Governor calls special session on education

(December 4, 2003) — (Little Rock-AP) -- Governor Huckabee officially called a special legislative session for Monday to address a state Supreme Court mandate to overhaul Arkansas' public schools. The governor issued the proclamation early this evening. He said previously that he would call the session for December Eighth, but left some doubt because of concern that legislators wouldn't reach a consensus on how to fix the schools. Last year the state Supreme Court ruled that Arkansas' public school system was unconstitutional. The court said the state didn't fairly distribute money for schools and didn't provide an adequate education for Arkansas' 450-thousand school children. The court gave legislators until January first of next year to come up a way to address concerns. In the proclamation, Huckabee said, "There is an immediate and pressing need for appropriations and funds to ensure the continued operation of the state's education system." Legislators have been meeting out of session throughout the summer and fall to try to compromise on a plan to fix the system. Part of the controversy is Governor Huckabee's plan to consolidate some of the state's 308 school districts. The governor said merging some small local school districts is key to improving educational opportunities for students statewide. Critics say that consolidating the districts would destroy their communities. Huckabee also told the Associated Press in an interview today, "We've taken the easy way every stinking time we've had this in front of us. We've always chickened out when it got right down to it. We've always said we'll just find another way to put it off until the next generation. Well, we're the generation on whom it's been put off. We've got to stand up and answer for this, and we've got to do it now."