House Panel Advances Consolidation Plan

January 5, 2004 - Posted at 1:42 p.m. CDT

LITTLE ROCK, AR - The House Education Committee has passed Governor Huckabee's school consolidation plan.  The bill previously passed the Senate and now goes to the full House.

The bill cleared the committee on an 11-to-9 vote.

Opponents of consolidation passed their own bill in the House earlier.  But, no comprehensive school-reform measure has been passed in both houses since the special session began December 8.

Huckabee has renewed his threat to pursue a ballot item on a more stringent consolidation measure if the Legislature does not come up with a more meaningful reform.

Legislators lets a New Year's Day deadline pass without passing a comprehensive improvement plan for the public schools.

The committee advanced the Huckabee-backed bill just when consolidation opponents were comfortable in their belief that school mergers would not be part of any reforms.

While many in the House oppose merging the smallest of Arkansas' 308 school districts, today's passage is a victory for Huckabee to have the issue come up before the 100-member House.

When an anti-consolidation plan went through the House last month, ten members voted for the effort and ten voted against it.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)