The state Board of Education will consider July 8 a department recommendation that the Little Rock School District be released from state control, including the lifting of limits placed on the recently elected school board.

The district was taken over 6 and a half years ago on account of low test scores in a handful of the district’s four dozen schools. It remains under state control despite a state law at the time that limited takeovers to five years. The state Board “reconstituted” the district last year and allowed election of a school board, but put specific limits on the board — control of the superintendent, bargaining with employees and filing lawsuits — as well as indicating it would act in other ways as it saw fit. The law on state control has changed and the Board has continued to assert control on the ground of questions about finances. The state takeover remains under challenge in a lawsuit that the Arkansas Supreme Court recently refused to exist.

Advertisement

The agenda item says:

Following the Division’s year-end review of the progress of the Little Rock School District, the Division concluded that the District met the criteria to exit Level 5 – Intensive support.  For this reason, the Division respectfully requests that the State Board remove the District from the Level 5 – Intensive support, place the district in Level 4 – Direct support for a period of one year in accordance with Section 8.10.4 of the Rules governing the Arkansas Educational Support and Accountability Act, and lift the limitations that the State Board placed upon the District Board of Directors on December 12, 2019.

Here’s a summary of the district’s exit plan from Deputy Commissioner Stacy Smith.

Advertisement

This is long overdue. A July exit had been widely predicted by people following the issue closely. The state would like to shed itself of the lingering Little Rock issue. Its record as supervisor has been denounced. And it’s likely that future trouble for the district lies ahead, given the incursions on the district the state has allowed in charter school and voucher expansions, which fall hardest on Little Rock.

Nonetheless, this is good news and should clear a path to a needed millage refinance that would provide additional money without raising the existing tax rate. School Board member Ali Noland commented last night:

Advertisement