HA – Will lawmakers OK school mergers?

In something of a surprise, Gov. Haley Barbour on Monday unveiled his budget recommendations that includes merging some of Mississippi’s eight public universities.

Barbour said Mississippi University for Women should become part of Mississippi State University and Alcorn State and Mississippi Valley State should be merged with Jackson State.

None of the universities’ campuses would be closed, Barbour said.

The money savings would come in the reduction of administrative jobs.

Meanwhile, the governor also recommended that Mississippi’s 152 k-12 school districts should be reduced to 100, which would mean some lower performing districts would be merged with other districts. Barbour said better performing districts would remain intact.

This isn’t the first time there has been an effort to merge some of the state’s universities.

State revenues have plummeted and Barbour has already ordered cuts in agency spending. More cuts are likely as the recession continues.

As for merging some k-12 school districts, that will also be difficult, although there have been some successful district mergers over the years.

While it makes economic sense to reduce the number of districts, there is an emotional factor that must be considered. Thousands of parents and students won’t approve consolidating their schools. Why?

One word: Athletics.

It will be interesting to see if the lawmakers, who will have to face the voters in 2011, will be willing to make the tough vote.