Memphis City Schools is governed by the Memphis City Schools Board of Commissioners. It’s composed of nine members, who are residents of the city, elected by the citizens at the general election in November to serve a four year term. Seven members are elected by district to represent a specific area within the city, and two members are elected at large to represent the entire city. At the last meeting in December, the Board elects a President and a Vice-President to serve for a term of one year to be effective January 1. The Board of Education is responsible for establishing goals for the school system and adopting policies for the effective operation of the school system. The Board appoints a Superintendent to oversee the operation of the school system in accordance with the educational goals and policies it establishes.
Duties of the board: The Board focuses on three major areas: policy development, advocacy for Board policies, and accountability for district goals. The district’s strategic plan is a working document used to guide and reinforce MCS’s mission and goals. It is continuously reviewed, evaluated, discussed, updated, and endorsed by the Board Commissioners. The Board of Education also conducts regular evaluations of the Superintendent’s performance. Approval of the budget is a major function of the Board. Commissioners support the hiring of teachers, administrators, and support staff who are responsible for educating the students.
As public officials, individuals who serve on the Board are active and visible members of the community. However, the Board acts officially only as a group. It is committed to openness and candor in the conduct of its business and encourages citizen participation during regular meetings.
If you have been following the local news concerning Memphis City Schools, you would have heard about the MCS Board of Education resolution to surrender it’s charter, as seen below:
RESOLUTION TO SURRENDER CHARTER OF MEMPHIS CITY SCHOOLS
WHEREAS, the 1869 Tennessee Private Acts Chapter 30 established the Board of Education of the Memphis City Schools and placed the exclusive management and control of the school district known as Memphis City Schools with this body politic; and
WHEREAS, this school district known as Memphis City Schools has its boundaries coterminous to the boundaries of the City of Memphis and is responsible for providing the public primary and secondary education of residents of Memphis; and
WHEREAS, residents of the City of Memphis are also residents of the county of Shelby, who have never relinquished their county residency and its elected officials represent over 70% of the residents of Shelby County, Tennessee; and
WHEREAS, residents of Memphis, who are also residents of the county, are largely responsible for the growth of the population of Shelby County beyond the city limits of Memphis through property taxes that financed the infrastructure investments made, not limited to services provided by the Memphis Light, Gas, and Water Division of the City of Memphis; and
WHEREAS, residents of Shelby County, Tennessee, collectively fund education for children enrolled in Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools; and
WHEREAS, the infrastructure investments made by residents of the City of Memphis has resulted in 49% of the total residential appraised property values of Shelby County being located beyond the city limits of Memphis; and
WHEREAS, Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools commissioned a study conducted by the University of Memphis to determine the impact of Shelby County Schools obtaining special school district status; and
WHEREAS, said study concluded that special school district status for Shelby County Schools would result in an increased tax burden for residents of Memphis, the majority of residents of Shelby County, because 1/2 of the residential appraised property of the county that provides resources to all children receiving public education would no longer be available for funding for children for children that live in the city limits of Memphis; and
WHEREAS, the loss of 1/2 of the resident appraised property for funding would cause irreparable harm, threaten the existence of Memphis City Schools and its ability to continue as a going concern.
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT, the Board of Commissioners of the Board of Education of Memphis City Schools surrenders its charter as authorized by 1961 Tennessee Private Acts Chapter 375.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT, the Memphis City Schools Board of Commissioners hereby request that the Shelby County Commissioners of Elections conduct a referendum that transfers the administration of Memphis City Schools to the Shelby County Board of Education as required by Tennessee Code Annotated Section 49-2-502 to take place at the same time as any future election is conducted by the Shelby County Election Commission or as provided by state law, whichever occurs sooner.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT, the Board of Commissioners of Memphis Schools authorizes the use of unrestricted fund balance to conduct said referendum.
