Little Rock School District

Daniel Breen / KUAR News

Conflicting messages of success and dissatisfaction were the predominant themes of a town hall meeting with officials from the Arkansas Department of Education, state lawmakers and the Little Rock School District Thursday. The optimistic assessments of the state of district schools by Superintendent Michael Poore and Education Commissioner Johnny Key contrasted with vocal opposition from the public.

Little Rock leaders recently approved a resolution asking the state to restore local control over the city's public schools, but the possibility of a school board election actually taking place and how much local control could be returned are up in the air.

City officials passed the resolution earlier this week, asking for an election to be held later this year after a new law regarding school districts that are under state authority takes effect. The state took over the Little Rock School District in 2015 after it was deemed to be in academic distress.

Chris Hickey / KUAR News

After a divisive ballot item to extend a Little Rock School District millage tax to fund facility improvements was handily rejected by voters Tuesday, state and city leaders are offering different views about what should happen next. Local activists who campaigned against the millage extension in the state-controlled district gathered near Little Rock’s Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary a day after the vote offering a renewed call to action.

Election vote
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Voters gave a resounding "No" to the Little Rock School District's proposal to extend a tax millage an additional 14 years to fund improvements to schools and the construction of a new high school in southwest Little Rock. 

The vote was 3,938 (35.5 percent) for, 7,167 (64.5 percent) against.

Only a little more than 11,000 of the 110,676 registered voters in the district went to the polls.

The extension of the 12.4-mill tax from the current expiration date of 2033 to 2047 would have generated $160 million for the improvements.

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.

Michael Poore Little Rock Superintendent
Jacob Kuaffman / KUAR News

Little Rock School Superintendent Mike Poore today announced the district’s latest plans for budget cuts in order to contend with a $37 million loss in state desegregation aid. The plan calls for the closure of Franklin and Wilson elementary schools, as well as the Woodruff Early Childhood Center.

Students attending the Hamilton Learning Academy would move to the Wilson campus. Poore announced that Carver Elementary, which had previously been considered for closure, will remain open.

Soon-to-be-former LRSD Superintendent Baker Kurrus giving a progress report on the district to the state Board of Education.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Outgoing Little Rock School District Superintendent Baker Kurrus bid farewell to the State Board of Education Thursday, while touting testing evidence of academic improvement. 

The district’s first and second graders increased national percentile ranking on the Iowa Assessment by 15.79 percent in the first grade and 13.95 in the second.

“Look at those math scores," said Kurrus. "It's even more dramatic when you look at second grade math," he said. "We broke the 50 percentile,” he added, about the district's national math percentile rank of 54.

Bobby Ampezzan / KUAR NEWS

At the 104th commencement for Central High School, more than 600 graduates formed two lines and marched through the bowels of Verizon Arena. The crowd inside the stadium filled all of the lower bowl and much of the upper.

On stage sat not a single elected representative of the local school district. For the second commencement in as many years, the city’s schools are being managed by the state and Education Commissioner Johnny Key.

state board of education little rock school district takeover
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

  

The Arkansas Board of Education will be deciding Thursday whether to review the expansion plans of two public charter schools in Little Rock. 

eStem Public Charter School and LISA Academy plan to expand their campuses by a combined 3,000 students. That has drawn opposition from some who see the potential expansion as harming efforts to improve academic achievement in the Little Rock School District.

 

lrsd.org

Low enrollment at the Little Rock School District's Academy for Gifted and Talented children has prompted plans to convert it into a pre-kindergarten center in the 2016-17 school year.

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