The final gubernatorial debate last night was highlighted by remarks from both Republican Asa Hutchinson and Democrat Mike Ross favorable to changing the law that consolidates school districts when they fall below 350 students, or about 30 per grade level.
Ross said he thought it was “a mistake” when former Gov. Mike Huckabee pushed for legislation that led to the consolidation of many small districts.
“I think you should measure education based on quality rather than quantity, and some of the schools that have been closed are too far from another school. … I can tell you that I’d be receptive to reviewing legislation to try to stop some of these schools from closing, especially those in rural areas that require young people to spend way too much time riding a school bus,” he said.
Hutchinson said he would support legislation to allow small districts to obtain a waiver from the law if they are performing well academically and are financially sound.
“There was a new study that was completed which showed that in some school districts, students are on the bus for 5 1/2 hours,” he said. “That is unacceptable. Bus transportation, the length of transportation, has to be a factor to be considered when you’re looking at that magical number of 350 and what happens whenever you close it, including what happens to the community as well.”
It’s a sad mark of the times that both major candidates would roll back a hard-won standard.
However ….. with acceleration of charter school creation powered by Walton money standards for other school districts hold less meaning. Each new charter school is effectively a new school district. They aren’t bound to enrollment standards. Or many other standards. Before too very long, we’ll be back in the 19th century with hundreds of little school districts (some of them virtual) and the crazy quilt of results that such a system produced.