On Monday, the Tennessee House of Representatives passed legislation that will unite three schools carrying the city’s name with the Germantown Municipal School School District.
An amendment stating that Memphis-Shelby County Schools must enter into an agreement with the Germantown Municipal School District or forfeit the rights to Germantown Elementary, Middle, and High Schools was approved despite concerns that the legislation could result in a federal lawsuit.
The “3 G’s” are valued at around $40 million, according to local officials. The county’s school system estimates that it will need between $70-to-$90 million to build a new school that could enroll students who could not attend the Germantown Municipal School District.
All three schools are within the geographic boundaries of Germantown.
The bill, sponsored by Dist. 83 Rep. Mark White, was presented to the House K-12 Education Subcommittee on March 8.
The House passed the legislation by a vote of 68 to 23 on Monday.
The bill must still be approved by the full senate and Gov. Bill Lee.
“These school buildings are in the municipality of Germantown. All they’re asking for is to be able to manage and operate these schools,” said White, who is co-sponsoring the bill with Germantown Sen. Brian Kelsey.
White said the 3,300 students currently attending the three schools would be allowed to complete their education on those campuses under a lease agreement with Memphis-Shelby County Schools. But he could not promise the schools would be available for future students zoned to attend them.
The legislation prevents a “local educational agency” from operating within the boundaries of another “local educational agency” without having an agreement between the parties in place.
City officials stated that the bill “codifies two opinions issued by the state attorney general on the topic.”
“We went into this process with a cooperative spirit, meeting more than 10 times with Memphis Shelby County Schools (MSCS) officials in meetings led by Representative White,” said Germantown Mayor Mike Palazzolo. “We hoped that we would be able to come to a consensus that would result in a lengthy transition plan to provide certainty for our teachers, students and families. However, we were unable to come to an agreement.”
Currently, Germantown Municipal School District operates six schools in Germantown. MSCS currently operates the remaining three.
Germantown leaders offered Shelby County Schools $25 million for Germantown Elementary, Middle and High Schools in 2017. The schools, often referred to as the “Three Gs,” stayed with Shelby County Schools (now MSCS) in the 2014 demerger of public education in Shelby County.
If approved by state legislators, the new rules would go into effect in July.
At that time, any school district that operates schools within the geographical boundaries of another school district serving grades kindergarten through twelfth (K-12) grade would either need to enter into an agreement authorizing their operations outside of their jurisdiction, or immediately transfer all property used in the operation of the schools to the municipal district.
Locally, the legislation would mean that MSCS would no longer be allowed to operate the “Three Gs” without an agreement with the Germantown Municipal School District.
“This legislation achieves goals for both districts – Germantown has long wanted to regain local control of the “Three-G” schools since GMSD was created. GMSD was created because a large majority of Germantown residents voted for local control over public education,” said Palazzolo. “The filing of this bill gets the city one step closer to making that a reality for Germantown.”
MSCS is working toward fulfilling goals contained in the Reimagining 901 Plan which focuses on the importance of efficient and full-capacity neighborhood schools. In fact, according to enrollment data, MSCS has capacity at several schools within close proximity to Germantown.
Germantown is one of two municipalities in Shelby County that was not granted complete control over all of the public schools within its municipal boundaries when local municipal school districts were created in 2014. The City has worked to regain control of Germantown Elementary, Middle and High Schools since that time.
“I am a proud graduate of Germantown High School as are my sisters,” said Vice Mayor Mary Anne Gibson. “Those namesake schools mean so much to our community. With this legislation we can eliminate confusion when having to explain to prospective residents that GMSD doesn’t operate the public schools that carry our City’s name.”