January 8, 2004 - Posted at 4:37 p.m. CDT
LITTLE ROCK, AR - The Legislature neared final approval of tough new school accountability measures today as legislative leaders intensified negotiations toward breaking a logjam on consolidation.
House debate was among the last legislative hurdles for the measure that is the business community's condition for supporting tax increases to pay for court-ordered education reforms. A House amendment would require Senate concurrence before the bill was ready for Governor Huckabee's expected signature.
Meanwhile, talks on school consolidation, the thorniest issue of the special session, took on new urgency. This came as a realization settled over the Capitol that the state Supreme Court could take a more direct role in overhauling what it declared an unconstitutional public education system.
The court scheduled oral arguments for January 22 to, among other things, determine whether the state has complied with the order.
The House voted Tuesday to remove a 500-student enrollment minimum from Huckabee's school restructuring plan.