LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) – The Arkansas Board of Education hosted a town hall Thursday for parents and educators to discuss what the future holds for the Little Rock School District.
The two hour meeting at the state capitol got heated between legislators and parents after learning there is still no answer as to when the state will return the district back over to local control. In January 2015, the Arkansas Board of Education voted 5-4 to take control of the district after six of the 48 schools were placed under academic stress. The school board was removed immediately.
“I don’t understand how Little Rock School District has not been released,” one parent said.
Commissioner Johnny Key said there is no time table for when local control will be given back.
“[This fall] we’re going to be looking at all the aspects of district operations. We’ll look at financial. The facilities. We’ll look at academics,” Key said. “And then we will determine what the next steps are.”
But many people at the discussion were upset with the answers they were given. Attendees had 90 seconds to make a question or comment at the discussion. Over 30 people submitted questions, waiting for answers.
"There are agendas in this city for people who don't care about people who look like us. They say it, but they don't really mean it," Attendee Toney Orr said.
Key said he is very aware of the frustration in the Little Rock Community.
"They want to know when. When will we get a board back, and that's not something we can tell them. We can't give them a hard and fast date," Key said.
People were also upset about charter schools in Little Rock and the talk of building more, but the board said it gives parents more options of schools to choose from.
“What is the purpose of that if we are trying to build back the foundation in the Little Rock school system,” another attendee said.
Key said he is unsure how many students LRSD lost this year to charter schools. However, he said the district lost 300 students from 2016-2017, but is unsure if it is related to charter schools. Although there is uncertainty around when the district when gain back control, the board wants to assure parents and educators it is for the betterment of the children.
"Every district that's ever been taken over by the state of Arkansas has been turned back to local control,” Key said. “That will be the end result here in Little Rock as well."
Key said a return to local control of the Little Rock School District will be based on academic data, which will become available this fall.