City officials have opportunity for head start
March 25, 2001
A handful of frustrated voters who live outside the Meridian city limits but inside the Separate School District have a new tool in their battle over "taxation without representation."
If their problem isn't solved, they can pull their children out of city schools and put them into Lauderdale County schools taking a lot of education support money with them.
By signing House Bill 413, Gov. Ronnie Musgrove joined the Legislature in encouraging Meridian city officials to nominate and confirm a school board member from outside the city. Residents in the affected area can not vote for mayor or council candidates, have no voice on the current school board and have been vocal in their frustration. Yet they must pay taxes to support city schools, which their children attend, giving rise to the "taxation without representation" argument.
School officials say about 280 students live in the district but outside the city. State education programs pump about $1,800 a year for each student into city schools. Unless the council confirms a school board member from outside the city, students may be allowed to transfer from a city school to a Lauderdale County school.
It is unlikely, but if all 280 students left city schools as the new law allows a collective $504,000 in state education funding would follow them. It would be a blow the city school system could not easily absorb.
The simple answer, as The Meridian Star has said in the past, is to put a member on the city school board who lives outside city limits. The city council last year rejected Mayor John Robert Smith's nominee, a very qualified individual named Eileen Maust.
Member James Vance's term expires this month, leaving a spot open on the school board.
The new law will take effect July 1, but Meridian city officials could get a head start by going ahead with the action as soon as possible.