Can Governor buy time on education reform?

(August 11, 2003) — (Little Rock-AP) -- Governor Huckabee's proposal to put an education-overhaul initiative on the ballot could buy time for the state to do something with its public school system. That's according to some experts in law -- constitutional law professor John DiPippa and Attorney General Mike Beebe. Huckabee has raised the prospect of putting a plan on the ballot if legislators can't reach a consensus on action to take in a special session. The state Supreme Court has said the state's school funding system is unconstitutionally unfair and inadequate, and set a January 1, 2004 deadline for overhauling it. Huckabee said this week he would prefer a legislative solution this fall but also would push a ballot initiative for the November 2004 election. Some legislators saw the governor's talk of a balloti initiative as posturing for position if and when he and lawmakers get down to serious negotiations. But DiPippa and Beebe say the nature of the school funding case suggests the deadline may not be hard and fast. Neither could predict whether a ballot initiative would satisfy the court's mandate. But both said the circumstances suggest flexibility.