Reps: Closing 21 schools doesn't make sense - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Reps: Closing 21 schools doesn't make sense

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

Tennessee Representatives Barbara Cooper and G.A. Hardaway are in arms over the Transition Planning Commission, saying there is too much is going on behind closed doors and there needs to more involvement from city hall.

Both say when a Shelby County plan is faulty, it's their job as legislators to demand answers. Reps. Cooper and Hardaway said on Monday the Transition Planning Committee's recent recommendation to close 21 schools to save millions of dollars doesn't make sense.

MORE: Hardaway wants city action on school closings

"What it appears to me is that there was a budget made up," Rep. Hardaway said. "Then there was a strategy to fit the budget, putting the cart before the horse."

A plan dictating what happens to Memphis City Schools should never happen without input from the Mayor A C Wharton.

"So the disrespect that was shown to Memphis in Nashville where our mayor was excluded from participation on the TPC now the fruits have been born," Rep. Hardaway said, who added the mayor has the knowledge on what happens in the city and which direction we're heading.

"He has the expertise, he has the data, the strategy, plans, knows the areas, and where the redevelop is going," Rep. Hardaway said. "Yet, he was not a part of the initial planning."

Rep. Cooper added that she's been told most of the school closings will happen in her district, yet she still has no specifics from the TPC.

"What I'm told is that 16 to 17 of the schools will be in South Memphis," Rep. Cooper said. "So what are we going to do? Rake them all to Colonial, White Station? All to Germantown? Where are we going to send them? Crowd them out over there? The schools are going to be empty. Nobody has any information."

It's the lack of information that has these two State representatives fired up.

"The custodials, cafeteria workers; some of these folks are going to be out of a job," Rep. Cooper said. "Is there a plan for them so that we don't have further unemployment?"

Mayor Wharton responded Monday afternoon to Rep. Hardaway.

"I want to thank Representative G. A. Hardaway and other elected officials for underscoring the need for total community involvement and input in any decision regarding the closing of schools," Mr. Wharton said in a statement. "The City of Memphis will do its best in the short time frame allotted.  While the primary function of school buildings is to house the educational process, schools also serve as "social" anchors for the communities in which they are located. As a matter of fact, many sections of our city are known only by the high school serving the area, such as Melrose, Manassas, Hamilton, and Booker T. Washington.
"I share Representative Hardaway's concerns and accordingly, will honor his request that the TPC, and others responsible for making decisions with respect to the closing of schools, allow full community input. A part of this input should be discussion of adaptive reuses, which will allow those buildings that can no longer be used as schools to continue to serve as anchors in their communities. We are very much accustomed to including extensive community input in major planning and development activities as evidenced by our successful HOPE VI and Choice Neighborhoods projects and agree that similar processes should be followed in making these critical decisions with respect to schools.
"I will also note, that approximately two months ago, Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash called to seek the city's input. Since that time he and HCD Director Robert Lipscomb have had discussions during which they began the process of exploring ways to minimize any negative effects of school closings might have and to ensure full community input.
"I look forward to working with Representative Hardaway, other concerned legislators, state officials and our school officials to reach a result that recognizes the need for economy, but also gives the appropriate weight to the broader purposes served by our various school buildings."

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