First House bill - grace note

(December 11, 2003) — (Dateline-AP) -- The full House could soon debate an education-reform plan favored by rural legislators and superintendents. The measure passed the House Education Committee yesterday. The bill calls for no forced consolidation of school districts. Some districts could be combined later, but only after a grace period to meet new education standards. Legislators are under a January first state Supreme Court deadline to come up with a plan to overhaul the state's unconstitutional public school system. The measure, sponsored by Representative Paul Weaver of Violet Hill, presents a key challenge to Governor Huckabee's education reform proposal. Sponsors of Huckabee's plan say they might have to rewrite the legislation to make the wording more precise, although the core proposals would remain the same. Those include higher teacher salaries, tougher curriculum standards, expansion of preschool and student testing, and consolidation of school districts with fewer than 500 students.