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(Little Rock) (AP) – A proposal for a 2-year moratorium on the closure of Arkansas school districts that have low student populations has failed in the state House.

Representatives on Wednesday voted 46-26 in favor of the measure with 51 votes needed for approval.

Republican Rep. Randy Alexander sponsored the bill – saying it would have stopped mandated school consolidations for at least two years unless a school was in academic or financial distress. He said rural districts are harmed by a state law requiring districts to have at least 350 students enrolled or be subject to consolidation with another district.

Supporters say districts can provide quality education with fewer students, but opponents said that dropping below the 350-student threshold could lead to constitutionally inadequate education funding.

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