Hot dogging rural schools | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Hot dogging rural schools

Posted By on Tue, Jun 22, 2010 at 10:24 AM

I mentioned yesterday that Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Keet would be at a news conference this morning in defense of small schools.

It's all about Weiner, the small Northeast Arkansas district merged on account of inadequate size with neighboring Harrisburg.

Jonesboro Sun reports Keet will share the podium today with Jim Holt. Holt didn't appear, however. Other speakers will say preservation of Weiner is key to preservation of the family farm and preservation of the family farm is essential to the security and welfare of the very nation. Really.

Keet said Democratic land commissioner nominee L.J. Bryant had been expected, but was unable to attend. Keet said Bryant shared his views, however. Critcher-to-Wooldridge-to-Morrison-to Keet. Quite a lineup of allies for a "progressive."

There's talk of a lawsuit, but perhaps because the legal ground appears shaky, there was more talk about getting the governor to structure some kind of relief for Weiner.

Roby Brock quotes Gov. Mike Beebe as being sympathetic to the Weiner supporters, but said the state Board of Education process doesn't include a waiver for districts.

Check the jump for more, including a recap of some of the comments made by the speakers and description of how this event got a little weird at the end.

As expected, every speaker argued that keeping the Weiner school district open was about "protecting American values." Republican state senate candidate Jason Raypert said the consolidation of some small school districts had been a disaster and that "Weiner is about to become the victim of a bureaucratic mistake."

Keet basically echoed the remarks linked above from his campaign website. The Republican candidate for governor said there must be some solution to the eventual closing of the school district, suggesting an exception could be made since Weiner only has 342 students (instead of the required 350) because the school was performing so well.

Things did get a little weird when, in her closing remarks, co-chair of the Friends of Weiner school district Greta Greeno told the audience that keeping the school district open was a matter of national security, citing a Homeland Security report that discussed the potential threat of biological weapons and the possibility that terrorists could use the food supply as a weapon against us. This left more than a few people in the room scratching their heads. To say the connection she was trying to make was tenuous would be perhaps a little too generous.

Keet told reporters after the press conference (see video above) that this was not "bash Mike Beebe day" and that he was simply there to show support for the school. He said he wasn't calling on Beebe for anything specific but thought the matter should be brought up in the next legislative session. He also said that he did not want to "denigrate" the work of people from both sides of the isle, including one "Republican governor" for their work on the Public Education Reorganization Act, or Act 60.

Advocates of the school district urged the legislature and Gov. Beebe to come up with some sort of solution and to make an exception for the school district.

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