January 14, 2003
Posted at: 11:00 p.m.
JONESBORO, Ark. -- Governor Mike Huckabee says the state's 450,000 public school students will see some big changes as the state works to improve education. He proposed a massive school district consolidation in his State of the State address to the General Assembly on Tuesday.
As a means to find a solution to an educational funding system that was found unconstitutional by the Arkansas Supreme Court in November, Huckabee called for a reduction of the state's 310 school districts to between 107-116. The court ordered the state to find a solution to the funding problems by January 2004.
At Valley View High School on Tuesday, an government class watched Huckabee's address. Each one listened and watched with great interest, since the main message dealt with reforming Arkansas' education system. The students had opinions on the state of education in Northeast Arkansas, and expressed opinions on the idea of fewer schools.
"I thought that Governor Huckabee addressed a lot of important issues," said student Addy Burgi. "I thought that the whole consolidation thing it will effect many students and families and teachers. Some teachers could possibly even end up losing their jobs as he addressed that, but I think it needs to be for the good of the education."
Classmate Mario Resendez agreed with Burgi about the possible downside to consolidation: "Yeah that's the sad thing, but you know it's all about the kids."
While most of the group didn't have a problem with schools consolidating, some did have an issue with the state mandating how money should be spent.
"As far as having to put a certain amount of money into something if it's needed I think it should be a good thing," Jessica Germano said. "But from what I've heard, like our school is doing okay without it and so maybe that could be re-directed to a district that isn't able to manage it quite as well as we are."
Several others think Huckabee's plan is too cut- throat and say if steps would have been taken earlier to improve education, the state would not have to close schools now.
"He's had six years to fix problems," Sara Vincent said. "He's known for six years we've had problems, he didn't seem to do anything and he seems do be trying to do something now that he has no consequences because his term limits are up and he has nothing to lose if it messes up."