Little Rock school tax opponents to ask for another early polling place | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Little Rock school tax opponents to ask for another early polling place

Posted By on Thu, Apr 13, 2017 at 7:49 AM

click to enlarge AT THE RED DOT: Reopen early poll at McMath Library, tax opponents ask. Map shows boundaries of LR School District.
  • AT THE RED DOT: Reopen early poll at McMath Library, tax opponents ask. Map shows boundaries of LR School District.

Groups opposing a special election May 9 on adding 14 years of property tax payments on Little Rock School District taxpayers (a new authorization worth $600 million or more) will ask the Pulaski County Election Commission today to reopen the McMath Library on John Barrow Road as an early polling place for the election  beginning May 2 or find another early polling place.

As we reported earlier, the library had been scheduled as an early poll, but then the School District — communicating through its bond representative from Stephens Inc. — asked that it be dropped. The only early poll will be at a county building downtown.

Be the Change, Save Our Schools and Citizens Against Taxation Without Representation, all groups opposing the tax, say the limitation to one site makes it harder for people in poor neighborhoods to vote early. Superintendent Mike Poore has said the district was merely following custom on having a single poll, though the Election Commission has yet to find another special Little Rock election during the years when early polls have been authorized.

The groups sent a letter of protest, addressing, among others, state EducationCommissioner Johnny Key, who controls the district since its state takeover two years ago.

The letter said: "To close a polling site with little public notice, especially at this late hour, is acting in bad faith with the public. It appears to be an attempt to suppress early voting in majority black neighborhoods." The letter gave officials until Friday to reply.
The map above shows the boundaries of the Little Rock School District, which is far smaller than the city as a whole. A red dot locates the McMath Library. City Director Lance Hines showed his general anti-LRSD sentiments in comments on Twitter this week, responding to complaints about the loss of the polling place by saying he thought it was vote suppression not to have polls west of Interstate 430 and north of Interstate 630. Hines lives outside the LRSD in the Pulaski County Special School District in western Little Rock, for one thing. For another, he and others who supported the state takeover of LRSD and support the continued explosion of damaging charter schools in the city tend to misrepresent just how little of the district, as a percentage of territory, lies west of Interstate 430.  The McMath Library, in the western end of the district, is just a few blocks south of I-630, easily accessible from exits to John Barrow Road.

The groups told the Election Commission:

We call on you to re-open the early voting location at McMath Library and commit to opening several others as well. Early voting sites in small turnout elections in Little Rock are traditionally open at McMath Library, Dee Brown Library, and Williams Library. The cost to run these locations is minimal. Please reply to our request by Friday, April 14th. Time is of the essence.

AND SPEAKING OF LRSD: Wendell Griffen, the circuit judge and Baptist pastor who's written before about his opposition to the tax measure May 9, has written further on the school situation on his blog. He sees it as a step toward providing taxpayer support for future charter school operations, enabled by new state legislation forcing school districts to provide buildings to charters at favorable terms. The money also includes operational expenses controlled by Key.

The May 9 millage measure is a $600 million bank heist that will permit Key to funnel millions of tax dollars paid by LRSD property owners to charter school management companies supported by Walton Family Foundation and other charter school champions. This has already happened in New Orleans and other places.

The May 9 millage ballot must be defeated if we hope to preserve any sensible notion of public education in the LRSD. If the charter school lobby can control the Arkansas Board of Education and Education Commissioner (as it apparently does), and if Commissioner Johnny Key can control how public education is provided in the LRSD (as he does), then the only issue left is how charter school operators can acquire buildings and operating revenue to operate.
The state Board of Education meets today, by the way. An item on the agenda concerns the Little Rock School District. Member Jay Barth had hoped to call for a vote on returning the Little Rock School District in a 2018 election. Gov. Asa Hutchinson told Key he doesn't support a vote to return to local control. So there's not likely to be a vote today. It would be pointless since Hutchinson appointed the majority of the state Board. Key and the governor DO want the $600 million, however.

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