Memphis City Schools, RIP

Memphis voters have approved by a 2-to-1 margin the merger of the city schools with the Shelby County school system.

But as the Commercial Appeal points out, now the real test begins:

Many oppose the plan, there’s no timeline for carrying it out and it will almost certainly be mired in the ongoing scramble for control by city and county officials, school leaders and legislators.

People on both sides of the issue agree that ultimately, multiple judges will decide when or whether to consolidate Memphis City and Shelby County schools. Tuesday’s vote will likely set off a new round of court challenges, in addition to lawsuits that have already been filed.

Memphis city leaders will likely challenge a new state law from Sen. Mark Norris, which delays the merger to the 2013-14 school year. Also, the county school system is challenging the county commission’s plan for a unified school board for the consolidated systems.

Since the December Memphis City Schools’ board vote that set the stage for this week’s referendum, much of the debate has centered on money — who gets what share of the tax dollars for education and how that balance could change.

Shelby County leaders have sought to make their system a “special school district,” which would allow the county to keep more tax dollars instead of having them redistributed in the larger Memphis school system. Norris’ bill “opens the door (in 2013) for creation of special school districts and municipal school districts in Shelby County, although further legislative action would be required,” according to the Commercial Appeal.

Some Memphis residents have said “that the predominantly white and more-affluent county school system didn’t want to take on the struggles of Memphis, which is predominantly black and has a high percentage of students who qualify for free and reduced-price lunch,” Education Week notes.