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Consolidation Watch: Is Fight Over for Weiner (Ark.) District?

Advocates for a small, rural school district in Arkansas say a judge's request for more time to consider their lawsuit blocking state-enforced consolidation is not a defeat, just a delay.

Yet the denial last week of a request to block the Weiner School District's consolidation with Harrisburg suggests the unusual legal argument being made by Weiner advocates may be a stretch. The Associated Press and news sources in Arkansas reported last week that U.S. District Judge James Moody turned down an injunction, but stated he needed more time to decide whether to throw out the lawsuit entirely.

The group Friends of the Weiner School District is trying to undo a state Education Board decision to combine Weiner with another district. Weiner was unable to maintain the state minimum of 350 students.

In July, the group filed a lawsuit arguing that closing rural schools presents a threat to homeland security. Read more details in this earlier post on the Rural Education blog.

At the hearing, Kim Kelley, attorney for the school supporters, used U.S. Department of Agriculture data to argue for a restraining order. She said the data calls for strong farm communities in order to guard against agroterrorism on the country's food chain. Read more about the Sept. 15 hearing in this online story on ArkansasMatters.com. There's also a video.

No word on when Judge Moody will rule on the lawsuit.

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