The Commercial Appeal reported:
Jim Mitchell of Southern Educational Strategies, who conducted the municipal schools feasibility study for five of the suburbs, has consistently noted that 44 county schools were absorbed by the Memphis City Schools because of annexation since the mid-1960s. Mitchell said their research shows the city did not pay for any of those buildings.
“That is not what’s been done in this county for 45 years,” Mitchell told a crowd of about 350 people at a Bartlett town hall forum on the feasibility study.
Let’s say it simply: he is wrong.
It would be confusing enough for any school consultant to make such a mistake, but for the former superintendent of Shelby County Schools to do it, it sounds like some of the facts are being skewed to fit the towns’ preconceived opinions.
If Mitchell’s research shows that Memphis City Schools has taken county schools through annexation and not paid anything for them, he needs to hire a new researcher.
There have been torturous negotiations to give county government financial consideration when the annexing of previously county schools into Memphis took place, using waivers of ADA funding requirements, offsetting financial credits, or through joint design of schools by city and county school district.
We are puzzled by the misstatement of the facts, but then again, if Mr. Mitchell can get the people in the towns to believe that their tax increase for schools will only be 15 cents, he can get them to believe anything.
Is there any data that can be cited to prove to the contrary what the consultant for the suburban cities has said about the transfer of school buildings? More than that, wouldn’t there be additional costs that would have to be accounted for, such as maintenance and utilities, by the municipal school districts that were not cited in the report?
Give me the facts to dispute Mr. Mitchell. Then I’ll be closer to making a decision about who is correct.
Fact 1: One of us here was involved in some of those negotiations about schools.
The facts can be easily gathered by the consultant by talking to the people in Shelby County Government and Memphis City Schools, notably the county mayors. Perhaps, Mr. Mitchell thinks it didn’t happen because, as superintendent of county schools, he wasn’t involved. As we have written previously, Mayor Morris negotiated a waiver of ADA requirements for a specified number of years to offset the costs of several schools, but the information about each school is available to someone who really wants it. We recently asked the planner who was in the middle of these issues if Memphis City Schools received the county schools without financial consideration, she said absolutely not.
The cost of the schools for the municipal districts, at most, should just be offset by the percentage of the county tax base provided by that town’s property tax owners. As for costs, we think they are being low-balled to make the referendum on the town districts looks especially good.
Remarkable! How has this myth become rampant, so much so that it is accepted as truth?
It seems to be a combination of things. We live in a time when if people say something loud enough and often enough, it seems to be taken as fact. Also, the news media have cut back so much that they don’t seem to have the staff to check things out. And there seems to be no historical memory in government.