A proposal to combine the school districts in Senatobia and Tate County has been presented to the Mississippi Legislature.
Senator Gray Tollison introduced a bill earlier this month that would merge the school districts as soon as July 1, 2019.
Tollison, a Republican from Oxford who represents Lafayette and Panola Counties, filed Senate Bill 2418 on Jan. 16 which calls for the administrative consolidation of superintendents and school boards from both districts and designate them as a new “Senatobia-Tate” School District.
The bill does not involve the consolidation or closing of any schools in Senatobia or Tate County.
Senatobia School District includes all elementary, middle, junior high and high school students who attend classes inside the city limits. There are approximately 1,780 students currently enrolled in those schools.
Tate County Schools include Independence, Strayhorn, Coldwater Attendance Center and East Tate Elementary. Approximately 2,700 students are enrolled in the school district in Tate County.
A vote to consolidate the districts is a long process, according to Mississippi House Representative and Senatobia native Trey Lamar.
“The bill would first have to pass the Senate Education Committee and then the full senate,” said Republican Lamar, who represents District 8 which covers most of Tate and part of Lafayette County. “If the bill were to pass the senate, I would oppose it in the House based off of my recent meetings with Senatobia and Tate County education leaders and feel confident we could defeat it.”
Tollison, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, also filed bills to merge city schools in Houston with the Chickasaw County School District, Richton and Perry County schools and the districts in North and South Tippah County.
The bills aim to reduce administrative costs in all four counties, according to Tollison.
The Senate Education Committee passed measures on Wednesday, Jan. 25 to combine Perry County and Richton school districts and Houston with the Chickasaw County School District. Those bills will now be sent to the full Senate for more debate.
The committee did not act on the consolidation proposals for merging the Senatobia and Tate County districts or the one for North Tippah and South Tippah districts.
Senator Bill Stone, a Democrat who represents Marshall and Tate Counties, said Tollison proposed the bills to gauge interest in the subject.
“We met with Senator Tollison to discuss concerns with it,” Stone said. “He said he introduced the bill to get a conversation started and seemed to agree with us that there are issues that need to be resolved before moving forward. After that meeting, we are hopeful that the bill will not advance out of the Senate Education Committee this year but it is a conversation we need to have locally going forward. The legislature has been active in consolidating districts over the last few years and I don’t see that changing. Any smaller county with more than one district is likely going to be on the list for consideration.”
In the previous five years, lawmakers have voted to abolish two school districts and merge 17 others. Some mergers have yet to occur.