Superintendents, Education Leaders Descend on ASU for Education Summit

December 8, 2004 - Posted at 4:24 p.m. CDT

Jonesboro, AR - Superintendents from across Arkansas joined state education leaders in Jonesboro on Thursday, as Arkansas State University's College of Education hosted a workshop regarding the future of education in the state.

Themed "Education in Arkansas: Preparing for the New Era," the workshop featured Arkansas Attorney General Mike Beebe; Dr. Ken James, director of the State Education Department; State Senator Shane Broadway; and Charles Knox, director of the Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators. All four of the panelists are ASU graduates.

Weiner School Superintendent Betty McGruder is one educator who attended Thursday's conference. That school district is coming off a high of being recognized as one of the top ten school districts in the state. This achievement is coming at the best time. For months they fought to keep their doors open, almost facing consolidation.

"So apparently we're doing a lot of things right," said McGruder.

Even still, McGruder is fearful her school district may face similar consolidation fears in the future. The state says no.

"I don't get the big sense that anyone is talking about changing the number," said State Senator Shane Broadway of Bryant. "A lot of us would like to see that be a district decision."

"I was informed with the answer but I was not comfortable with the answer," said McGruder.

Then there's the issue of the facilities funding assessment. It's estimated it will cost the state 2.3 billion dollars to bring all school facilities up to standard.

"Nothing is set in stone. Find problems with it, tell us what's right with it, tell us a better way to do it," said Broadway.

Brookland School Superintendent Gene Goza said he's ready for that meeting.

"Ours is a little over 6 million dollars. I think they still have a lot of work to do, I think there numbers are extremely inflated," added Goza.

With such a hefty price tag, and voters saying no to a millage increase, the question is how will the state fund these renovations?

The good news: Broadway says it doesn't have to happen overnight.

The even better news: "I'm going to at least begin with that premise that we can do it all, begin a facilities program without having to raise state revenue," said Broadway.