Chelsea Boozer at the Democrat-Gazette reports today on the entry of a second challenger in the race for the Little Rock city board seat representing Ward 2: Valerie Tatum, the director of Covenant Keepers Charter School in Southwest Little Rock.

Due to a city ordinance that restricts fundraising for municipal races until a date closer to Election Day, Tatum, like other political hopefuls in Little Rock this year, is not technically a candidate just yet. However, Boozer reports she’s formed an exploratory committee. That effectively means she intends to enter the race. Tatum’s Facebook page is here.


The local fundraising restriction, and attempts to circumvent it, has sparked a lawsuit and ongoing confusion among city elected officials and challenges alike about the upcoming election season.

City Director Ken Richardson, the Ward 2 incumbent, told the Arkansas Times on Wednesday he believes he will seek re-election. “In all likelihood, I will run again,” he said. Richardson has held the seat since 2006.


Last year, neighborhood activist Rohn Muse announced his intent to run for the Ward 2 seat as well.

Tatum founded Covenant Keepers in 2008. The charter school, located at 5615 Geyer Springs Road, serves a student body composed almost entirely of Hispanic and African-American students from low-income homes. That distinguishes it from better-known Little Rock charters such as eStem and LISA Academy, which frequently have been criticized for attracting a somewhat whiter, somewhat more affluent cohort of families than is found in the Little Rock School District writ large.


Nonetheless, Covenant Keepers has been the source of controversy in education circles due to low test scores and fiscal problems — that is, similar problems that plague traditional public schools with similarly high concentrations of poverty. Last spring, the Arkansas Department of Education’s Charter Authorizing Panel voted 6-1 to revoke the school’s charter. One department official skeptically cited Tatum’s $138,000 salary at that meeting.

However, in May, the state Board of Education, which has final power over such matters, reversed the authorizing panel’s decision and allowed Covenant Keepers to retain its charter. Advocates of traditional public schools said the state board’s decision showed it applied one standard of accountability to struggling low-income schools in the LRSD — which was taken over by a vote of the state board in 2015 because of low test scores at a handful of campuses — and a different standard to struggling low-income charters such as Covenant Keepers.