Respectfully submitted by:
Martavius D. Jones
Tomeka R. Hart
The media has failed to point out the 1869 Tennessee Private Acts Chapter 30 that the Charter addresses. Click here to read the charter. Let me give you a little history of this time frame:
The area of West Tennessee became available for white settlement after the Federal Government purchased it from the Chickasaws Nation in the 1818 Jackson Purchase. Memphis was founded on May 22, 1819 by a group of investors, John Overton, James Winchester, and Andrew Jackson, and was incorporated as a city in 1826. The city was named after the ancient capital of Egypt on the Nile River. The founders planned for a large city to be built on the site and laid out a plan featuring a regular grid of streets interrupted by four town squares, to be named Exchange, Market, Court, and Auction. Of these, only Court Square remains as a public park in downtown Memphis. The city grew as a center for transporting, grading and marketing the growing volumes of cotton produced in the nearby Mississippi delta in the antebellum era (for background, see “King Cotton”). The cotton economy of the antebellum South depended on the forced labor of large numbers of African-American slaves, and Memphis became a major slave market. Prior to the Civil War, one quarter of the city’s population were slaves. Seeking their freedom, slaves turned to the Underground Railroad to escape to the free states of the North, and the Memphis home of Jacob Burkle was a way-station on their route to freedom. If you haven’t figured this out, there are a lot of black people in the area.
Apr 20, 1867 – A boy 11 years of ago, son of Judge , of the Circuit Court, fatally shot by a playmate named MIosEmr, on Saturday last at Memphis. … Ewnt A. .8s Esq., has presented to tho Board of Education of the City of Camden, in trust for educational purposes, a valuable lot for a schoolhouse, …
From NEWS OF THE DAY.; EUROPE. CONGRESS. STATE LEGISLATURE. GENERAL … – Related web pages
1868 – RUST COLLEGE, NE. corner Rust Ave. and N. Memphis St., has been one of the leading liberal arts Negro colleges of Mississippi since it was founded by the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1868. The property value is $125000; its equipment is valued at …
From Full text of “Mississippi; a guide to the Magnolia state”
1869 – In 1869, the fourth city school charter for the City of Memphis established the Board of Education of the Memphis City Schools and declared that the “Board of Education shall provide and maintain separate schools for the use and accommodation of the White and colored.
From Exploded Dream: Desegregation in the Memphis City Schools – Related web pages
Jan 23, 1869 – It is mado obligatory upon the directors, or upon tho board of education in case of their neglect, to maintain a frco Bchool in every dis- trict Tor a period of … Memphis has been aided in a similar manner, and is now erect- ing a fine large building, to bear the name or “Peabody.
From … of the Trustees of the Peabody Trust Fund for Education in the Southern … – Related web pages
The School Board was created under 1869 Tenn. Priv. Acts Ch. 30. Section 1 of that act provides in relevant part:
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Tennessee, That the Memphis City Schools shall hereafter be placed under the exclusive management and control of a Board of Education consisting of two members from each ward of the said city, elected as hereinafter directed, and that said Board are hereby created and constituted a body politic and corporate by the name and style of the Board of Education of the Memphis City Schools who shall have succession for ninety-nine years . . ..
Board of Education and created the office of School Commissioner. 1883 Tenn. Priv. Acts Ch. 17. Section 2 of the 1883 act provides:
Be it further enacted, That said Commissioners shall be elected by the qualified voters of such Taxing District, and their election shall take place at the same time and place as that of the officers of said Taxing Districts, at the first election to take place on the first Thursday after the first Monday in January in the year 1884; three of said Commissioners shall be elected for two years, and two for four years, and thereafter said Commissioners shall be elected for a term of four years.
Priv. Acts Ch. 17, § 10. It can be argued that, by reorganizing the School Board and placing no limit on the succession of the Commissioners, the General Assembly repealed the ninety-nine year term of succession placed on the School Board in the 1869 act. The 1869 act, however, in addition to the ninety-nine year limit, also provides that elections for members would be held “each year thereafter” and that one person from each ward would be chosen to be a member for two years “at every subsequent election.” 1869 Tenn. Priv. Acts Ch. 30, §§ 3, 4.
The General Assembly later expressly amended the 1869 act to provide that the School Board is permanent and perpetual. 1959 Tenn. Priv. Acts Ch. 24. We have been informed that the constitutionality of this act has been questioned because Section 3 requires the act to be approved by a two-thirds vote of the School Board and of the Board of Commissioners of the City of Memphis. The act provides:
That this Act shall become effective when and not before the same shall have been approved by a vote of not less than two-thirds of the five School Commissioners who compose the Board of Education of the Memphis City Schools and constitute the regular legislative body thereof, and shall also have been approved by a vote of not less than two-thirds of the members of the Board of Commissioners of the City of Memphis, which Board is the regular legislative body of said City; such approval to be made by the said School Commissioners and by said Board of Commissioners of the City of Memphis within ninety (90) days after the sine die adjournment of the regular session of the General Assembly of the State of Tennessee for the year 1959, the public welfare requiring that this Act become effective when so approved, and not before such approval.
