Loving County, east of the Pecos River and just southeast of the Guadalupe Mountains, has long been the least populated county in Texas, and for the last 10 years, the smallest in the U.S. of A.
But, this time around Loving County grew. It picked up 15 residents which boomed the total county population, in and around Mentone, to a whopping 82 folk! Sheriff Billy Burt Hopper told the Dallas Morning News last week: “With the man who left to live with his daughter in North Carolina and the lady who died last week, we have 82 people, the best I can count it.”
Because of our constitution, Loving Co., all 673 square miles and only 82 residents, still has to have a county judge, sheriff and other county officers and, so be it as it really is a one-off exception in the state. What isn’t a one-off exception is how many school districts still operate side-by-side in counties with populations half, or less, of what they had forty years ago.
It’s a political-third-rail in Texas politics but, at some point leadership is going to have to either force, or heavily incentivize, school district consolidation. It simply makes no sense to have districts, with duplicate administration and facilities, operating within twelve miles of each other in perennially declining population counties, as does the Lockney and Floydada ISDs in Floyd County, for example. There are plenty more examples too.
Some say consolidation would be the end of their town but, if the population has declined so much as to make consolidation right, I submit that the inevitable is already upon them. Keep elementary schools local, if you can, and put the secondary schools somewhere in the middle.
Robert Pratt is host of the top-rated Pratt on Texas radio program which can be heard at www.PrattonTexas.com
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