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Oklahoma governor eyes voluntary consolidations of school districts

Gov. Mary Fallin says she will encourage public school districts to consolidate or share administrative services. Oklahoma has 522 school districts in its 77 counties.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Modified: June 8, 2012 at 9:03 pm •  Published: June 8, 2012
/articleid/3682716/1/pictures/1742280">Photo - Gov. Mary Fallin speaks Friday at the Oklahoma Press Association Convention in Midwest City.  Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman
Gov. Mary Fallin speaks Friday at the Oklahoma Press Association Convention in Midwest City. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman

Fallin, who said during her 2010 gubernatorial campaign that she favored combining school administrative and even educational functions when possible, said she was interested in working with lawmakers next year to consider ways to financially encourage school districts to consolidate.

“I'm not, at this point, for mandatory consolidation,” she said. “But I think there are ways that we could look at ways to encourage schools where it makes sense to join together.”

Water task force

Fallin also was asked about the status of a task force that was formed last month to try to come up with a possible solution in a federal lawsuit over water rights in Oklahoma. The 19-member task force, which includes state, tribal, business and energy leaders, has met twice so far with the federal mediator assigned to the case, she said.

“We believe it's in the best interest of the state for us to continue talking, continue mediating,” she said. “Legal processes that are long and drawn out and costly don't benefit anybody. It's not good for the state of Oklahoma. It's not good for economic development.”

The task force is seen as an effort to resolve a federal lawsuit filed last year by the Chickasaw and Choctaw nations to stop Oklahoma's plans to draw water from Sardis Lake in Pushmataha County and deliver it to Oklahoma City.

Waterways at the center of the dispute include the Kiamichi River and the Muddy Boggy and Clear Boggy stream systems. The tribes claim the water rights were granted to them through a series of treaties signed with the federal government in the 1830s. They say any unauthorized removal or export of the water is a direct violation of federal law.

“I'm hoping that we can continue our negotiations, continue talking, continue mediating especially with the attorneys and keep moving forward,” Fallin said. “That's the most important thing.”


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