Trial to decide if municipal schools are constitutional - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Trial to decide if municipal schools are constitutional

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -

Five suburbs voted Aug. 2 to start municipal schools, but their vote may be squashed at a hearing on Tuesday.

Judge Samuel Mays will hear arguments about a law passed in Spring this year to create municipal schools violates the Tennessee constitution in two ways: One being that a law allowing it can't treat one part of the state differently.

"The other provision of the constitution is even more stricter and says if there is a law that only applies in one county, then you can't have it take affect until there's a countywide referendum. All the people in the county have to vote to accept it," says University of Memphis Law Professor Steve Mulroy.

If Mays rules to accept the municipal schools referendum, saying the law for it is constitutional, the second hearing in this battle will take place in November, according to Mulroy. November's hearing will decide if municipal schools create segregation in the county.

If Mays rules the recent law is unconstitutional, Mulroy says it means municipal schools could not happen until 2014 and that would require a countywide vote.

"If he rules that not only that law but also the original Norris-Todd law that created municipal districts also violates the Tennessee constitution, then there can never be municipal school districts, unless the legislature passes a law that applies statewide," adds Mulroy.

If Mays strikes down municipal schools, some Shelby County Commissioners say it will be a devastating blow for the suburbs who voted on this.

"Just like the city of Memphis, they voted to surrender their charter. Well, that was their choice so let's give the other municipalities their choice. Well, the want their own school systems," says Commissioner Chris Thomas.

Mulroy says Mays will most likely not rule from the bench on Tuesday, but instead will issue an opinion a few weeks after the hearing.

"I can promise you that whatever decision he rules is going to be appealed, I can already see that writing on the walls," says Thomas.

Mulroy adds that under the recent law passed in favor of municipal schools, plain language does not "provide them to hurry up and have that August referendum." He says if it in the law's language, that's also makes the it and municipal schools unconstitutional.

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