NASHVILLE, TN (abc24.com) - There are big troubles for Shelby County suburbs wanting to start their own school systems. After Tuesday's legislative session in Nashville, it looks like all kids will be going to class in the unified city-county school system.
So what happened in Nashville? Nothing. A bill that would allow cities and towns in Tennessee to start their own school systems next January was delayed again for another week.
When last we left the House Education Committee, they heard all sorts of concerns from local legislators about what would happen if the Shelby County cities and towns started their own systems.
When it was brought up again on April 3, nobody said a thing.
Democrat Lois DeBerry of Memphis said it was important to hear the words of lawyer Tony Thompson, who represents the unified school district. She will probably regret saying that.
"I do represent the Unified School Board in Shelby County. In terms of legislation, my client has not officially taken a position on this legislation," Thompson stated.
The room went silent. It was so quiet you could hear the hopes drop of those against suburban schools.
The most passionate critic of suburban schools at this meeting was former House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh. He doesn't even represent Shelby County, he's from Tipton.
"I was just shocked that the unified school district doesn't have a position on this. I mean, that's what they're supposed to be working on."
Still, Naifeh argued against the plan. You suburban folks better be ready for high taxes, he said. And, you better be ready to buy your own school buses, to either buy the school buildings or build your own. Don't forget you'll need teachers, principals, janitors, all that. And by golly, Naifeh said, he just didn't like the idea of legislators in Nashville sticking their noses into the business of Memphis and Shelby County.
"I don't know why we continue to tell Memphis and Shelby County what they ought to be doing and let them work out their own problems the way they should."
The sponsor of the bill, Republican Gerald McCormick of Chattanooga, said no, that's not what this bill does.
"I don't think we're telling the folks what to do in Shelby County. The way I see it, we're giving them more options."
There were questions being raised about this plan by other Republicans, a sign that there might be some rough times ahead. In fact some, like Republican Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley, were seemingly ready to wipe their hands of the whole deal.
"If Memphis and Shelby County want this, if we can give it to them, then we don't have to open up the whole thing. Can we do it that way?"
Republican State Representative Ron Lollar of Shelby County gave him the bad news. It has to be everybody, or it's nobody.
"It would be unconstitutional to just do this in Shelby County, especially with the way the rest of the state is set up."
All of the suburban mayors were in Nashville. They were quoted as saying they're not worried, the bill will be approved.
The key is will there be time for them to start their school systems in 2013, when the unified schools start. Right now that doesn't look like that's going to happen.
Learn more about House Bill 3234 at http://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/apps/BillInfo/Default.aspx?BillNumber=HB3234