Monday, February 21, 2011

In Memphis, old strife heats up over schools, race

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i think this not only happening in memphis it also happening here in miami...

In Memphis, old strife heats up over schools, race

By ADRIAN SAINZ AP MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- A bold bid by the struggling, majority-black Memphis City Schools system to force a merger with the majority-white, successful suburban district has fanned relatively routine fears over funding and student performance into accusations of full-blown racism. The fight over the fate of 150,000 public school students has stirred long-festering emotions in Memphis and surrounding Shelby County, creating a drama that has spread beyond school board meetings to union rallies, the state Legislature and federal court. On March 8, Memphis voters will decide whether to approve disbanding the city schools system and turning education over to the county district, which is earning good grades on its own and doing everything it can to stave off consolidation. Memphis resident and school cafeteria worker Mary Washington questioned why Memphis schools would even want to give over its students to a system that doesn't want them. "It's just like you losing your freedom going into bondage," Washington, who is black, said after an American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees meeting. "In the background, in the foreground, it is about race." David Pickler, the white Shelby County School Board chairman, bristles at such claims. "To say that we don't want someone because of the color of their skin to me is the most offensive thing someone can say to me," Pickler said. Regardless of the motives, it's a pivotal time in the history of Memphis: Jobs, education quality and school closings hang in the balance. There's also a growing feeling among some parents and students that the children are being ignored as adults make power plays and political moves. The Memphis City Schools board voted last December to surrender its charter and turn over control to Shelby County's system, which includes public schools outside the city limits. The spark for the schools consolidation fight began smoldering on Election Day last November, when Republicans took control of the state Legislature and saw Republican Bill Haslam win the governor's race. Shelby County's Republican politicians finally saw their chance to forever block a merger by securing special school district status. The special status would draw a boundary around the Shelby County school district, protecting its autonomy and tax base - and, according to Jones, taking $100 million a year from the already underfunded Memphis schools system....

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