Beebe, Hutchinson Say More School Mergers Not on Their Agendas

JULY 12, 2005 - Posted at 7:28 a.m. CDT

LITTLE ROCK, AR - Two leading candidates for governor say more school mergers in the immediate future aren't a good idea.

Democratic Attorney General Mike Beebe and Republican former congressman Asa Hutchinson both told members of the Arkansas Rural Education Association that now is not the time to combine more schools.

Consolidations carried out under a program approved by the legislature in a special session last year reduced the number of school districts in Arkansas from 310 to 254. The session was called to respond to a state Supreme Court ruling that the public school system in Arkansas was unfair and inadequate.

Supporters of consolidation said it would assure more efficient use of state money, but the issue was hotly contested during the special session.

Neither candidate ruled out further consolidation at some point, but both said the state should allow time for the current system to work.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)