Wednesday, April 19, 2017

LR City Board supports millage extension

Posted By on Wed, Apr 19, 2017 at 2:27 PM

The Times' April 20 cover story, to be posted online later, is an overview of the proposed millage extension for Little Rock's public schools and includes interviews with those who support and those who oppose the extension, which Superintendent Mike Poore says will raise $160 million for renovations.

Add to the list of supporters the Little Rock Board of Directors, which voted 7 to 1 last night to express its favor of the extension. (Arkansas Democrat reporter Chelsea Boozer's article is here.) Only City Director Erma Hendrix voted no. Directors B.J. Wyrick and Ken Richardson were absent.

The millage vote will take place May 9. The district is asking to push back the expiration date of a portion (12.4 mills) of the current tax rate of 46.4 mills by 14 years, from 2033 to 2047. That would allow the district to refinance debt on an existing bond, which would provide money the district says it would use to build a new high school in Southwest Little Rock, make renovations to McClellan High School, and make other physical improvements to schools throughout the district.

Opponents of the extension want the LRSD returned to local control before a millage vote is taken. Times' senior editor Max Brantley, who is on vacation this week, wrote in a recent column about fears that a millage extension will benefit charter schools:

There's justifiable fear that [state Education Commissioner Johnny] Key and Co. want to get the buildings in shape for the eventual surrender of the Little Rock School District to a privatized operation such as exists in New Orleans. The Walton forces tried to legislate that in 2015. Meanwhile, Key is encouraging explosive (and LRSD damaging) growth of charter schools, the Waltons are financing charter school buildings and their chief lobbyist in town is singing the praises of anything and everything but the old Little Rock School District. Lurking in the wing is still further Little Rock charter expansion by a national private school chain.
In the column, Max also notes that Little Rock continues to "reward people who harm the community," saying the City Board was about to renew its $300,000 subsidy to the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce. Last night, the board did just that, in another 7 to 1 vote. Vice Mayor Kathy Webb voted no, citing the lack of transparency in how the funds would be spent.

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