Compromises in Sight as Lawmakers Continue Work on Education Crisis

January 16, 2004 - Posted at 8:10 a.m. CDT

LITTLE ROCK, AR - Legislators are headed toward compromises on a public school funding formula and consolidation.  That leaves them to come up with a way to raise an estimated $385 million in new revenue to pay for the reforms.

Governor Huckabee said yesterday that he's pleased to see progress on the funding front, but that he doesn't approve of the House's vote in favor of a plan to consolidate schools with fewer than 350 students.

In response to that vote, Huckabee renewed his threat to take the issues to voters through an initiated act, saying it's necessary to go to the people and ask them to show the courage and common sense needed to put an affordable structure in place.

The House Education committee endorsed a proposed new formula yesterday that will distribute $2.7 billion to public schools every year, including $385 million in new taxes.

Representative Will Bond's legislation requires the consolidation of school district administrations in districts with fewer than 350 students.  The bill affects 59 school districts, 40 fewer than the plan Huckabee proposed.

The president of the Arkansas Rural Educators Association said yesterday that he's disappointed that the House endorsed Bond's bill.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)