A court hearing to untangle the legal mess that is the merger of Memphis city and Shelby County’s school systems proceeded this week. Memphis news outlets say the judge in the case spent much of Thursday quizzing the lawyers for the various governments involved in the case.
Judge Hardy Mays is sorting out how the local referendum to merge the systems, a Memphis City Council vote, and state laws – including one passed this legislative session to guide the merger – work together and how the consolidation should go forward.
The lawyer for the Shelby County Commission, Leo Bearman, argued that the merger was authorized by a Memphis City Council vote approving the school board’s surrender of its charter. He told the judge that a state law, named for its sponsors Sen. Mark Norris and Rep. Curry Todd, had no bearing on the process, the Memphis Flyer reported:
Bearman argued further that a subsequent referendum by Memphis voters … was essentially symbolic and secondary to the Council action and, most intriguingly, that Norris-Todd was irrelevant to the process because its mechanics were based on the incorrect assumption that (Memphis City Schools) was a true special school district rather than a municipal district without taxing authority.