MEMPHIS, TN - The Memphis City School Board had "no choice". One of Shelby County's most conservative, suburban lawmakers says the MCS Board did the right thing voting to surrender the district's charter.
Shelby County Commissioner Mike Ritz is a staunch Republican from Germantown. He's the local politician who fought for tough new strip club rules that ban alcohol and contact with the dancers.
So when a guy like that tells a reporter the city school board made the right move giving up its' charter, you tend to listen to his explanation why.
"I think they were faced with a very dire circumstance," Ritz tells abc24.com, "with the special district situation hanging over their head with Shelby County."
Ritz is the chairman of the Shelby County Commission's Budget Committee, so he's familiar with the numbers in this school consolidation debate.
He says MCS Board member Martavius Jones, the sponsor of the original charter surrender resolution, was right when he said, "I feel the special district status for Shelby County Schools is going to be a financial detriment to Memphians."
Commissioner Ritz says Memphis City Schools would no longer receive any funding from county residents outside the city limits if SCS gained special district status. And that group of taxpayers provides a hefty chunk of cash for MCS.
"It's a very legitimate concern," Ritz says. "It approaches $50 to $60 million a year."
The amount is expected to significantly increase over the next decade as more people move out to the suburbs. Without that funding source, says Ritz, city schools would have a tough time paying the bills.
But giving up the MCS charter comes with its' own set of financial issues.
"It almost guarantees there will be a reduction of $78 million from the City of Memphis," says Shelby County School Board Chairman David Pickler. "It almost guarantees a reduction from state funding and federal funding."
Still, in order to stay alive and viable in the future, Commissioner Ritz says Memphis City Schools must merge with Shelby County Schools.
"If I was on the city school board," he says, "I'd have voted just the way they did. If was in Memphis, I'd vote for it. Memphis taxpayers don't have any choice."
The Memphis School Board meets Tuesday to discuss a proposed agreement with Shelby County Schools that could delay the charter surrender for a year.
The Shelby County Election Commisssion meets Wednesday to set a date for the special election.