Lawmakers give consolidation limited nod

(January 21, 2004) - (Little Rock-AP) -- For the first time in history, both chambers of the Arkansas Legislature have voted to slash the number of school districts in the state. But Governor Huckabee's more ambitious consolidation plan failed, possibly prompting him to take the issue to voters. The bill that passed the state Senate yesterday would consolidate the administrations of school districts with fewer than 350 students. That bill had already passed the House. One thing is left to work out. The Senate version would mandate consolidation by July first, but the House version would not force mergers until a year later. Huckabee's plan would consolidate schools with less than 500 students. The bill passed by the Senate would effect 59 school districts; Huckabee's plan would place 96 districts under consideration for consolidation.