One Region 8 School Pushes On Against Consolidation

February 12, 2004 --Posted at 5:47 pm CST

BIGGERS—30 of the smallest school districts in Arkansas are muscling their way to federal court.

The state's Rural Education Association says a number of small school districts will sue the State sometime next week to block consolidation efforts.

Superintendent J.M. Edington of the Biggers-Reyno school district is a realist. He's already making plans for an administrative consolidation with 1 of the other 4 school districts in that area. The Delaplaine school district is being highly looked at.

"If we see that it's not going to improve the quality that we currently have, or maintain the quality that we currently have then we are not going to be interested," said Edington.

Edington admits Biggers-Reyno has overcome a lot of obstacles during this legislative process. He doesn't for see them losing their school name, nor does he think any preliminary jobs will be lost with an administrative consolidation. Also, because of the district's isolated status, their school building will remain open. So why the decision to pursue a lawsuit?

"We were allowed to exist under an unconstitutional system. I would ask the question, why then are we not at least given the opportunity to try to prove ourselves under a constitutional system," said Edington.

Schools like Biggers-Reyno have a tough challenge ahead of them. This past year the Attorney General said any consolidation plan based on objective standards would have the best chance of surviving legal challenges.

"The federal constitution and the Arkansas constitution are clear that there is no constitutional right that a school district has. A school district is a political subdivision of the state, said State Representative Chris Thyer.

Thyer, who's a practicing attorney, says he doesn't think this lawsuit will have merit. However, he wants to see it first before completely dismissing it.

"I'm not really sure there is precedent at this point, but you have to remember that at some point the very first case that was won on discrimination was the very first case that was won on discrimination," said Edington.