Governor sets special session

(August 21, 2003) — (Little Rock-AP) -- Governor Huckabee says he will give legislators a chance to overhaul the state's education system, but will turn to voters if they don't. Huckabee announced yesterday that he plans to call the Legislature into special session on December eighth. Legislators will try to decide how to comply with a state Supreme Court edict to develop, by January, ways to guarantee all of the state's 450-thousand public school students equal access to a quality education. Huckabee says the date allows more time to reach consensus on contentious issues such as consolidation before the session but keeps the pressure on to meet the court deadline. Legislative leaders say lawmakers are up to the challenge. House Speaker Herschel Cleveland says he had a mid-November special session in mind but is glad Huckabee set a time for the gathering. Senator Jim Hill, the Senate president pro tem, says there is time to develop a plan. The governor set out a half-dozen criteria that he said would satisfy the court - more rigorous academic standards, a broader curriculum, better accounting of school spending, more rigorous testing to compare students with both state and national benchmarks, school choice and a complete reorganization of the state Department of Education.