Representative G.A. Hardaway plans to hold a press conference on Monday, calling on Memphis Mayor A C Wharton to get involved with the Transition Planning Commission's school closure proposal.
"It's just kind of ridiculous that the TPC did not engage the city before they put these recommendations down on paper," says Hardaway.
Unified School Board Member Rev. Kenneth Whalum, Jr. says if the mayor wanted to get involved he would have, saying, "I think he didn't want to be included. I think anybody who hasn't taken a public stand doesn't want to take a public stand. At time I think the city mayor, the city-elected officials, city council people, state representatives who are elected to represent people in Memphis, we ought to be hearing from them."
The TPC's recommendation to the school board suggests closing 21 schools in the Northwest and Southwest regions to save nearly $20 million. It's a part of a solution to the unified school system's looming multi-million budget gap.
"The TPC process has always been inching toward closing schools in the inner city. Mayor Wharton, city-elected officials… were all behind the TPC," says Whalum.
Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell has been involved in the school merger, but Hardaway says if the board wants to close schools in the city, they need to consult city officials.
"We had petty politics that kept the Memphis mayor off of that board when in reality that's where the bulk of the funding for the two systems put together was coming from," says Hardaway.
Both Hardaway and Whalum agree that closing inner city schools will only hurt areas that are already hurting.
"It means more devastation and more blight in the communities, which is what Mayor Wharton said he wants to get rid of. So if you close 21 schools inside the inner city, you're going to create even more blight," says Whalum, "Most of these neighborhoods, Sarah, the school is the only symbol of hope. It's the only symbol of hope. Why would you close the only symbol of hope?"
Rep. Hardaway says he's talked with city official and the mayor, but those conversations remain confidential unless the mayor divulges them.