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NASHVILLE — Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, in the course of his usual Thursday afternoon session with Capitol Hill reporters, summed up what he regarded as a successful week — especially in the advancement of Governor Haslam's tenure bill and other legislation to transform public education.
Ramsey, who doubles as Speaker of the Senate, then threw a bombshell, taking notice of Tuesday's passage in Memphis of a citywide referendum to transfer authority for Memphis City Schools to Shelby County Schools.
"I think that's going to present a challenge to us here in the General Assembly," Ramsey said, and he went on to characterize the moment as "an opportunity."
The Memphis school system was one that "by anybody's measure is failing," he said, contending that MCS owned 500 automobiles and employed "more people that don't teach than do teach."
The Norris-Todd bill, passed earlier in the session and designed to structure the forthcoming merger, was a step in the right direction, he said. "If we hadn't passed that bill, we'd be in limbo right now...I'd like to see us go further than that and see if we can take over that school system, certain schools down there, and see if we can't turn that around."
Ramsey said the mechanism for such a takeover would be legislation passed last year activating a provision of the 1993 law which created the state's Basic Education Program. The legislation allows for the creation of state Achievement School Districts in the case of academically failing school systems.
"We've never used that before. We now have a mechanism to do that, and I hope we take advantage of it in this situation."
Ramsey said one course might be to "scour the country" to find an administrator capable of taking over and redirecting the Memphis school system or at least some of its units. "We should try that for a while before we just merge the school systems."
Legislation to that end might not be immediately forthcoming in the current session but should be seriously considered during the 2 1/2-year period before MCS-SCS merger could be implemented under Norris-Todd, Ramsey said.
He said that he hopes relatively soon to make the appointment which he is entitled to make to the planning commission created by Norris-Todd.
VIDEO: See and hear for yourself what the lieutenant governor's plans for MCS are, in these excerpts:
RON RAMSEY ON A STATE TAKEOVER OF MEMPHIS CITY SCHOOLS (EXCERPT ONE):
RON RAMSEY ON A STATE TAKEOVER OF MEMPHIS CITY SCHOOLS (EXCERPT TWO):
RON RAMSEY ON A STATE TAKEOVER OF MEMPHIS CITY SCHOOLS (EXCERPT THREE): >