Arkansas Education

Jacksonville and north Pulaski County voters have overwhelmingly approved the creation of a new school district.

Pulaski County officials say initial results of the vote Tuesday show that nearly 96 percent of voters supported separating from the Pulaski County Special School District. About 10 schools will secede from the existing district to create the Jacksonville/North Pulaski County school district with roughly 4,000 students.

About 21 percent of eligible voters within the boundaries of the proposed district voted.

Instructors in the Bentonville, Greenbrier, Marion and Poyen school districts have been named finalists for the 2015 Arkansas Teacher of the Year award.

The four finalists were announced Tuesday in a ceremony at the state Capitol. They are among 15 teachers who were identified as regional finalists for the honor.

The finalists are:

Pulaski County Special School District Logo / PCSSD

Voters in Jacksonville are deciding Tuesday if they want to separate from the Pulaski County Special School District and form their own district. Residents of Jacksonville were given the option of creating their own district, after a ruling in January by a federal judge ended a long-running desegregation case.

Jerry Guess, the Superintendent of the state’s third-largest school district, said Jacksonville’s schools are in “bad shape” and breaking away allows them to get state funding, otherwise unavailable.

The Little Rock School District's school board election is Tuesday, September 16. Joy Springer is challenging incumbent Norma Jean Johnson in the downtown area and Jim Ross is running against incumbent Jody Carreiro in West Little Rock.

Robotics Governor Mike Beebe
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

About 3,000 high school students from around the region will take part in a massive robotics competition next year in Little Rock. Details of the event, designed to make key subjects more engaging for young people, were announced Wednesday at the Capitol.

In the governor’s conference room, a robot named Nighthawk sped around, tossing a large ball toward Gov. Mike Beebe and Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola. They joined with officials involved in the Arkansas Rock City Regional FIRST Robotics Competition, to be held March 4-7, 2015 at Barton Coliseum.

Teacher Salary Increase Options
Screenshot of Bureau of Legislative Research Report / BLR

Plans to raise minimum teacher salaries by less than a few thousand dollars could cost the state between $2 million and $ 7 million dollars. The Bureau of Legislative Research presented Arkansas lawmakers Monday with several routes toward increasing the minimum pay for teachers to nearly $31,000. Currently minimum pay for a bachelor’s degree is just over $29,000.

Members of the Little Rock School District board running for election on September 16 responded to questions at a community forum at the Willie Hinton Neighborhood Resource Center Thursday night.

Incumbent Norma Jean Johnson is running against Joy Springer in the downtown area. Johnson told the crowd she wants to foster a more positive dialogue about the district to encourage families to stay, while looking for ways to cut wasteful spending.

Arkansas State University is delaying the target opening date of its new campus in Mexico until 2016.

The campus in Queretaro was initially scheduled to open in fall 2015, but university officials say they will push that back by one year.

Arkansas State Chancellor Tim Hudson says unexpected issues with infrastructure, such as water and electricity, prompted the delay. Hudson says Arkansas State's work on curriculum and student services remains on schedule.

A federal judge is ending a large part of an Arkansas desegregation case rooted in the Little Rock Central High School crisis of 1957.

The lawsuit was originally filed by a Little Rock school district in 1982. It said state policies were still creating racial imbalance despite changes made since nine black teenagers needed federal troops to enter Little Rock Central nearly six decades ago.

Arkansas went on to give three school districts more than $1 billion to promote integration.

Arkansas Education Commissioner Tony Wood
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

As part of an ambitious $265 million plan to completely remake the North Little Rock School District, the first new school is now open. A ceremony was held Tuesday to dedicate the rebuilt Meadow Park Elementary, with three other schools to open in December.

Students patiently waited through a series of speakers, before the ribbon-cutting and students and faculty shouting in unison "let's go to school."  It's the first new school to open in the district in 44 years.