Putting the Children Last

Consolidation, Education, Integration, Memphis, Memphis City Schools, Schools, Shelby County

The problem with the Memphis City Schools is not that the school board is elected. The problem is not that this elected board chose a superintendent. The problem is not even that some members of that board felt that the primary qualification of the new superintendent should be Black skin. The problem is not simply money, although that is part of it. Even if Mayor Herenton got his way, and now had the right to appoint both the school board and its superintendent, and even if an anonymous donor gave or willed a billion dollars to the Memphis district, we would be faced with the fact that the Memphis City Schools, being nearly all-Black, cannot prepare its students for a world that is increasingly diverse. Add to that the problem of crumbling, outdated buildings and Memphis’ declining tax base, and you get a recipe for educational and social disaster. There is an answer far better than Herenton’s power grab, and it is simple. There should be only one school system in Shelby County, and it should be the Shelby County Schools. Memphis will never again have the tax base to adequately fund a large, urban school system, and even if it could, it is unfair to African-American children to shunt them off into all-Black, segregated schools, even under the pretense of separate school districts or “neighborhood schools.” Just because the neighborhoods are in awful shape should not consign the young people there to a hopeless future. It is time to put responsible people in charge of all public education in Shelby County and to start worrying about children and not politics or skin color. For those who constantly worry about race, it happens to be Black children who are bearing the brunt of the leaders’ irresponsibility. If we don’t do something soon, our whole region faces a very dark future.

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