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Ed board: Jacksonville school petition can go forward

LITTLE ROCK — The state Board of Education on Monday validated a petition from residents in Jacksonville seeking state permission to form a new school district by detaching from the Pulaski County Special School District.

The petition to advance a movement toward a separate Jacksonville School District needed 1,808 signatures for validation, or 10 percent of the registered voters in the area of the proposed detachment. The board declared that the petition containing 2,079 signatures was valid.

The group still faces more hurdles.

The Department of Education has to request an opinion from the state attorney general’s office as to whether creating a new school district would negatively affect desegregation in the Pulaski County Special district. Also, the federal judge presiding over the long-running Pulaski County school desegregation case would have to determine whether the proposed district would violate the 1989 desegregation settlement to which the Pulaski County district is a party.

Finally, residents in the affected area would have to vote on whether to approve a new district.

The Pulaski County Special School District has been in fiscal distress since May 2011 and has been under state control since June 2011. The Board of Education voted in May to continue fiscal-distress status for the district after state Department of Education officials reported that some of the issues that led to that classification have not been resolved, though they said the district has made progress under the leadership of state-appointed Superintendent Jerry Guess.

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