FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) – A new study by the Department of Education makes the case for combining school districts statewide.

“They are the children; they’re the workforce of the future,” said Rep. Terry Alexander (D-Florence). “We need to prepare them for that.”

Alexander has long been a proponent of consolidating school districts across the state. As a member of the education committee, Rep. Alexander proposed a bill that asked for a study on consolidation–similar to the one the state Department of Education just released.

“Our superintendent approached our delegation about a month ago and said that we really need to be serious and start considering some form of consolidation,” Rep. Alexander said.

The study reports that over a five-year period, the state could save between $35 million and $85 million by collaboration between districts and consolidating services within larger county districts. It says at the very least, counties could save millions by combining services like transportation and human resources.

“I think if we’re serious about educating our kids, then we need to look at consolidating some of those services,” Alexander said.

The congressman said he worries poorer districts won’t be able to compete much longer with their more-affluent neighbors.

“I don’t think that Timmonsville in particular is going to survive because they don’t have the tax base,” Rep. Alexander said. “I don’t think the state is going to keep pumping money into it.”

Rep. Alexander added larger districts should not think consolidation would water down opportunities in their schools.

“If you’re an educator, if you’re in the education business, if you’re a school board member, you should be concerned with your school district,” he said. You should be concerned with every kid in the state getting the proper education that they deserve.”

He said while his bill and another bill aimed at school consolidation will likely fail this session, the study has turned a dialogue into a legitimate legislative possibility very soon–something he feels is needed to level the playing field.

“So the kids in Florence One are getting a good education,” said Alexander. “But why not the kids in Timmonsville, Pamplico, Lake City, and Johnsonville?”