School consolidation has gained ground this year as a way to trim educational expenses while improving educational opportunities for Oklahoma students.
But, a legislator who proposed a review of the issue said the results revealed by a late September interim study seems to have convinced the majority of participants to take the idea off the table, while an area legislator expressed relief, but said he still believes there is a movement to push consolidation as a cure for educational woes.
The Oklahoma House of Representative's Common Education Committee reviewed the idea two weeks ago as part of its efforts to work through interim studies assigned by House Speaker Kris Steele. The idea of consolidation was brought forward as a study topic by House Speaker Pro Tempore Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, who said the recent discussion left him with concerns, questions and the opinion that consolidation doesn't seem to be the way to proceed.
The issue also caught the attention of Rep. Joe Dorman, R-Rush Springs, because of an "exercise" conducted during the study to see what results would occur if the study committee defined criteria to guide consolidation, then identified the districts that could fall under them. Dorman admits he was angry when he heard that two of his school districts Cement and Temple made that hypothetical list. While he knows the list was only hypothetical, Dorman said he believes consolidation still is being discussed and rural school districts would suffer the brunt of school closures.
In all, 32 school districts out of more than 500 in Oklahoma fell under the hypothetical guidelines, but eight are in Southwest Oklahoma: Cement, Temple, Duke, Olustee, Davidson, Lone Wolf, Gracemont and Lookeba Sickles.