Bill helps to save small Arkansas school districts from consolidation

Bill helps to save small Arkansas school districts from consolidation
Source: Governor's Office
Source: Governor's Office
Source: Governor's Office

WEINER, AR (KAIT) - Small schools in Arkansas may finally have hope of escaping consolidation. House Bill 1263 was signed by Governor Asa Hutchinson Wednesday in Little Rock.

The bill allows for schools with dwindling student enrollment numbers to apply for a waiver in the case they are in good fiscal, academic, and facility standing. This waiver would allow for the school to avoid forced consolidation.

This bill would have helped save many consolidated schools including Weiner School District. Since it's consolidation in 2010, Weiner residents have pushed for a bill like this to pass.

Michelle Cadle and Greta Greeno of Weiner went to Little Rock Wednesday to see the bill signed.

"It is amazing," Cadle said. "We are so proud to be representing all of those schools today."

Cadle said they are representing the 98 Arkansas schools that have been consolidated to this date.

"Even though it will not benefit Weiner, we have fought this for a long time because we always said it wasn't just us but to help other schools across Arkansas," Cadle said.

Cadle said this is the kind of bill they've been working towards for five years.

"As long as they are not in fiscal, academic, or facilities distress, if they fall below 350 threshold they can apply for the waiver," Cadle said.

Similar bills were proposed in the past but did not pass. Greeno said she is thrilled to finally get one signed.

"We are fortunate this time to have a legislature and a Governor that understands the importance of small schools," Greeno said.

Cadle and Greeno said this bill is so important to them because small schools matter.

"They provide not only an adequate education but an excellent education," Cadle said.

Greeno doesn't want to see another small school or community suffer.

"It's devastating to a community, and to the students, and parents whenever they lose their school, and we just do not want that to happen anymore in Arkansas," Greeno said.

Supporting small and rural schools was something Governor Hutchinson promised when campaigning.

"I think this provides a good balance of keeping high academic standards for our schools and at the same time helping those communities that really need their school and have strong support for their school," Hutchinson said.

This new law may help to save a number of the 28 Arkansas schools currently in danger of forced consolidation.

Copyright 2015 KAIT. All rights reserved.