Experts Sound off on Education Reform

November 13, 2003 - Updated at 11:42 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO - In response to the Arkansas Supreme Court's ruling that the state's public education system is inadequate and inequitable, Arkansas State University's Honors Association hosted a town hall meeting at the university's Fine Arts Center Recital Hall.

Panelists included State Representative Denny Sumpter (D) of West Memphis, Jonesboro attorney Price Marshall, Dr. Jackie McBride and Dr. Gerald Dickinson of the ASU Department of Educational Leadership, ASU economist Dr. Gary Latanich, and political scientist Dr. Will McLean of ASU.

"Until the needs of kids in poverty are met, we still haven't made much headway, and without additional funding we can't raise the level of achievement of those students," said Dr. McBride.

Much of the discussion centered around the minimum standard for high school enrollment that Governor Mike Huckabee has set in his education plan. He announced Wednesday that he may lower that number from 425 students to 375. The change would keep schools such as Valley View from consolidation, but force others such as Brookland to merge.

Dr. Gary Latanich said, "Analyst studies show that high schools have minimal costs at the 400 to 600 student range."

"A lot of people who aren't necessarily against consolidation, but who are against using that number as a standard.. they think it's just too weak of a standard," said Representative Denny Sumpter, (D) West Memphis, "I don't think it has anything to do with meeting the constitutional muster of the Lakeview case."

Superintendent Betty McGruder, Superintendent of Weiner School District, added, "If a school district takes every child that comes to them and does the best that they can with them with the resources they're given, that school district is doing something right and should be let to stand."

A special legislative session is scheduled for December 8th. A solution must be reached by January.