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Failing Schools Could Merge with Neighbors

By Annie Gilbertson | Published 16 Mar 2012 07:42am | comments
Students in failing school districts may soon find themselves overseen by neighbors. Photo by Pink Sherbet Photography via Flickr.

Students in failing school districts may be packing up and moving next door. Both the Mississippi House and Senate passed bills yesterday that would allow individual students or entire student bodies to move to neighboring districts if theirs is failing.

But MPB's Southern Education Desk reporter, Annie Gilbertson, reports forced school mergers are still fueling debate among lawmakers.

The author of the Senate bill Republican Gray Tollison says failing districts get taken over, improve under the state, get turned back to local authorities, only to fail again down the line.  His solution?  Instead of putting the state in charge, have neighboring districts take over. 

Tollison: "You increase the possibility of school improvement, but it's more about efficiency."

When he introduced the bill to the Senate, Tollison avoided terms like consolidation, a term which many legislators have opposed year after year, in favor of idioms such as "give your neighbor a helping hand."

But not everyone on the floor thought school districts should be forced to be so neighborly.

Democrat Hob Bryan proposed an amendment that would allow successful neighboring schools to say no.

Bryan: “What this bill does is allow the state department to come in and say we are going to change the boundaries of your school district, send you the students in a failing school district, and there is not a thing you can do about it.”

Byran’s amendment passed. Many legislators were concerned forced consolidation would be unpopular with constituents back home. 

Unlike the Senate bill, the House version of the bill doesn’t include an amendment giving schools a say, leaving the issue of forced consolidation yet to be resolved.

From the Southern Education Desk, for MPB News, I'm Annie Gilbertson.

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Students in failing school districts may soon find themselves overseen by neighbors. Photo by Pink Sherbet Photography via Flickr.


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