According to the Secretary of State, this act was properly ratified. Every act of the General Assembly comes to the courts with a strong presumption in favor of its constitutionality. Thus, when a constitutional attack is levied on a statute, courts must indulge every presumption in favor of its validity and resolve any doubt in favor of, rather than against, the constitutionality of the act.
Article XI, Section 9 of the Tennessee Constitution provides in relevant part:
. . . any act of the General Assembly private or local in form or effect applicable to a particular county or municipality either in its governmental or its proprietary capacity shall be void and of no effect unless the act by its terms either requires the approval by a two-thirds vote of the local legislative body of the municipality or county, or requires approval in an election by a majority of those voting in said election in the municipality or county affected.
Thus, private acts affecting a county or a city must generally provide for local approval in order to be effective. Several years after this provision of Article XI, Section 9 was added to the Tennessee Constitution, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled that it does not apply to an act expanding the territory and amending the powers of a special sanitary district. In that case, the challenged act provided that it would become effective only upon its approval by a majority of those voting in the district. The Court acknowledged that, unless the approval provision could be elided, the act would be an unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority. But the Court found that the provision could be elided because the legislative history of the statute and its amendments indicated that the local approval requirement was included only because the General Assembly thought it was constitutionally required under Article XI, Section 9. 203 Tenn. at 33-34. The Court noted that the act contained a severability clause.
In 1959, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled that this provision of Article XI, Section 9 does not apply to special school districts. The act required the approval of voters living within the affected area of the county before it could become effective. Taxpayers argued that the act violated Article XI, Section 9 because it did not require the approval of the county commission or the voters of the county. The Court concluded that a special school district does not come within the definition of a municipality as contemplated in this constitutional provision. The Court, however, did not find that the act was void because it unconstitutionally delegated its effectiveness to a local vote of a limited number of voters in the county. Instead, the Court elided the approval requirement as “surplusage.” 204 Tenn. 614. The Court reasoned that the referendum was included in the act “because of the erroneous impression that the District might come within the Home Rule Constitutional Amendment requiring an election referendum before the Act would be enforceable.” The Court agreed with the Trial Court’s conclusion that the General Assembly would have passed the act even if the local approval requirement had been omitted. The Court does not explain the basis for the Trial Court’s conclusion, and the act in question did not contain a severability clause.
The 1959 act making the School Board’s existence perpetual is conditioned on the approval of a two-thirds vote of the School Board and a two-thirds vote of the Memphis City Commissioners. We have concluded in the past that the approval of the city legislative body for a private act applicable to the School Board is required under Article XI, Section 9 if the change affects the duties of the city officers. Op. Tenn. Atty. Gen. 00-149 (October 4, 2000). Moreover, because the City of Memphis did not adopt Home Rule until 1963, the act did not violate the rule that the General Assembly may act as to a home rule city only by general law. The question then becomes whether the act is unconstitutional because it conditions its effectiveness on the approval of the School Board, and that approval is not mandated by Article XI, Section 9 of the Tennessee Constitution.
Section 49-2-1002(a)(1) of the Tennessee Code provides as follows:
(a) (1) The city council, board of mayor and aldermen or other duly constituted governing body of any town or city in this state maintaining a separate school system is authorized and empowered to transfer the administration of such town or city school system to the county board of education of the county in which such town or city is located. Before such a transfer is effectuated however, a referendum shall first be conducted on the subject, and the school system of such town or city shall not be transferred to the county unless a majority of the voters who cast votes in the referendum shall vote in favor of such transfer.
(2) The referendum required by the preceding subdivision shall be held by the county commissioners of elections when requested by the governing body of the town or city, and the expenses of the election shall be paid by the town or city.
This Office has concluded that the School Board is not a city school system, but is a special school district with its boundaries coterminous with the boundaries of the City of Memphis.
Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-2-502 provides the method by which a special school district may transfer its system to the county school board. This statute states:
The school board, school commissioners, school trustees or other duly constituted administrative officials of any special school district are authorized and empowered to transfer the administration of the schools in the special school district to the county board of education of the county in which such special school district is located. Before a transfer is effectuated however, a referendum shall first be conducted on the subject, and the school system of such special school district shall not be transferred to the county unless a majority of the voters who cast votes in the referendum shall vote in favor of such transfer. The referendum shall be held by the county commissioners of elections when requested by the school board of the special school district, and the expenses of the election shall be paid from the funds of the special school district.
