Turrell, Delight and Weiner — these are some of the school districts in danger of elimination after the Senate Education Committee rejected a bill that would change the formula the state uses to calculate sufficient attendance.
The bill was sponsored by Rep. Buddy Lovell, Democrat of Marked Tree, in an effort to save the Weiner district. The state forces consolidation of any district that has attendance of less than 350 for two consecutive years, but it only counts attendance during the first three quarters of the year. Rep. Lovell wants the fourth quarter counted as well; Weiner’s population increases during that period due to temporary agricultural employment, and including the fourth quarter might have stalled imminent consolidation of the district. Supporters testified that closing the district will turn Weiner into a ghost town.
Rep. Lovell fought hard for the bill, and even went so far as to hold up the statewide education budget for several days. But the Governor and the Attorney General remained staunchly opposed to tinkering with the attendance formula, which was established after a long court fight over school funding.
Homeschool advocates fared little better this morning, as the committee declined to approve the so-called Tim Tebow bill, Sen. Gilbert Baker’s effort to allow homeschooled children to participate in extracurricular activities and competitive sports teams run by their local districts.
The committee seemed open to Sen. Baker’s proposal, but it was introduced too late in the session for passage by the full legislature. A voice vote did not garner enough ayes. The bill was sent to interim study.
Some committee members wondered if the bill’s academic standards were too low. Public school students must maintain a certain GPA to participate in activites; homeschoolers would have to achieve above the 35th percentile on a standardized test.