MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - The Shelby County Commission has filed a lawsuit to halt an upcoming referendum vote to decide if the suburbs will create their own municipal school districts.
"We are convinced it will be a more expensive proposition to have municipal school districts for the county," said Mike Ritz, a Shelby County Commissioner.
Ritz said commissioners were briefed on the lawsuit during Monday's executive session, and the suit was filed late Tuesday.
"The hope would be that the judge would rule it is special legislation and the elections are not legal," Ritz said.
Municipal cities such as Bartlett, Germantown and Millington have battled to hold the August 2 vote, which if approved, would allow them to establish their own school systems outside of the newly merged Memphis-Shelby County school district.
"It doesn't make sense, it is unfair, it is hypocritical, and I'm frustrated with that," said fellow commissioner Chris Thomas.
Thomas said he doesn't support the lawsuit.
"I don't understand why people don't want to give citizens of a small community the right to have their own school system, it just does not make sense to me," Thomas said.
The lawsuit, filed by the commission on June 26, states that municipal school districts would "create a profound financial burden on Shelby County," adding that they would violate the Tennessee and United States Constitutions.
Given the county government will be responsible for funding and administering the Unified School District, the lawsuit further asserts that the creation of municipal districts "will mandate the Shelby County Commission's participation in facilitating unconstitutional municipal school districts."
"More importantly," the lawsuit further states, "Shelby County will be unable to ensure that its citizens receive an adequate education in an integrated school system, as mandated by the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution."
"I view this as an effort to deprive our citizens of the right to vote for their desire to establish a MSD in Collierville," said Collierville Mayor Stan Joyner.
It will now be up to Federal Judge Samuel Mayes to weigh in during a hearing. It was Judge Mayes' ruling that paved the way for a unified school board.
Commissioner Thomas said Tuesday night he expects a hearing to be scheduled in the coming days.