A measure by Senator Jay Paul Gumm aimed at protecting rural Oklahoma from forced consolidation of public schools received a “do pass” recommendation from the Senate Education Committee.
Senate Joint Resolution 35 contains an amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution that would end forever the concept of forced school consolidation. If approved by the Legislature and voters, the amendment would prevent the consolidation of rural school districts unless the proposal is approved by voters in the affected school districts.
“Every year, the threat of forced school consolidation hangs over the heads of rural communities and rural families,” said Gumm, a Democrat from Durant who serves as a Senate assistant majority leader.
“This proposal would end that legislative threat forever. In short, the resolution takes the decision on school consolidation away from politicians, judges, or bureaucrats and places it where it belongs: in the hands of parents in school districts across the state.”
The proposal, Gumm said, does not end consolidation; however, forced consolidation could never happen under the amendment. For those districts and their patrons who decide consolidation is in their best interest, the amendment would give local voters complete control.
“I believe Oklahomans want policies that promote personal responsibility,” Gumm said. “That sense of personal responsibility is common among rural Oklahomans. Giving rural families this power to decide what is best for their children gives them the respect they have earned.”
The lawmaker said momentum is building across the state to permanently ban forced school consolidation. “The overwhelming bipartisan vote in the Education Committee reflects the strong will of rural Oklahoma families to determine their own fate,” he said.
Should the bill receive approval by both the Senate and House, Oklahoma voters would make the final decision on whether the amendment is placed in the Constitution during the November 2006 general election.