Law Journal Criticizes ‘Norris-Todd Act’ Impact on Shelby Schools

A University of California law professor concludes that a 2011 state law “made things dramatically worse for Shelby County, including Memphis,” by favoring the “strongest suburbs” over the Shelby County metro area as a whole.
Richard Locker did a write-up on the article about the measure, which came after Memphis City Schools moved to dissolve and become part of the Shelby County system.
The Columbia Law Review article by UC Berkeley Law School assistant professor Michelle Wilde Anderson examined the Memphis City Schools district’s “dissolution” and the state’s response to it — the “Norris-Todd Act” of 2011 — in the context of its larger effects on regionalism.
Anderson was most critical of the state’s response when the merger issue arose in early 2011. “The state has a critical role to play in determining whether the (Memphis City Schools) dissolution is an opportunity or a setback for Shelby County.”
In its response to “a struggling district that opts for dissolution, the state could have and should have made the county as strong and competent as possible so as to stabilize the service provided in the dissolving district without hurting county children.”
“Instead, Norris-Todd hobbles the combined district, favoring the strongest area suburbs over metropolitan Memphis as a whole. By permitting the breakaway school districts within Shelby County, the state has created the high probability that the best-resourced subterritories within the former Shelby County Schools district will break away into new districts,” Anderson wrote.
“The breakaway provisions of Norris-Todd are poised to … weaken the county schools at their time of greatest vulnerability. Much power now lies with Shelby County’s wealthiest suburbs. Will they contribute to helping the new regional Shelby County Schools succeed, or will they secede?

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