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School split increasingly likely as Shelby Commissioners consider dropping lawsuit

The final barrier to six municipalities breaking away from Shelby County Schools’ system could be dropped in the coming days, according to several county commissioners.

Shelby County commissioner James Harvey told Chalkbeat on Tuesday that the county commission is considering dropping a lawsuit that would prevent municipalities from splitting from Shelby County’s school district.

Commissioner Chris Thomas, who has been working behind the scenes to garner support, now says that the necessary seven votes on the commission are in place to drop the lawsuit, according to The Commercial Appeal.

Six municipalities are attempting to separate from Shelby County Schools after the system absorbed Memphis City Schools, which is mostly poor and black.

The Shelby County commission and the city of Memphis have argued in a joint lawsuit that the separation from the mostly white municipalities is an attempt to re-segregate the school system, while municipal officials say a smaller district would be more efficient. The separation has nothing to do with race, they argue.

With the lawsuit dropped, the municipalities would have the go-ahead to open their own schools as soon as the fall of 2014.

The Shelby County commission could vote on whether to drop the lawsuit at its next meeting this Monday, Oct. 28. That meeting will take place at 1:30 p.m at 160 N. Main Street in Memphis.

Recently, the municipalities have been working with Shelby County’s school board on an amicable settlement. The municipalities still need to pick a superintendent, build a budget and work with Shelby’s school board to decide where students will attend school.

Shelby administrators proposed this week to keep four schools and thousands of students from being absorbed by six municipalities that want to break away from the district.

The board is expected to approve that decision at Tuesday’s board meeting.

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