State Sen. Akbari the lone ‘no’ vote on future of ‘3G’ school bill

Published: Mar. 16, 2022 at 10:50 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A Tennessee Senate committee passed the “3G’s” bill on Wednesday, March 16, one day after the House education subcommittee passed it.

The bill would force Memphis-Shelby County Schools to give control of Germantown Elementary, Middle and High Schools to the City of Germantown.

The Senate Education Committee passed the bill by a vote of 8 to 1. State Senator Raumesh Akbari of Memphis was the lone no vote.

“I think Memphis-Shelby County Schools should continue to own and manage,” Akbari said, “it’s working well.”

She told Action News 5 her main concern is the number of students who could be displaced if the City of Germantown takes control of the trio of schools. 3,500 students attend Germantown Elementary, Germantown Middle and Germantown High School right now.

MSCS says it would have to build a new high school to accommodate students if the district loses the schools, at a cost of $94 million.

The two sides have met more than a dozen times, unable to reach an agreement. Senator Akbari said Nashville is not the place to resolve this critical, local issue.

“I think it’s because there are two very firm lines in the sand,” said Sen. Akbari, “but when you don’t get an agreement, you don’t run to the state and have them pass legislation to give you what you want. That’s just not how things should get done.”

State Representative Mark White sponsored the bill on the House side. State Senator Brian Kelsey is co-sponsor on the Senate side. Rep. White says the City of Germantown wants to own and operate its namesake legacy schools. His legislation, he said, was crafted to get both sides to the negotiation table again. If they don’t reach an agreement, and the law passes, it would go into effect in 2023.

“We want to make this work,” Rep. White told Action News 5, “mainly for the students. But I think all the parties realize that these three schools are part of Germantown. They’re in the city proper of Germantown and they’re proud of these schools and they want to be able to manage these schools. It’s time that we make this happen.”

But attorney Tony Thompson, a lobbyist for MSCS, told the House subcommittee on Tuesday this isn’t about education.

“It’s all about the land. And I’ll promise you this: my client’s not afraid to go to the courthouse,” Thompson told lawmakers, “And that’s where they’ll be headed and the taxpayers will be defending an unconstitutional law.”

Thompson says this legislation, if passed, would violate a 2014 federal agreement between the parties.

Germantown Mayor Mike Palazzolo told lawmakers the city has no plans to sell the property, and would likely build new, modern schools on the sites.

The 3G’s bill heads to the full Senate for a vote next week.

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