Supreme Court Masters say Legislators Failed Education System

OCTOBER 4, 2005 - Posted at 7:57 a.m. CDT

LITTLE ROCK, AR - Arkansas' beleaguered public education system has taken another blow in a 13-year court battle.  Yesterday, special fact-finders for the state Supreme Court released a scathing report on legislators' recent school-funding decisions.

Two Supreme Court masters concluded that lawmakers reneged on a promise to make education the state's top spending priority.  The special masters said legislators should have spent more on public schools during this year's session of the General Assembly.

The masters faulted legislators on almost every front, criticizing them for not conducting a funding adequacy study last year, for failing to raise minimum state aid this year, and for allocating only $120 million toward a ten-year, $1.9 billion overhaul of school buildings and equipment.

The recommendations by special masters Bradley Jesson and David Newbern now go to the state Supreme Court.

Dozens of school districts sued the state this spring at the end of the regular legislative session.  They claimed legislators failed to live up to promises made by their predecessors that public education would be the state's top priority.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)