LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- The Little Rock School District has a plan to get the money it needs to build a Southwest High School.
The neighborhood needs it and a lot of people want it, but some who fought to defeat a school funding vote last month call this new plan "wrong on many levels."
"We all want to help these kids, but we've gotta stop, we gotta think, and we've gotta get a plan in place," said public school advocate Jim Ross.
LRSD leaders wanted to sell bonds to build the long-awaited Southwest High School. Voters rejected that plan in May. Thursday, the district came up with another, approving the sale of $90 million worth of bonds.
"And then to just turn around 30 days later, after the voters were so clear, and to say, 'we don't care about the voters. We're going to go ahead and extend these bonds, anyway,' seemed a slap in the face," Ross said.
The plan voters shot down required extending their taxes. LRSD said it can use existing money to pay for this plan, so it doesn't need to call an election. The bond sale was approved during a special meeting, which members of the group Save Our Schools say wasn't announced ahead of time.
"Well, we would've gone and protested, because we honestly believe, at the end of the day, we've got to have some kind of a cost analysis of how we're going to be able to make it, losing all these kids to charter schools," Ross said.
In a statement, the school district said low interest rates make the timing right to sell these bonds. But critics are worried that the district won't be able to stop the exodus of students from LRSD to private schools, the suburbs, and charters.
"In August, when the state board approves the old Mitchell Elementary School building to be a middle school, a charter middle school, it means we're going to lose 400 more students. That state money goes with them. That's $4.3 million out of the Little Rock School District's revenue," Ross said.
The district will have to pay $2 million to sell these bonds, plus the interest over 16 years. But instead of creating a new school, critics think the bonds will end up forcing Little Rock to close more schools.
"You know how we're going to pay for it? We're gonna close buildings and we're gonna fire teachers. That's how Mike Poore's going to have to do this, and that's going to be his legacy to our city," Ross said.
The district must wait two weeks to get a certificate from Pulaski County, showing that nobody objected. Then the state board of education has to approve the bond sale.
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