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Oklahoma State Senate
Communications Division
State Capitol
Oklahoma City, OK 73105

For Immediate Release: February 19, 2007

Senator Jay Paul Gumm
Senator Jay Paul Gumm

Measure to End Forced School Consolidation Advances in Senate on Bipartisan Vote

Senator Jay Paul Gumm’s effort to end forever the concept of forced school consolidation picked up steam Monday with a unanimous, bipartisan vote in the Senate Education Committee.

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.”

The measure has tremendous bipartisan support beyond the Senate Education Committee. Currently, 12 senators and 33 representatives of both political parties have joined the effort to end the threat of forced school consolidation.

“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 move quickly through the legislative process and will be granted a hearing in the House of Representatives. An identical bill passed the Senate last year on a 43-1 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.

“Last year, partisan politics killed a chance to do the right thing for our rural schools, the communities they serve and the families that depend on them,” Gumm said. “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.”

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

For more information contact:
Senator Gumm's Office - (405) 521-5586

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