Dueling Pundits Offer Solutions

July 21, 2003 - Posted at: 2:34 p.m. CDT

POCAHONTAS, Ark. -- House Majority Leader Harmon Seawel of Pocahontas has called a meeting for Wednesday to discuss possible compromises on an education plan that would satisfy the state Supreme Court.

Seawel says the meeting of rural educators and legislators will be held at Black River Technical College in Pocahontas.

Governor Huckabee's plan has met with resistance because it calls for consolidation of high schools in districts with fewer than 1,500 students if the schools don't meet state standards.

Many patrons of small school districts have vowed to keep their schools open, despite the court order that the state find ways to provide an adequate education for all the state's children.

Consultants last week also gave opponents more fuel for their fight, saying that the current number of required course offerings would suffice.

Meanwhile, Governor Huckabee says he is absolutely willing to negotiate toward a consensus on reforming the state's public education system. But, the governor gave no indication Monday that he's willing to give up on providing a broad curriculum in small school districts or reducing the number of school districts to bring about education enhancements more efficiently.

The governor spoke to the Oaklawn Rotary Club in Hot Springs Monday. He warned that the state is ``headed toward a wall'' if it does not meet a January 1 state Supreme Court deadline for improving its education system.

He also warned of what he says will be a Robin Hood effect, with large districts subsidizing improvements in small districts, if the Legislature doesn't agree to restructure the state's 308 school districts.

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