Large school sups may go it alone

(September 5, 2003) — (Little Rock-AP) -- Leaders of large school districts say they may present their school reform proposals to legislators without the support of their colleagues from rural districts. The attempt to salvage the education reform plans threatens to form a split between superintendents of large and small districts. Members of the Arkansas Rural Education Association voted 115-to-30 Wednesday against the compromise, which includes a proposed efficiency standard that districts would have to meet by 2006 or face consolidation. The superintendents' plan was considered one of the best chances for a compromise between Governor Huckabee and some legislators who have opposed a minimum enrollment cutoff for districts that cannot meet standards to face consolidation. The governor's proposal does NOT define efficiency. The superintendents' proposal attempts to do so by using nearly two dozen variables, including teacher salaries, student test scores and operational and administrative costs. ----- Legislators are under a January first state Supreme Court mandate to overhaul a public education system the court declared unconstitutionally flawed. Legislators failed to pass major reforms during their regular session, which ended in April after talks broke down largely because of rural legislators' opposition to consolidation.