Governor Huckabee today unveiled a new proposal for changing Arkansas` unconstitutionally bad public education system. The governor suggests closing inefficient high schools and raising teacher salaries. The new plan calls for the possible consolidation of high school with fewer than high schools with fewer than 425 students in grades nine through 12. His proposal in January targeted high schools in districts with fewer than 1,500 pupils. The governor says his plan is one that will meet a court order to improve Arkansas` school system. Consultants have said it will take 847 million dollars in new money each year to improve schools, but Huckabee says his proposal will cost the state just 368 million dollars a year. The plan does not suggest how to raise the money, but the governor said a penny increase in the sales tax could cover the bulk of it. Other cost savings came through proposing larger classes than called for by the state`s consultants, phasing in the teacher salary schedule and allocating 40 million dollars for preschool programs rather than a suggested 100 million dollars. ------ The Huckabee plan includes a statewide salary schedule with a starting pay of $29,000 and an average salary-and-benefits package of $50,595. The governor said 94 percent of Arkansas school districts do not currently meet the teacher salary standards set in his proposed bill. The bill also reorganizes the state Department of Education. ------ According to figures from the Arkansas Department of Education, there were 236 high schools with fewer than 425 students last year. The data included special schools such as those for the deaf and blind, and charter schools that presumably would not be considered for consolidation. High schools closest to the "bubble" include Star City, with 421 students, Gravette with 426, and Batesville Southside and Booneville with 437 each. ------ Represenative Bill Stovall of Quitman, who is scheduled to be the next House speaker, said he could not support any plan where schools could be targeted for consolidation based on their size. He said large schools should be forced to meet the same standards as small schools. Huckabee urged Arkansans to view the entire plan before passing judgment. he said it does not alter many schools, despite the rhetoric, and says "no child will be on a bus 40 miles a day."