Tuesday, February 10, 2015

TOP STORY >> Sherwood fails to get school bill

By JOHN HOFHEIMER Leader senior staff writer

A bill intended to make it easier for Maumelle and Sherwood to eventually carve their own school districts from the Pulaski County Special School District failed to get out of the House Education Committee on Tuesday.

Sponsored by Rep. Mark Lowery (R-Maumelle), Rep. Karilyn Brown (R-Sherwood), Rep. Donnie Copeland (R- North Little Rock) and Sen. Jane English (R-North Little Rock), HB 1242 would lower the number of students required to have a school district from 4,000 to 2,500.

The 4,000 threshold was established in just such a manner several years ago by then-state Rep. Will Bond (D- Jacksonville). It was estimated that Jacksonville and north Pulaski County would have at least 4,000 students.

With permission of the federal judge in central Arkansas’ desegregation agreement, a vote of Jacksonville-area residents and, finally, permission of the state Board of Education, the Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District was formed last fall.

It is currently hiring a full-time superintendent and dividing up assets and liabilities with PCSSD in preparation for starting school in 2016-17.

The bill would have also required the “remains” of a school district to have the minimum enrollment of 2,500.

A desegregation settlement agreement between the state, North Little Rock School District, Little Rock School District, Joshua Intervenors and PCSSD allowed the detachment of Jacksonville but said no other districts can be carved from PCSSD until that district is declared unitary — or desegregated — by the federal courts.

District size and the prohibition against other new school districts may not be the only impediment to detachment, at least for Maumelle.

It is feared that area is predominately white and its detachment would threaten racial balance and the desegregation agreement. Sherwood’s feasibility study has shown the city is racially balanced.

The courts might well not have allowed the racial balance upset, and there is no guarantee that the state Board of Education would approve of either detachment.