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No action on municipalities’ lawsuit at Shelby commissioners’ meeting

Shelby County’s Board of Commissioners didn’t vote on whether to drop a longstanding lawsuit against several municipalities attempting to split from Shelby County Schools Monday, despite suggestions that the decision could come this week.

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

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.

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

But then the county attorney determined last week that it would be a conflict of interest for Shelby County Commission member and Lakeland Mayor Wyatt Bunker to vote on acting on the lawsuit, according to The Commercial Appeal.

The board won’t meet again until next month.