Memphis in Racially-Charged Fight Over the Public School System


by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse UniversityScholarship in Action 

Tuesday, the residents of Memphis, Tennessee voted to merge their school district with the one in Shelby County, the more affluent suburb that surrounds them. In a city-wide referendum, the residents of the city voted to surrender control of Memphis City Schools and it’s 105,000 students to Shelby County, creating a massive school district consisting of 150,000 kids.
The vote led to a heated debate over race and class, particularly since the white and far wealthier residents of Shelby County didn’t appear to support the merger. David Pickler, Chair of the Shelby County school board, is vowing to fight the merger in court. Before the merger took place, Shelby County and Memphis pooled their resources and were required to educate all children within the city of Memphis and in the surrounding suburbs. Shelby County, however, had been hoping to obtain "special district" status, allowing it to close off its boundaries to keep Memphis children out of their finances.


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