3G’s bill passes full Tennessee House

Published: Apr. 4, 2022 at 10:37 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The “3G’s bill” passed the full Tennessee House of Representatives on Monday night. The legislation shifts control of Germantown Elementary, Germantown Middle and Germantown High School from Memphis-Shelby County Schools to the Germantown Municipal School District.

Before the house vote, democrats warned the bill’s sponsor and his republican colleagues that this state legislation will likely lead to a federal lawsuit.

The City of Germantown wants its three namesake schools back. Germantown officials put the value of those schools at $35-$40 million. But Memphis-Shelby County Schools, the district currently in charge of the 3G’s, says those school buildings are worth much more than that. The state’s largest school system says it would need at least $70-$90 million to build a new school to accommodate students that could no longer be able to attend the 3G’s if they were part of the Germantown district.

The 3G’s bill is designed to force MSCS to turn over the trio of schools to Germantown by making it illegal for a county school system to operate a school inside a municipality without a special agreement. But critics say passing the legislation will come at a cost to the 3,300 students who attend the 3G’s schools, and to taxpayers if the issue winds up in court. Rep. Dwayne Thompson, a democrat from Cordova, told his fellow house members that he heard Germantown school leaders do not want to take control of Germantown Elementary, Middle or High School.

“Members, this bill is an issue of local concern and should never have come before the General Assembly,” said Rep. Thompson, “I’m personal friends with several of the members of the Germantown School Board. They told me they do not have any plans on this.”

“Sir, that is not a true statement,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mark White, a republican who represents constituents in Memphis and Germantown. White said Germantown Mayor Mike Palazzolo is leading the charge to get control of the schools.

“These three schools reside in the geographic boundaries and in the municipal district of Germantown, the community of Germantown,” White told his colleagues, “They’re asking me that we move these three schools back into the authority of Germantown.”

Representative John Ray Clemmons, a democrat from Nashville, said the bill, if passed, would violate a federal settlement agreement from 2014 that created suburban school districts and divvied up the campuses after Memphis City Schools and the Shelby County School system merged. That settlement gave the 3G’s to Shelby County Schools, not the Germantown Municipal district.

“You are walking off a cliff,” Rep. Clemmons warned the full house, “Just because you have heartburn about an agreement you entered into eight years ago, you can’t do an end run around that and bring legislation.” In the end, the House passed the legislation by a vote of 68 to 23.

“Appreciate those comments,” Rep. White told the democrats opposed to the legislation, “but this is a Shelby County issue, and like I said, we will deal with it.”

Action News 5 reached out to a spokesperson with the Germantown Municipal School District, to GMSD Superintendent Jason Manuel and to Amy Eoff, chairwoman of the Germantown Municipal School Board, for a statement about the 3G’s bill. We have not heard back from any of them.

The full senate is expected to vote on the 3G’s bill next Monday. If it passes, it then goes to Governor Bill Lee’s desk for his signature. A lobbyist for MSCS told lawmakers last month the district is prepared to sue if the legislation is signed into law.

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