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Little Rock Proposes Plans To Return Little Rock School District to Local Control

Sarah Kellogg

The city of Little Rock is presenting a proposal to the Arkansas State Board of Education that would establish a temporary school board before eventually returning the Little Rock School District back to local control.

In a news conference on Monday, Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. announced the plan alongside members of the city’s Board of Directors as well as state legislators. This proposed plan comes after a state board proposal that would return LRSD schools with a "D" rating or above back to local control, while retaining control of schools with an "F" rating. That plan received criticism in part due to a majority of schools with the "F" rating are located in areas with majority minority populations.

"Any plan that separates any schools from LRSD denies agency for the very students, teachers and families who must take ownership of their schools if they are to thrive," Scott said.

The plan asks the state board to pass the following proposals during its next meeting on Thursday, Oct. 10:

  • Full and complete local control of all LRSD schools
  • A temporary transition school board from January 2020 until a locally elected board is seated after the November 2020 elections
  • The transition board would comprise of local community appointment as well as state board appointments
  • Any schools in the district with “F” rating would also be operated by the LRSD, with a partnership agreement with the Arkansas Department of Education and Little Rock 

According to the plan, the city would also hire a Chief Education Officer by Jan.1, who would be responsible for "connecting city, LRSD and statewide involvement on issues of education, equity and support for children and families." Scott said the city would be "targeting" city funds to both support the schools and hire for that position.
As to who would serve on the temporary board or how they would be appointed, Scott said that decision has not been determined.

"We would hope the appointments would somewhat resemble what we’ve already seen before with the Community Advisory Boards. However, you would have the community involved in the process," Scott said. "So far, that could come from a city board perspective. It also could come from a residency perspective of those "F" schools. That’s a detail that we will work out, but we do want to underscore the need for true state and community appointments."

According to Scott, both Gov. Asa Hutchinson and State Education Commissioner Johnny Key have heard this proposal and called the plan “very intriguing.”

Arkansas House Rep. Tippi McCullough, (D-Little Rock) said though this plan may appear to be moving too quickly since the board meets on Thursday, residents of the area have been dealing with the state-controlled schools for years.

"The community has made its voice heard all these five years. In part, saying that we want our school district back. We want an elected board. We want our teachers union. We are united in having the best school district that there is and we’re motivated to do the things that we need to do to make that happen," McCullough said.

McCullough said it’s tough to predict if the board will approve of the city’s plans.

"While I want to be optimistic and I hope that they will look and see that here’s a plan that’s being presented. There is a way forward and if they make the decision just to go with their frameworks and everything it just shows once again that they aren’t listening to anything we’re saying," McCullough said.

Sarah Kellogg was a Politics and Government reporter for KUAR from November 2018- August 2021.
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