January 14, 2003
Posted at: 12:55 p.m. CDT
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- State legislators reacted with cautious optimism today to Governor Huckabee's plans to vastly restructure state government and public education. They pledged, as did the governor, to work together this session to find solutions that will improve schools.
House Majority Leader Harmon Seawel of Pocahontas says there is a willingness on both sides to work cooperatively -- moreso than he's seen in a long time. Legislators with backgrounds in education said they liked the tone of Huckabee's message, but took issue with some ideas, such as school consolidation.
Senator Jimmy Jeffress of Crossett, who is a retired school teacher, says he agrees that schools must be made more efficient but is concerned about elements of Huckabee's plan. Jeffress also expressed frustration that Huckabee did not mention early childhood education in his address to legislators. Jeffress and other legislators say such a program is crucial to getting children started on the right path.
Representative Marvin Parks of Greenbrier says he is encouraged that the governor said parents should be able to choose which schools their children attend.
Senator Bob Johnson of Morrilton will be lead sponsor on the legislation to reorganize state government into ten departments. Johnson says the plan would bring a common-sense approach to government. Other legislators said they liked the idea of making government simpler but were unsure whether the restructuring would lead to significant government savings.