January 23, 2003
Posted at: 6:30 p.m. CDT
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Arkansas state legislators took a step closer to complying with a court order to provide the state's youth with a proper education.
On Thursday, the House Education Committee approved an amended version of HB 1115. This bill calls for the creation of a Joint Committee on Educational Adequacy. The proposed committee will be made up of a 12-member panel comprised of senators and representatives. Its purpose is to define what constitutes an adequate education in the state; both academically, and financially.
It took no time at all for members of the house education committee to approve House Bill 1115. In addition to elected representatives, educators from around the state will participate in the study. One representative Thursday brought up the idea of including state business leaders as a means for diversity.
"I think we're going to get a broad based representation as is," House Majority Leader Harmon Seawel of Pocahontas said. "But, if the will of the body is to include business members I don't have a problem with that."
"It's a big day for the state," Rep. Paul Bookout, D-Jonesboro, said. "This is a first step in what's going to be a process in which we're going to raise the level of education."
"The (State Supreme) Court has mandated that we have an adequacy study and we do it forthwith," Seawel said. "I think this qualifies for forthwith."
Before the bill was approved, there was some discussion on how to conduct the education study more efficiently. Bookout asked that members be given progress reports along the way. Charles Knox, representing the Arkansas Association of Education Administrators, asked the committee to avoid making hasty decisions.
"Let's slow down before we potentially create undo hardships," Knox said.
Knox' sentiments were also shared with other house members who want the public to know that HB 1115 does not mean school consolidation is a done deal.
"We'll get to some point in time when numbers are something we need to look at,," Bookout said. "But right now we just need to focus on the first step to get to that process."
Legislators said that they don't know yet how much this study will cost taxpayers, because they first must select consultants for the panel. From committee, this bill will move to the house floor for a vote Friday. If approved, the senate will vote on it next week.