled Thursday that residents in all six of the suburbs outside of Memphis will vote on whether or not they want to form municipal school districts. The ruling comes a day before the start of early voting.

Lawyers for the Shelby County Commission tried to halt the referendums. They argued that the creation of municipal school districts would violate the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which protects against racial discrimination, and two provisions of the Tennessee Constitution.