A glimmer of hope for return of local control of Little Rock School District | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, September 13, 2018

A glimmer of hope for return of local control of Little Rock School District

Posted By on Thu, Sep 13, 2018 at 6:25 PM

click to enlarge JAY BARTH: Question gets encouraging answer for Little Rock School District residents.
  • JAY BARTH: Question gets encouraging answer for Little Rock School District residents.
The state Board of Education meeting today included an exchange of information that indicates there could be a return of local control of the Little Rock School District by 2020, which would require a school board election in November 2019.

Board chairman Jay Barth asked the Department legal counsel about the status of return of local control. Under law, state control can't last more than five years unless boundary changes or other special issues identified by authorities delay that.

Courtney Salas-Ford, a Department attorney, said the law was clear about the restoration of local control in January 2020, five years after a state takeover of the district, in a 5-4 vote, for low test scores in a handful of the district's four dozen schools. The takeover was powered by corporate enmity (white men) toward the majority black school board of the majority black district.

Local control means a school board. And, Salas-Foird confirmed to Barth, that means an election in November 2019. The election process would have to begin in June 2019. In light of what Salas-Ford said, Board member Susan Chambers said it was time for the state Board to be making plans.

Indeed. There's a legislative session in 2019. The Waltons are spoiling to charterize the district, Several thousand more students are likely to be gone, or soon to be gone to Walton-backed charters by the time 2020 rolls around. The Walton-influenced legislature could change the ground rules. Education Department trickery, with Johnny Key, a Republican factotum of Gov. Asa Hutchinson in charge, could find ways to throw a monkey wrench in this.

But today, for one shining moment, an Arkansas Education Department spokesman seemed to say voters of the Little Rock School District may democratically elect their leadership in November 2019.

Ironic twist: The Republicans who've taken control of education policy in Arkansas have also endeavored to move school elections from the old September special elections to a party primary or general elections, where more people vote. The idea behind this is the belief that populist fervor will defeat school tax increases.

If the Salas-Ford reading of the law holds up, the Little Rock School District special election for a new School Board would be a special election, school board election only. 2019 is not an election year.

Not to worry. The Waltons, if elections in other cities are a guide, will spend a fortune to influence the outcome.

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