The public will be able to pose questions to four candidates for the Little Rock School Board at a forum hosted by Arkansas Community Organizations tomorrow evening at 6 p.m. at the Willie Hinton Neighborhood Resource Center at 12th and Oak Streets. Brittney Johnson of KARK will moderate. Two seats are contested on the seven-member school board: Zone 5, in West Little Rock, and Zone 1, which includes most of the city east of Woodrow St. (Here’s the district map, and an address finder.)
In the West Little Rock race, UALR history professor and former teacher Jim Ross is challenging incumbent Jody Carreiro. The downtown race pits incumbent Norma Jean Johnson against Joy Springer, a longtime assistant to much-reviled, much-beloved civil rights attorney Rep. John Walker.
The election, which will be held on Sept. 16, will have big consequences for Arkansas’s largest school district — and by extension, the city and the state. Tomorrow, candidates will have to answer hard questions about how they plan to balance a budget soon to be hit with a massive loss of state desegregation funding. ACO says it also plans to ask candidates about the impact on the public school system of the direct, lived reality of residential segregation in present-day Little Rock, as articulated recently in the Arkansas Times by John Kirk. How should the district allocate its soon-to-be-sharply-limited resources in a town whose neighborhoods remain so starkly divided along racial and economic lines?
That’s the big picture. ACO says it expects audience questions to dig into more specific issues, such as an upcoming millage campaign and proposed school closures. From their press release:
“The Little Rock School District is facing many important challenges. Voters in Zones 1 and 5 – two very different parts of town – will have the opportunity to choose their representative on the school board on Tuesday, September 16,” said ACO president Donna Massey. “We encourage people to come to the forum to find out where the candidates stand on issues facing the district. Every school election is important, but this year’s election is especially important because of the recent settlement of the desegregation case and the loss of revenue from the state.”
Funding for special education reporting provided by the Arkansas Public Policy Panel.