The Little Rock Board of Directors voted 7-1 Tuesday night in favor of a resolution to support extending a 12.4 mill tax to fund Little Rock schools. An election on the millage extension will be held on May 9. If voters approve the extension, 46.4 mills would continue to be levied in the Little Rock School District.
Leaders of the district, which has been under state control since January 2015, have argued that revenue from the millage is needed in order to address nearly $300 million in facility needs that were documented in a 2014 study. The revenue generated by the tax extension would go to fund about $160 million in capital improvement projects in the district.
Opponents of the district plan say the absence of a locally-elected school board in the state-controlled district would mean taxation without representation.
Samantha Toro was one Little Rock resident to speak against the millage at the board meeting.
“We’re told to sit down, be quiet and trust you to handle the issue,” Toro said. “We’ve had our school board, our voice, taken away. And we’re supposed to trust you and trust this system that’s done nothing but cast our concerns aside.”
But LRSD Associate Superintendent Sadie Mitchell admonished citizens and city leaders to support the millage.
“Take responsibility for your decisions. Don’t let everybody, somebody, anybody or nobody stop you from doing what you need to do to create a prosperous future for our children and employees,” Mitchell said.
Several city directors also spoke in favor of the millage extension before voting for the resolution. Ward 6 Director Doris Wright was one.
“I would encourage you to think about the future of our children, because if we don’t fix these schools, they’re going to fall apart. Where’s the money going to come from? You’re paying the millage anyway. Your taxes will not go up,” Wright said.
The only city director to vote against the resolution, Erma Hendrix of Ward 1, said she couldn’t support the state-controlled LRSD plans when it also proposes to close schools in predominantly minority neighborhoods in order to deal with budget shortfalls.
“How many of you black people are tired of all the schools being closed in the inner city where we live in a majority?” Hendrix said.
The LRSD is planning to close Franklin Elementary, the Woodruff Early Childhood Center. The Hamilton Learning Academy would move to the Wilson Elementary campus, which is also slated for closure as an active elementary school.
Also on Tuesday, the Pulaski County Election Commission approved additional early voting sites. Early voting on the millage extension begins on May 2.