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Tension mounts between Little Rock teachers' union and LRSD as contract deadlines loom

Tension is mounting between the Little Rock teachers' union and Little Rock School District (LRSD) as a contract deadline looms between the two.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - Tension is mounting between the Little Rock teachers' union and Little Rock School District (LRSD) as a contract deadline looms between the two.

Hundreds of teachers, parents and others community members packed the sanctuary of First United Methodist Church in Downtown Little Rock on Sunday for a lively meeting in support of the Little Rock Education Association (LREA). The union, Grassroots Arkansas, Our Community Our Schools and Save Our Schools hosted the gathering.

“I am passionate about public education and I fear that what’s happening to the Little Rock School District is going to be very detrimental to the city of Little Rock,” said retired LRSD teacher Pat Yates said as she entered the sanctuary. “You can't have a thriving city without a thriving school system.”

On Tuesday, LREA president Teresa Knapp Gordon said teachers do not want to strike, but they have reached a deadlock in their contract negotiations with the Little Rock School District.

Arkansas Education Commissioner Johnny Key, who acts as the LRSD school board, rejected a deal with the union on Monday. He wants teachers in the district's 22 schools that are in academic distress to waive their protections under the teacher fair dismissal act - making it easier to fire them.

“That was in response to the state's obligation to meet the needs of students – not to meet the needs of adults,” Key said during a meeting with reporters on Tuesday.

In a joint press release, organizers of Sunday’s meeting call Key’s proposal a “slap in the face” to students, families and educators.

“Under Johnny Key, the LRSD has seen the number of failing schools increase by nearly 400%, during which time he has taken no action to remove any teacher under the current system of due process, the statement reads in part. “The lack of apparent action on teacher removals shows that the move to amend the previously negotiated and ratified contract is a blatant attempt to divide educators in the school district. We will stand united against attacks on LRSD students, educators, the community, and public education in Arkansas.”

The LREA will hold a press conference at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary Monday, Oct. 29 at 7:30 a.m.

The contract between LRSD and the LREA expires on Wednesday, Oct. 31.