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School bill puts pressure on mayor, city council

By By Sheila Blackmon/The Meridian Star
March 14, 2001
A bill that would allow parents living in the Meridian Separate School District to choose which of Lauderdale County's two school districts to enroll their children in is awaiting the governor's signature.
The Mississippi House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a Senate-amended version of House Bill 413.
Co-authored by state Reps. Eric Robinson, R-Quitman, and Tommy Horne, Independent-Meridian, the bill addresses the concerns of parents who have no representation on the Meridian School Board.
Many affected parents voted against two failed Meridian Public School bond referendums last year because they lack school board representation. Because they live outside the city limits but inside the city school district, they can't vote for mayor and city councilmen, who in turn appoint school board members.
Some legislators feel the "choice" the bill evokes belongs to local government officials rather than to parents.
Rep. Greg Snowden, R-Meridian, said in recent correspondence to The Meridian Star that the bill is designed to encourage school board representation but is not a "school choice" or "student transfer" bill.
Meridian Mayor John Robert Smith nominated Elaine Maust, who lives outside Meridian city limits, to the Meridian School Board last year but city council members rejected her.
Smith said he "would try to make another run at putting someone from the separate school district on the school board," and would also consider re-nominating Maust if he is certain the council will approve her.
Meridian school board member James Vance's term expires this month, leaving a spot open on the school board.
The bill now goes to Gov. Ronnie Musgrove. If he signs it, it will take effect July 1.
Sheila Blackmon is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail her at sblackmon@themeridianstar.com.

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