LITTLE ROCK — Two Arkansas legislators called Thursday on the state Board of Education to return the Little Rock School District to local control as soon as possible.
Rep. Clarke Tucker and Sen. Linda Chesterfield, both D-Little Rock, asked the board to set an election for a local school board no later than 2018.
The board voted to take over the state’s largest school district in 2015 because six of its schools were classified as academically distressed. That number has since been reduced to three.
Tucker told the panel, “The time has come for an elected, empowered school board to return as the decision-making body in LRSD, working in cooperation with Superintendent Michael Poore to create a truly vibrant school district. In contrast, we feel that ongoing lack of local control only serves to deepen the divide in the Little Rock community and to restrict the promise of the Little Rock School District.”
Chesterfield said, “I would ask that this board let our district go. We are on the right path in Little Rock to being what we have always known we are, and that’s a world-class school district.”
On Tuesday, a proposed 14-year millage extension to raise $160 million for construction of a new high school in southwest Little Rock and improvements at all other campuses in the district failed at the ballot box with 65 percent of votes cast against it and 35 percent for it.
Some who opposed the proposal said they could not support extending the tax while the district does not have an elected governing body that is accountable to voters.
Also Thursday, the board considered requests from five districts for waivers from various state regulations. Act 1240 of 2015 allows a public school district to petition the board for any waivers that have been granted to a charter school serving students who live in that district.
The board granted the Greenwood School District’s request for a waiver from the requirement to have a library/media specialist at the Greenwood Freshman Center.
The panel granted the North Little Rock School District’s requests for scheduling flexibility and waivers from regulations on teacher licensure and class size and teacher load.
The Cedar Ridge School District received approval of its requests for scheduling flexibility and waivers from regulations on teacher licensure, class size and teacher load, and library media.
The board granted the Marvell-Elaine School District’s requests for flexible scheduling and waivers of regulations on teacher licensure and closing achievement gaps. The board denied the district’s request for a waiver of regulations on school board meetings.
The Mountain Home School District received approval of its requests for scheduling flexibility and waivers of regulations on teacher licensure and the grading scale. The board denied the district’s request for a waiver of regulations on class size and teacher loads.
The board also voted Thursday to approve $6,318 in extra funding for the Paris School District.
The district’s spending has exceeded its budget for the current school year by that amount because three children in foster care were added to its pre-kindergarten program. Pre-K programs have been asked to prioritize services to children in foster care because of the trauma they suffer when removed from their homes.