Currently, the State Board of Education (SBE) has the authority to “approve agreements submitted by county and city boards of education requesting the merger” of two or more school districts. The appointed members of the board cannot unilaterally merge them.
If the budget passes in its current form, the SBE would have the authority to merge county school districts even if county boards of education do not request it.
Page 101 of the budget reads,
(a) Consolidation and Merger. – The State Board of Education shall have the authority to consolidate and merge contiguous county school administrative units or a group of county school administrative units in which each county unit is contiguous with at least one other county unit in the group. The State Board shall adopt a written plan setting forth the conditions of the merger. A merger of county units and reorganization of those units under this section shall not have the effect of abolishing any special taxes that may have been voted in any such units.
The only apparent recourse available to county, city, and school officials who object to the merger, outside of a lawsuit, is the ratification of legislation that “specifically disapproves the merger.”
(Updated to clarify that the provision appears to apply to county districts only.)