Committee Meets Again on School Consolidation

By: Ashley Conroy Email
By: Ashley Conroy Email

The working group under the Commission on Educational Structure met Tuesday to discuss its 'final' draft.

In this version, the committee outlined three criteria for the full commission to consider: 'voluntary consolidation of districts and services, 'involuntary' consolidation of districts and services, and 'incentives' for consolidation.

"An incentive that would say it would be worth your effort in resources that you could bring this school district in and all the kids would get a good education," said working group member, James Stubbs from Long Beach.

It's an issue some groups have been upset about, saying it would take away a school's identity.

State superintendent, Dr. Tom Burnham, says it's more about consolidating administration than an actual school.

"If this had been approached as a consolidation of administrative functions, I think we wouldn't have near the emotion we have involved in it now," Burnham said.

However, Burnham nor anyone on the commission seems to know exactly how much taxpayers will save if this consolidation happens.

Those opposed to this measure are mostly upset about 'involuntary', saying it would force one district to merge with another.

The commission hired a research group from Colorado to develop this criteria. If the involuntary approach were chosen, anything from how much a district pays per student to how many students attend the entire district to whether the district is consistently ranked as failing would all be considered.

As of now, 18 different districts in 16 different counties meet this criteria.

"People are not happy to be told that you cannot do the job yourself. And therefore, we are going to look at ways that we can force you together with someone else," Stubbs said.

This final draft the working group agreed upon will now be sent to all of the commission members. Once it makes a decision, another report will be sent to Gov. Haley Barbour.

Dr. Burnham does say he hopes the full commission and the governor will strongly consider incentives for school consolidation rather than an involuntary consolidation approach.

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