By The Greenwood Commonwealth, Greenwood Miss.
The Picayune Item
GREENWOOD, Miss. —
About the only way that school consolidation in any scope will occur in Mississippi is if it’s initiated by the state Legislature.
As has been demonstrated in Leflore County and elsewhere, consolidation talks on the local level usually get nowhere because the people involved are more concerned about preserving jobs or power than doing what’s best for the students and the taxpayers.
The Legislature, after rejecting in 2011 then-Gov. Haley Barbour’s proposal to reduce the number of school districts from 152 to 100, looks like it’s poised to at least experiment with the idea.
Recently, the Senate passed a bill that would merge the three Sunflower County school districts into one. The measure awaits action in the House.
Sunflower County is an easy target with which to start. All three of its school districts — Sunflower County, Indianola and Drew — are under state control because of chronically low academic performance and other problems. That doesn’t leave them with much leverage to argue in favor of the status quo. And because none of them does well, none of them can object to assuming someone else’s headaches. All three are beset with them.
Under the bill, a new countywide school board would be elected to run the consolidated district. That school board — with oversight from state education officials — would hire the new superintendent. None of the three existing superintendents would be eligible for the job.
Proponents of the bill claim that consolidation would save $1.2 million a year in administrative costs. They don’t offer a calculation of how much better the education might be, but it couldn’t be a whole lot worse.
It’s definitely worth trying. If it works, then it could be the opening volley for doing the same in other parts of the state where the districts are too small or their performance too substandard or both.