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Petition asks lawmakers to support local school districts

Jennifer Proseus is looking for signatures — lots of them.
Proseus, the mother of two Rivercrest Elementary students, recently started a petition on change.org that asks state lawmakers to support legislation allowing municipalities to form their own school districts. In the six days of its existence, more than 1,300 viewers have signed the petition.
Proseus is seeking legislative support for TNSB1353 and TNHB1288, which would lift the 1982 ban on the creation of new municipal school systems across the state. The petition website is www.change.org/petition/state-of-tn-allow-municipal-schools-in-tn and is available for signatures.
“I decided to get other people as upset as I am about the issue,” said Proseus. “Every time the petition is signed, it sends an email to our legislators, letting them know. I hear they are getting swamped with emails now.”
Proseus said she has been trying to force the issue since last year, when residents of Bartlett, Arlington. Lakeland, Germanown, Collierville and Millington voted to form their own municipal schools. She said they were denied because of the state’s ban.
The issue became even more urgent, said Proseus, when the Memphis City Schools merged with Shelby County Schools last year.  Proseus said Memphis City Schools has been marked by corruption, waste, failing students and financial problems.
“I’m a mother of two children in Bartlett, and I grew up and attended school here,” she said. “I’m proud of the school system, but I’m so frustrated with this situation. We as parents were told this merger was best for our kids and nothing would change, but it is changing.”
Since the merger, the Shelby County Board of Education has expanded from seven to 23 members, and most are from Memphis City Schools. Proseus said she has learned that nine support staff from Rivercrest Elementary will be removed or cut back. She said other Shelby County schools will experience similar situations.
The petition states that smaller municipal school systems are better for students, providing an efficient, high-quality education with local leadership and accountability. She said small communities don’t want a mega-district of 150,000 students, which makes it the largest in the country.
Proseus said she will be taking the petition to the state legislature in Nashville next week in anticipation of this month’s vote on the two bills.
“I’m really excited and hopeful that all of these small communities will get their own school systems,” said Proseus. “I believe petitions like this can really make a big difference.”