Kurrus Out As LRSD Superintendent, Governor's Timing Hiccups Medicaid Politics

File photo: LRSD Superintendent Baker Kurrus, Democrat-Gazette publisher and charter advocate Walter Hussman, and Governor Asa Hutchinson.
Credit Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

Little Rock School District Superintendent Baker Kurrus confirmed to multiple news sources this evening that his contract will not be renewed by the Department of Education which has controlled the district since January of last year.

The ouster of Kurrus may come at a political cost for Governor Asa Hutchinson as he tries to convince Little Rock Democrats in the state legislature to back his procedural plan to squeak through Medicaid expansion with a newly construed use of the line item veto.

I'll try to have more on this tomorrow but it's safe to say that most of the Democrats in Little Rock aren't happy with the decision to dismiss Kurrus. The unknown is if it will ultimately make any meaningful difference on the strategy used to pass Arkansas Works and continue healthcare to 267,000-plus people. That shared end goal between the governor and Democrats will remain regardless of their unhappiness over charter school expansions and the loss of local control in the district.

Sen. Joyce Elliott sits on the Joint Budget Committee where special language for the governor's plan will be introduced:

Little Rock's typically reserved Mayor Mark Stodola has even stepped into the fray and says he's directly lobbying the governor to reverse the decision.

Kurrus has not stated that he was given a reason for the decision not to renew his contract. The ADE has also not given a reason. Though critics of the decision seem to have arrived at a consensus that Kurrus's push for greater analysis and slower growth of charter schools is the reason behind Commissioner Key's decision. His request to pause expansion of eSTEM and Lisa Academy failed before the state Board of Education last month.

The state Board of Education dissolved Little Rock's elected school board and gave control of the district to Education Commissioner Johnny Key last January because six of its 48 schools were designated in academic distress based on tests the state no longer administers.

A few of the former school board members have chimed in about the decision. Dr. Jim Ross is one of a cohort of UALR professors that have continued to engage since the dissolution of local control. He's been critical of Kurrus ever receiving the position (he like Key had education and experience requirement waived to be appointed by the governor) and the the response from affluent whites. The mayor's advocacy for Kurrus was not rewarded by Ross. 

KUAR has a number of inquires out and will have updates throughout the day Tuesday.