Less is more
Published 7:00 am Friday, January 27, 2017
For the past few years, discussion in Jackson about school district consolidation has increased.
Within Mississippi’s 82 counties, there are 148 different school districts, according to the Mississippi Department of Education website. That equates to about 1.8 districts for every county. Pearl River County has three.
The Poplarville School District is currently undergoing state-mandated operations to absorb part of the Lumberton Public School District, a process that is supposed to be complete by 2019. Now, the Bay-Waveland and Hancock County school districts are looking at the possibility of consolidating.
Last year, the Mississippi Legislature approved a bill to combine the districts of Montgomery, Carroll and Winona counties.
During the current legislative session, bills have been put forth to merge the Perry County and Richton
school districts, and the Houston and Chickasaw County school districts, according to The Clarion-Ledger. The newspaper also reported that lawmakers abolished two districts and merged 17 others in the past five years.
At first glance, this can seem like a chaotic move to restructure the education system. Chaos could definitely ensue, until a new standard is reached.
Growing up, I attended a number of public school districts in multiple states; some were small, with just a few schools to manage, while others were massive, involving the education of thousands of students.
St. Tammany Parish School District, where I attended high school, has over 38,000 students attending 55 different schools. That district is managed by one superintendent, an associate superintendent and two assistant superintendents along with a variety of other administrators, teachers and staff.
While comparing the size of a large district like St. Tammany and the smaller communities within Pearl River County can seem like comparing apples to oranges, consolidating our school districts—if done properly—could provide massive cost savings.
With property and school taxes rising and with education continuing to be underfunded on the state and federal level, maybe less will turn into more.