State Rep. Recommends Merging Schools By County

By Jack Fink, CBS 11 News

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.

  • Margaret Kilbury

    Being a resident of Garland, this idea sound horrid! What possible benefit is there for Garland ISD children in their school system being gobbled up by the notoriously dysfunctional Dallas ISD. Bad idea, very, very, very, bad idea.

  • Michelle Huff

    As a parent of several children attending schools in Mesquite ISD I am totally against this county wide consolidation. My husband and I chose to relocate to Texas first and foremost because the school districts are run independently by the citys and not county wide. We also chose to settle in Mesquite because of the way the ISD here operates, the wonderful teachers, and the educational opportunities. In no way would consolidating Mesquite ISD into Dallas and Kaufman county ISDs be a better option for our students. No way am I willing to place my child’s educational options and future into the hands of the dysfunctional, disorganized, overly budgeted, Dallas ISD administration! If this makes it to legislation I will definitely be a parent out there protesting!

  • Heather Seegert

    As a graduate of the Florida public schools and a Florida university, one of my main reasons for coming to Texas to teach was because of the smaller districts. I live in Collin Co. and I can’t believe how HUGE the district would be if based on country.
    I graduated from the 7th largest district in the state of Florida and I felt like a number, not a student. I then did my student teaching as well as volunteer experiences in probably the 2nd largest in the state of Florida and again students felt like numbers because such of a large population. Keep ISD’s small and up to par with state standards!!!!!!

  • jerden

    Anyone who knows anything at all about Texas schools knows this stands NO chance at all of becoming law. LOCAL control of schools is, and always has been, the keystone of our educational system, and local control means residents of the town/city controlling THEIR schools. This legislator should use his time for better things – like looking for a REAL SOLUTION to the budget problem instead of wasting his time on such nonsense.

  • JoeBob

    In 1911, a rural high school law was passed which established county boards of education and permitted creation of rural high schools and the consolidation of common school districts. This effort to make common or rural schools equal with those in the independent or urban districts took another step forward with passage of a law in 1917 authorizing state purchase of textbooks. Expansion of rural aid to schools, including state support for teacher salaries, gradually helped improve the education provided to children on the state’s farms and ranches.

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