Gov. Phil Bryant signed a series of bills Wednesday that will consolidate public school districts in four Mississippi counties.
The governor’s signature on the bills, passed through the legislature earlier this year, will merge Montgomery County to Winona, Durant to Holmes County, Leflore County to Greenwood, and Lumberton to Poplarville and Lamar County.
For 30 years prior to 2012, no school districts were consolidated by the Mississippi Legislature. Since then, lawmakers have merged 13 districts, cutting the total number of school districts in the state from 152 to 139.
Proponents of consolidations say the mergers will save money spent on administering the two systems, freeing up funds to spend on the quality of education.
“We need to make sure we are as efficient as we can be in state government,” Gov. Phil Bryant said in a statement. “That includes making sure we focus on getting resources into the classrooms, where they’re most needed.”
Opponents of consolidations argue that the mergers add unnecessary bureaucracy to education plans already in place, ultimately not saving money.
“At this point, the consolidation is law, and we’ll do everything in our power to ensure it goes smoothly,” Deirdre Mayes, chairwoman of the Greenwood Public Schools board, told Mississippi Today in April. “Personally, though, I think a decision like this should be left up to local officials instead of state.”
The Montgomery County/Winona and Durant/Holmes County consolidations will occur in 2018, and the Leflore County/Greenwood and Lumberton/Poplarville/Lamar County consolidations will occur in 2019.