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State Rep. Recommends Merging Schools By County

By Jack Fink, CBS 11 News
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A student writes during a school lesson on September 4, 2003. (credit: Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

A student writes during a school lesson on September 4, 2003. (credit: Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A state lawmaker is proposing to consolidate the state’s school districts by county.

Right now in Texas there are 1,044 independent school districts.  Under the bill by Republican Representative Fred Brown of Bryan, the state would go to a county school district model — with 254 districts.

He says many other states, including Florida, have countywide school districts.  But many North Texas say it’s just not right for this state.

Greg Helgemoe is spending the afternoon coaching his nine-year-old son Egan in basketball.  He says a newly proposed state law to consolidate school districts across Texas is out of bounds.  “I think it’d be a negative for this community.”

Helgemoe’s son goes to Highland Park ISD.  Under Brown’s plan, Highland Park would merge into one combined district with every other school district in Dallas County.

Helgemoe worries his freedom of choice would be bounced out the classroom window.  “When you get a big conglomeration of people making decisions, they’re making them for the whole, not for specific groups.”

Brown says having one school district per county would save the state $1 Billion each year in administrative costs.  He insists the schools and their sports teams wouldn’t change, just administrators.

Rena Honea is President of the Alliance AFT Teachers Union at Dallas ISD.  She says consolidation may work in rural, less populated areas, but “to try to manage Dallas, Garland, Richardson, Farmers Branch, all of those fairly large school districts would be an atrocious undertaking.  We would see a lot of trouble.”

Rural districts in western and southern Texas, as well as Rains ISD in Rains County near Greenville, incorporate their schools into one school district.

Brown’s proposal would actually split up some school districts. That’s because those districts are in two different counties.

Frisco ISD is in both Collin and Denton counties, and Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD is in both Dallas and Denton counties.

Under the plan, residents would not be able to vote on the bill, it would be up to the legislature.

That doesn’t sit well with parent and Tea Party member Katrina Pierson.  “That’s probably the biggest red flag. If this is such a great proposition for people, then why do you want to do it without their consent?”

When asked why not let residents vote on the move, State Representative Brown said that wasn’t a bad idea.

Brown said he would file a subsequent bill next week that will allow the Texas Education Agency to manage the consolidations in each county over a ten-year period.

So how realistic is it that brown’s bill or bills will be approved by the legislature?  Brown says not very.  He doesn’t expect his bill will even get a hearing.  But, he says it’s too important an issue not to discuss because administrative costs in each school district are way too high and need to be cut.

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