Under this provision, therefore, a special school district may transfer its system to the county after a referendum. Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-2-1002 expressly refers to this section twice. Subsection (b) provides:
A town, city or special school district transferring the administration of schools to the county board of education by authority of § 49-2- 502 and this section is authorized to devote the school funds of such town, city or special school district to the payment of the proportionate part of the cost of the maintenance and operation of such schools.
Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-2-1002(b) Subsection (d) provides in part:
The county board of education shall operate the schools of any town, city or special school district transferred to them by authority of § 49-2-502 and this section, as a coordinated part of the county school system to the end that a unified and balanced school system may be maintained in the county.
Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-2-1002(d) For this reason, while a city may transfer its school system to the county board of education by a vote of the city governing body and a referendum under Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-2-1002(a)(1), transfer of a special school district must be authorized by a vote of the governing body of the school district and a referendum under Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-2-502.
The original charter, 1869-70 Priv. Acts, Ch. 30, did not set salaries or compensation rates for Memphis School Board members. The Memphis City School System’s charter has been amended many times. Four of the amending acts are relevant to this discussion. Each includes provisions on Memphis School Board members’ compensation. Two are valid; two are void. The acts are
1. 1883 Private Acts, Chapter 17
2. 1951 Private Acts, Chapter 378
3. 1970 Private Acts, Chapter 340
4. 2000 Private Acts, Chapter 141
Chapter 141 of the 2000 Private Acts gives the Memphis City Council the authority to alter the compensation of School Board members, subject to approval in a referendum of all registered voters.
Chapter 141 is invalid. It amends 1970 Priv. Acts, Ch. 340, which is void. Chapter 340 never became effective. An act to be amended must be in existence. The most recent valid amendment of 1869-70 Priv. Acts, Ch. 30, pertaining to school board members’ compensation, is 1951 Priv. Acts, Ch. 378. This 1951 private act amended 1883 Priv. Act,
Ch. 17. The 1883 act had set school board members’ salaries, had specifically applied to Memphis City Schools and had repealed any sections of 1869-70 Priv. Acts, Ch. 30, inconsistent with the 1883 act.
Chapter 378 of the 1951 Private Acts states in relevant part as follows:
Sec. 2. . . . [T]he salary of the President of the Board of Education in such taxing district3 shall be fixed by the Board of Commissioners or other
Chapter 141 intended to add the following language to 1970 Priv. Acts, Ch. 340:
(b) The compensation of members of the board of education may be altered by the Memphis City Council, subject to approval in a referendum of all registered voters in the City of Memphis, provided that in no event shall such compensation exceed the compensation of members of the Memphis City Council. The referendum on any such change in compensation shall be held at the next regularly scheduled state general election occurring after such action by the Memphis City Council.
The City of Memphis is the taxing district. The Memphis City School Board does not have taxing authority.
From Exploded Dream: Desegregation in the Memphis City Schools:
For Gerald Young, the first day of school in 1958 was not quite ordinary. Eight-year-old Gerald was supposed to begin fourth grade that morning at Hyde Park Elementary. Like every other Black student in the Memphis City Schools, Gerald was to attend an all-Black school even though the United States Supreme Court had declared four years earlier that “separate schools are inherently unequal.”
However, on the morning of September 3, 1958, Gerald’s mother had other plans. Rather than traversing the ten blocks to Hyde Park, Gerald and his mother attempted to enroll on that first day of school at Vollentine Elementary, an all-White school more than five blocks closer. Their enrollment was denied. The Tennessee Pupil Assignment Law, which governed all transfer requests, did not permit transfers for mere convenience. So denied, Gerald was left to return to Hyde Park and school segregation lived on in the Memphis City Schools.
The first Memphis schools were chartered in 1826, but until 1848 all Memphis schools were private. The first “free” public schools in opened in 1848, but at first nominally charged a $2 tuition. By 1852, there were 13 public schools supported by taxpayers. The first city school for black students opened in 1868.
Now the question, Consolidating Memphis and Shelby County government? How does it feel to suggest that a statue for educating black people is on the table to be surrendered 141 years later? I can see why some of the board members want to vote against this, I also clearly see that this is will not effect the education of blacks in the city. Some say the city will be hit with higher taxes, and less money for Memphis city schools: some say that’s the consequence of consolidating Memphis City and Shelby County schools. What do you say?
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