Arkansas lawmakers are discussing a possible return of Pulaski County Special School District to local control as it nears its fifth year under state control. The decision is complicated by a federal desegregation order.
Superintendent Jerry Guess told lawmakers Monday the district is still not “unitary” in facilities, one area it must improve under the order. He said the district, taken over by the state in 2011, is making progress and has sold $55 million worth of bonds to build a new high school.
"We have retained an architect and retained a construction management company and we are proceeding with all haste," he said. Pulaski County voters disapproved of the district’s millage request to address facilities needs earlier this year. Guess said selling the bonds was a "plan B" approach to raising necessary funds.
Co-chair of the desegregation litigation oversight committee, Senator Linda Chesterfield, said voters who lack representation on a school board are unlikely to feel involved or motivated to vote for funding. She said she is in favor of returning the district to local control regardless of the status of desegregation efforts.
"I think it's time for the citizens of Pulaski County to get their district back. I think it's time to rebuild the confidence that what we say and what we do as citizens matters," she said.
Sen. Chesterfield said lawmakers will revisit the issue of a return to local control in upcoming meetings.