Huckabee, Johnson Negotiate Education Bills

February 17, 2003
Posted at: 4:03 p.m. CST

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- After a weather delay that prevented a weekend meeting between legislators and Governor Huckabee, both sides met Monday and said they're committed to keep working toward an education bill.

The governor and legislators hope to reach an agreement on reducing the number of school districts from 310 to a number that would optimize education spending in the face of a court order to improve public schools.

House Education Committee Chairman Calvin Johnson of Pine Bluff says the sides are close and that he's optimistic about reaching an agreement.

Also Monday, the Legislative Black Caucus offered its ideas for improving public education. Representative Robert White of Camden says a rigorous curriculum will help minorities and other students in the Delta receive the same opportunities as children elsewhere in Arkansas.

Huckabee and Johnson have declined to discuss the specifics of what they have agreed upon and what sticking points remain but said they are getting closer to an agreement. State Education Director Ray Simon and Johnson have said that most points of contention center on the size and number of districts.

Johnson says he hopes compromise legislation would be filed sometime this week.

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