Small districts will sue

(February 13, 2004) — (North Little Rock-AP) -- The Arkansas Rural Education Association says 30 school districts are ready to mount a legal fight against consolidation. Organization president Jimmy Cunningham says a lawsuit will be filed by April first. He says forced mergers strip away local control. The lawsuit will ask for a federal injunction to stop implementation of a new state law mandating administrative consolidation of 57 of the state's 308 school districts. If the act is enforced, the districts would have to consolidate by July first. Dave Matthews, a lawyer for the larger Bentonville and Rogers school districts, said he doubts the anti-consolidation suit will succeed. The lawyers who are to file the lawsuit are Bill Brazil of Conway and Bill Lewellen of Marianna, a former state senator who represented the Lake View School District in a 1992 lawsuit successfully challenging state school spending.