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State Board Returns Local Control To Little Rock School District

Little Rock School District students, educators and parents picketing outside Central High during a teacher strike.
Chris Banks

The Arkansas Board of Education on Thursday lifted the last remaining restrictions on the Little Rock School District, returning it fully to local control nearly six and a half years after a state takeover.

Arkansas took over the 21,000-student district in 2015 over lagging test scores at several schools, dissolving the local school board. The state in 2019 returned control to a new board that was elected in November, but kept some limits on its authority.

The restrictions lifted include a requirement that the Little Rock School Board not hire or fire superintendents without the state’s approval, and a prohibition on recognizing any bargaining agent for teachers without state approval. The now-lifted restrictions had also prohibited the district from suing the state.

The local teachers’ union went on strike in 2019 over the state’s ongoing control of the district and their loss of collective bargaining rights. A new state law set to take effect this month, however, banning collective bargaining by most government employees will still prevent the district from recognizing the union as its bargaining agent.

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