LITTLE ROCK — A bill seeking to make it less likely for districts to be forced to consolidate because of low student populations was defeated Tuesday in a House committee.

The House Education Committee rejected House Bill 1076 by Rep. James Ratliff, D-Imboden. The bill would not change the current requirement that school districts face mandatory consolidation if they fall below 350 in average daily membership for two consecutive years, but it would require that home-schooled students in a district be counted as part of average daily membership totals for purposes of consolidation.

Assistant Attorney General Scott Richardson, state Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell and Rich Nagel, executive director of the Arkansas Education Association all testified against the bill, saying the state Supreme Court’s 2007 ruling that the state is funding schools in an adequate and equitable manner took into account the existing consolidation law and that the court has said the current system should not be changed without an evidence-based study, which has not been done in this case.

A motion to endorse the bill failed, receiving 5 "yes" votes and 13 "no" votes. Ratliff said he does not plan to make a second try with the bill.