JACKSON, Miss. (WCBI)- The school consolidation bill for Starkville and Oktibbeha County schools passed the House Education Committee Thursday afternoon. It will now go before a full house. The bill passed unanimously, but still has a long way to go. In the end, more than 5,000 students could be affected.
Republican State Representative Gary Chism was relieved to see it go through.
“It went through the subcommitee with no dissenting votes. I can’t say enough. This is a tough decision for the Education Committee to have to do and certainly for the Representatives from Oktibbeha County and myself to be involved with,” says Representative Chism.
The bill now moves to the full house. If it passes there, it goes to the Senate education committee.
“There’s 830 kids in Oktibbeha County and this bill is bipartisan. We are focusing on the kids, we need this bill,” says Representative Chism.
Democratic State Representative Tyrone Ellis, says legislators are aware that Starkville school leaders were cautious about the bill, but assures district leaders that the vote was in the best interest of the students.
“Fortunately for us, we were able to bring our administration in from Starkville to say how would we do this best. I’m just glad it’s taking place with their input,” says Representative Ellis.
Lawmakers that spoke to WCBI say that consolidating districts will give kids in failing schools a shot at a better education.
“It will bring not only quality, but equality as a whole for the students of Starkville and Oktibbeha County,” says Representative Ellis.
Consolidation is picking up steam throughout Mississippi. The senate education committee recently approved a similar bill for the school districts of West Point and Clay County. A move Democratic State Senator Angela Turner thinks is a step in the right direction.
“We’re still speaking with Clay County and West Point but I think consolidation is inevitable at this point. We do need to make sure we are conserving the resources of this state and that our children are adequately educated as best as they can be,” says Senator Turner.
The bill creates a school board with three members appointed by the city, one elected by voters outside the city and one member from the current Oktibbeha district appointed by county supervisors. This newly organized district would officially begin July 1, 2015, but planning for the changes would begin immediately if the bill is passed in the house and senate.
Money and funds have not been allocated yet. It’s expected to come up at a later date.