Alternate education reform plan emerging?

(August 20, 2003) — (Little Rock-AP) -- A developing school reform plan would give Arkansas school districts until 2006 to meet higher goals for cost efficiency, curriculum and teacher salaries. The plan is being put together by a committee of school superintendents from both large and small districts. Participants are developing a tough efficiency standard to measure whether districts can effectively educate students without wasting money. The formula uses enrollment, student performance and instructional and administrative costs to calculate an efficiency score for districts. Charles Knox, deputy director of the Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators, says there is about 80 percent agreement on the idea among committee members. Superintendents hope the plan will help break an impasse between Governor Huckabee and legislators. Efforts toward a legislative response to a state Supreme Court order to improve public education have been stalled for months because of rural opposition to Huckabee's plan to reduce the number of school districts to make school reforms more affordable. In the superintendents' plan, a district would not pass on efficiency alone. Districts that lag behind in teacher salaries would have to increase them each year until they reach parity. And the number of required courses offered in every district every year would jump from 38-and-a-half units to 45 units in 2006. The number of units required for graduation would jump from 21 to 24.