The Izard County Quorum Court adopted a resolution Feb. 4 opposing Gov. Mike Huckabee's proposal to eliminate approximately two-thirds of the state's school districts. The following day County Judge Eddie Cooper attended a Save Our School rally on the steps of the Capitol in Little Rock and handed out copies of the resolution to the governor and other state officials.
The resolution stated the governor's reform plan would result in the elimination of high schools at Melbourne, Izard County Consolidated, Calico Rock and Mount Pleasant, which would have an adverse effect on the quality of education in the county.
Active and retired teachers, school officials, concerned parents and state officials attended the rally as a direct response to the governor's plan.
Cooper said schools from the area attended to oppose the proposal. "We would have lost every school in Izard County if the plan had been approved. His first plan was devastating to us," Cooper added.
Cooper provided copies of the resolution to state Rep. Paul Weaver, state Sen. Paul Miller and other officials in the legislature in hopes it would persuade the Arkansas General Assembly to implement reforms that will not only improve education but will preserve the high schools in the rural areas of the county and statewide, Cooper said.
Quorum court members said research has shown small schools are more likely to foster increased academic achievement and in many cases educate students more efficiently than larger districts.
Melbourne School superintendent Gerald Cooper was also present at the quorum court meeting to discuss the performance of students in the smaller schools.
Superintendent Cooper said the governor needs to address the problems with all the schools and not just with the small schools. "I don't think his plan is best for the students in our area," Cooper added.
Superintendent Cooper said a sensible solution would be standard based,requiring specific levels of efficiency and performance for schools with realistic goals.
The governor's reform proposal was prompted by a ruling by the Arkansas Supreme Court in November 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 a general, suitable and efficient school-funding system.
Judge Cooper said state senators and representatives are working with Huckabee to negotiate a better plan.