Group urges commission to drop opposition - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Group urges commission to drop opposition

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

Suburban municipal schools supporters are saying it's a case of "we told you so."

They're referring to projected cuts in resources and employees the Unified school board says will be needed to close the budget gap for the 2013-14 school year beginning in August.

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Nobody said it was going to be easy or cheap to consolidate Memphis City and Shelby County school systems. But, suburban municipal school supporters say they feared all along their children and county school employees would come out on the short end of any merger.

They claim the Shelby County Commission holds the key to immediately setting things right.

"This merger has been sold to us in a lot of broken promises," said Carr Kelsey, Citizens of Collierville. "The broken promises have been talking about a world class educational system, while at the same, saving taxpayer dollars through economy of scale. So, instead of going from world class, we've now gone to second rate."

The prospect of the Unified schools board being forced to make projected Draconian cuts in their budget for the first full year of operation in the 2013-14 school year is generating new impetus among supporters of municipal school districts. In less than 24 hours, during a forum at Houston High School on Sunday hosted by school board members David Pickler and Mary Anne Gibson, to a Monday news conference held outside Shelby County Commission chambers, suburban muni supporters are adversely reacting to proposed level resource cuts to close a potential $90 - $100 million funding gap.

The numbers crunching is nothing less than painful to county school employees.

"My Germantown Schools performed an analysis that sowed cuts that of up to 473 positions," said Mike Burns of My Germantown Schools. "Of those positions, 178 of those are teaching positions, which was exactly what was feared by the suburbs."

"We're simply asking the Shelby County Commission to quit playing politics with our children's education and our children's futures," added Ken Hoover, My Germantown Schools. "It's time to drop the lawsuits and let us move forward as municipal schools. We should not have to go to the state legislature to get the county commission to say we're for children. We're for students."

Yet, as the regular session of the commission began, the muni supporters pleas for a reversal of course by a majority of commissioners on the winning side of one phase of last year's federal lawsuit, temporarily derailing muni schools, was remote.

"Why would I or any other commissioner up there say to the voting public, 'We're not going to abide by the laws as it was written in the constitution'," said Commissioner Sidney Chism. "A judge said we were right in our opinion."

Commissioner Chism insists, however dire the financial needs of the Unified system are, the money will be found to fund it, if not in world class fashion. But, by that time, many suburbanites might not be around to see the finished product.

"A year ago we were looking at 152,000 children served by this combined district," Pickler said. "Now you're looking at 133,000. That shows already people are voting with their feet."

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