Legislators Defy Court Order, Adjourn Without Fixing Education Problems

December 31, 2003 - Posted at 1:55 p.m. CDT

LITTLE ROCK, AR - Both the Senate and the House adjourned today, leaving only the ticking clock between them and a midnight deadline to craft a plan to improve Arkansas' public schools.

The Legislature is to reconvene on Monday, after the January first deadline set by the Arkansas Supreme Court, which declared the state school funding system unconstitutional.

Both chambers today passed a $5 million plan to benefit poor students in the $1.8 billion public education system.  Legislators say the measure could avert lawsuits that could be filed against the state for missing the high court's deadline.

Also, groundwork was put in place today for possible movement Monday on a compromise education plan.

A new funding formula is being offered, though it does not include how to pay for an increase of $383 million in annual school funding.

The new funding idea has the backing of school superintendents and teachers unions.  All but two school districts in the state would receive more money.

The bill could be funded with a penny sales tax increase.  The governor and business leaders have said they could support a tax increase if it funds a better school system.  The new plan does not address consolidation.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)