LITTLE ROCK — Legislation proposing a two—year moratorium on school consolidations in the state failed in a House committee Tuesday.
House Bill 1938 by Rep. Randy Alexander, R-Springdale, received 10 “yes” votes and seven “no” votes in the House Education Committee. The bill needed 11 favorable votes to advance to the House floor.
The bill would halt school consolidations for two years to allow time for a study of how the mergers have affected student transportation and administrative reorganization.
“We need to have some good information to evaluate this,” Alexander told the committee, arguing that since a 2004 law went into effect requiring merger of school districts that fall below 350 enrollment, more than 50 schools have been closed with no definitive studies conducted to determine how the closings have affected the transportation of students and the merging of school administrations.
Several parents and supporters of Weiner schools attended the meeting in support of the bill.
The Weiner School District was annexed into the Harrisburg district in 2010 when enrollment fell below 350 students. Earlier this month, the state Board of Education voted to allow the Harrisburg district to close Weiner High School.
Arkansas Education Commission Tom Kimbrell spoke against Alexander’s bill Tuesday. He said several schools could be forced to consolidate in the next few years and that a two-year moratorium would mean some schools struggling academically or financially would remain open.
Deputy state Attorney General General Scott Richardson told the committee a study on the ramifications of consolidation could be done, but not while a moratorium is in place.