Senate Bill 317, introduced by state Sen. Paul Miller of Melbourne on school reform, failed a second time after Miller introduced an amendment to the bill. The bill failed April 9 in a 3-3 vote while one member of the Senate Education Committee voted present. Miller said a present vote is the same as voting against the measure.
Miller's original bill failed April 2 in a 3-3 vote by the committee so he drafted the amendment. The amended plan would give schools until Jan. 1, 2004, to offer the required courses and to meet guidelines or be forced to annex by the fall term.
Unless one of the members changes his vote in support of the bill by the end of the week when the legislative session ends then resolving the issue will be postponed until September. The conflict is between Gov. Mike Huckabee's proposal for consolidation based on enrollment and Miller and state Rep. Paul Weaver's bill based on standards, Miller said.
The bill was in response to Huckabee's proposal outlined Jan. 14 to eliminate approximately two-thirds of the school districts. Districts with 1,500 or more students would be allowed to remain intact.
Huckabee's plan was prompted by a court ruling by the Arkansas Supreme Court on a lawsuit filed by the Lake View School District. The court declared the state has not fulfilled its constitutional duty to provide the children of the state with an efficient school-funding system.
Miller said he does not support the governor's bill because he doesn't believe schools should be forced into consolidation based on an enrollment number as long as the school is doing a good job.