Memphis Schools Update

Posted on January 23, 2014


By Alexandra Greenway


As of December 10th, the former Shelby County Schools district officially brok up into six separate suburban school systems after two years of tension between the former Memphis City Schools district and Shelby County Schools.  In 2011, after struggling to keep up with government standards, the much larger Memphis City Schools abandoned their charter and merged the district with Shelby County Schools, the smaller suburban district. And now, two years later, with Germantown, Millington, Collierville, Arlington, and Lakeland each claiming their own district, SCS is expected to lose up to 28,000 students, reducing student population to around 122,000 and the number of schools from 225 to 192.

Memphis City Schools was desperate for funding and support, so the suburbs were nervous about merging with the struggling school system.

Joseph A. Clayton, a member of the board overseeing the merger, noted the similarity between the current suburban-urban strife and that of the “white flight” issue of the 1970s.  “There’s the same element of fear,” says the 79-year-old Clayton.  “In the 1970s, it was a physical, personal fear.  Today the fear is about the academic decline of the Shelby schools.”

But today that fear doesn’t seem to be helping anyone.  Even after a collective vote to separate from the newly united school district, the municipal districts face their own struggle in finding faculty and funding.  Under the impression that students would remain in the same towns where they attended school, reports were largely overestimated.  Ultimately, the municipal districts were left missing about 9,050 students and the $9,000 in funding they had expected for each. Now forced to share services and staff, the municipal boards are focused on trying to make it work for their students.

Meanwhile, as of December 28th, the lawsuit filed by the Shelby County Commission in the spring of 2012 is on its way to being settled.  This lawsuit may invalidate the legislation that allowed for the suburbs to vote on whether or not they wanted to form their own school districts.  Ultimately, it seems the struggle to find compromise between the urban and suburban communities is far from over.

Related articles:
Commercial Appeal: New year marks beginning of six school districts in Shelby County January 1, 2014

Alexandra Greenway is a freshman at Rhodes College.

Posted in: Education