Taking Back The LRSD: A Path Emerges In The Legislature

Parents should never lose their voice in their children’s schools, but four years ago the State Board of Education took away the say of parents in the Little Rock School District, dissolved the democratically elected school board, and began closing down public schools while expanding private charter schools. But that could change, Democratic lawmakers have filed a bill in the Arkansas Legislature to regain control of the LRSD.

Four years ago, the State Board of Education wrested control of the Little Rock School District away from the people.. Four years on, state control of Little Rock’s schools has no end in sight. A bill filed on Tuesday would change that, making it easier for Little Rock to get its schools back.

SB553, sponsored by Senators Will Bond, Joyce Eliott, and Linda Chesterfield, and Representatives Andrew Collins, Charles Blake, and Tippi McCullough, all of Little Rock, makes several key changes to to the powers of the state Board of Education regarding school district takeovers.

The legislation says that the Board “may” annex or consolidate a state-controlled district, rather than the mandatory “shall” that is currently in the law. This raises the threshold for the members of the state Board, appointed by the governor, to take over a school district that they deem is “in need of intensive support.”

Furthermore, the legislation provides a defined path for a school district to be returned to local control — after five years. It says that the state Board shall return local control if there has been substantial improvements to school quality, if there is a plan from the school districts for substantial improvement, or if the number of schools which require substantial improvement increases under state control.

If the bill were to pass, a clear pathway would be established to regain local control. That would benefit Little Rock schools, as well as Dollarway, Earle, and Pine Bluff.