AG: more consolidation possible

(March 18, 2004) - (Little Rock-AP) -- Small school districts that escaped forced consolidation under a new state law may not be out of danger entirely. Attorney General Mike Beebe says additional consolidation should not happen under state Supreme Court orders, but the court could put anything on the table. Districts with less than 350 students must consolidate under a new state law. Governor Huckabee pushed for consolidation of districts with less than 15-hundred students, and has asked the court to expand consolidation. The Supreme Court has appointed a pair of special masters to assess whether Arkansas has made necessary improvements to a public school system that justices found unconstitutional in November 2002. Justices ruled the state didn't spend enough money on public schools and that the money spent wasn't divided fairly. In a special session, legislators approved a new funding formula that included additional funding for students in need, raised 400 million dollars in new taxes and mandated the administrative consolidation of districts with less than 350 students.