Lawmakers twice vote down bill to save Weiner High School - KAIT-Jonesboro, AR-News, weather, sports

Lawmakers twice vote down bill to save Weiner High School

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WEINER, AR (KAIT) – A bill that would have prevented the closure of Weiner High School has failed in the Arkansas House.

Lawmakers voted twice on House Bill 1938, which would have halted any school closures for two years pending studies in consolidated school districts.

It was first voted down Wednesday, but failed again after it was brought back for reconsideration on Thursday.

Weiner High School supporters had lobbied legislators hard to approve the bill, which was filed after the State Board of Education decided March 11 to close their school.

 "At first, I was heartbroken. Now, I'm mad," Michelle Cadle said. "We're going to dig our claws in and we're going to hang on, and we're just more determined than ever before."

Defeat is unacceptable to Cadle and the others fighting to keep the doors of Weiner High School open.

The proposal, sponsored by Republican Rep. Randy Alexander of Springdale, stated that "the state board would not administratively reorganize a school district or school campus…after January 1, 2013, and before April 30, 2015, for reasons other than academic distress, fiscal distress, or failure to comply with state accreditation standards."  

The proposal fell two votes short of approval Thursday.

"I feel that only 49 stood for their convictions and for what was right for the state of Arkansas," Cadle said.

The bill would have ultimately benefited any schools in the state ordered to consolidate or annex under Act 60, which mandates that for a school or district with an enrollment of 350 students or less.

The Weiner School District consolidated with Harrisburg in 2010 after its enrollment fell below that threshold.

Cadle says the fight that she and her group called "Friends of Weiner School District" have waged has focused on ending Act 60, a policy that she says is misguided and harmful to small rural communities.

Thirty legislators decided to abstain Thursday from even voting on HB1938. That included Republican Rep. John Hutchison of Harrisburg, whose district includes Weiner.

Cadle says she believes people were threatening him ahead of the vote.

"That's wrong for people to put him in that position because the right thing to do was to push that green button and vote yes," she said. "He has a very troubled heart right now, and I think those people should be calling and apologizing to him."

Rep. Hutchison did not immediately return a request for comment.

Cadle and other supporters are now considering filing a lawsuit so that they can keep up the fight to save their school.

"We believed at the time that we were doing right by addressing this legislatively," Cadle said. "We tried to work with [lawmakers], and we feel like we were strong-armed and so obviously we still have the legal route to pursue."

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