Lawmakers twice vote down bill to save Weiner High School

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

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

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

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

"At first, I washeartbroken. Now, I'm mad," Michelle Cadle said. "We're going to dig our clawsin 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 tokeep the doors of Weiner High School open.

The proposal, sponsored by Republican Rep. Randy Alexanderof Springdale, stated that "the state board would not administrativelyreorganize a school district or school campus…after January 1, 2013, and beforeApril 30, 2015, for reasons other than academic distress, fiscal distress, orfailure 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 forwhat was right for the state of Arkansas," Cadle said.

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

The Weiner School District consolidated with Harrisburg in2010 after its enrollment fell below that threshold.

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

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

Cadle says she believes people were threatening him ahead ofthe vote.

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

Rep. Hutchison did not immediately return a request forcomment.

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

"We believed at the time that we were doing right byaddressing 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 legalroute to pursue."

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