Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Rural Schools Get Nod from SJR 1

(Chair's Note: As a graduate of a small rural high school I'm thrilled that Senator Gumm's measure to end forced school consolidation passed the Senate today. I visited Beaver, Texas and Cimarron Counties last week and saw firsthand the importance of the rural schools and the impact they have on their communities. Many students already travel great distances to attend school and more time on a school bus can't be the best use of time for our young citizens. Thanks to Senator Gumm and the others, on both sides of the aisle, who supported this measure.)

Measure to End Forced School Consolidation
Advances to House on Bipartisan Vote

OKLAHOMA CITY – Senator Jay Paul Gumm’s effort to end forever the concept of forced school consolidation is two small steps away from a vote of the people with an overwhelming bipartisan vote on the Senate floor this morning.

Senate Joint Resolution 1 would give Oklahoma voters a chance to amend the Oklahoma Constitution to prohibit any school from consolidating unless approved by a majority of voters in each of the affected school districts. In short, Gumm explained, the measure would prevent “politicians, judges or bureaucrats” from forcing any school district to consolidate.

“This legislation is simple – it protects rural communities from the almost yearly threat by some politicians and bureaucrats in Oklahoma City to close rural schools and kill the communities they serve,” said Gumm, a Democrat from Durant. “This measure puts the power to determine the future of rural Oklahoma in the hands of rural Oklahomans – where it belongs.”

Gumm said SRJ 1 has tremendous bipartisan support—noting his measure is a joint effort to end the threat of forced school consolidation. Currently the measure has co-authors from 12 senators and 33 representatives of both political parties

“We agree – it is long past time to settle this issue once and for all,” Gumm said. “I am grateful the proposal has picked up momentum with the support of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle.”

Gumm said he is hopeful the measure will be granted a hearing in the House of Representatives. An identical bill passed the Senate last year on a similar vote, only to meet an untimely end when a House committee refused to give it a hearing.

This year, two Republicans – Rep. Lisa Billy of Purcell and Rep. Phil Richardson of Minco – have signed on as principal House authors.

“By reaching across party lines, I am more confident than ever we can send a strong statement that we understand the importance of protecting rural schools from the fate of forced school consolidation.” Gumm said.

If approved by the Legislature, the measure would be placed on the 2008 General Election ballot.

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