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Study: New district would help county, Jacksonville

Dr. Winston Simpson was engaged by the Jacksonville Education Foundation Inc. to update the report of Dr. Don Stewart on the feasibility of a separate Jacksonville-Pulaski area school district.

“In discussion with representatives of the Jacksonville Education Foundation Inc., it was agreed that the update would be expanded to include certain topics not addressed in Dr. Stewart’s study but included in expectations communicated by Dr. Tom Kimbrell, Commissioner of the Arkansas Department of Education.”

Data was collected from a wide variety of sources with the study initiated September 2012 and completed in January.

The study concludes the new district would meet certain criteria by the state for public school districts.

“The new district and PCSSD (Pulaski County Special School District) meet student enrollment and geographic size requirements,” states the report.”

The new Jacksonville-area district would serve more than 4,000 students.

“The new district encompasses approximately 100 square miles,” according to the report. “PCSSD serves more than 15,000 but less than 20,000 students, and PCSSD swill not be reduced to fewer than 4,000 students.”

The study concludes the new district would have the tax base, millage rate and revenue sufficient to staff and operate the schools included in the district.

“Some additional local tax revenue may be necessary to provide school facilities that meet state standards and the aspirations of citizens in the new district,” stats the report.

The new district expects to receive a portion of the desegregation funds that would otherwise flow to PCSSD.

The new district would use desegregation funds to provide student transportation, improve school facilities, and recruit and retain licensed as the new district transitions to a more efficient student to licensed staff ratio.

Pulling Jacksonville and North Pulaski County of PCSSD will also result in PCSSD receiving an increase in state and local revenue per student.

“The increase is the result of an increase in the local tax base per student,” according to the report.

Besides seeing an increase in the per-student tax rate, PCSSD would see a decrease in its cost to provide school facilities to the remaining students.

The report also indicates that a lot of work needs to be done to bring up Jacksonville-area school acceptable federal building standards.

“The data show that school buildings in the Jacksonville area do not meet standards established … for academic facilities and that significant expenditures would be required to bring them up to those standards,” states the report.

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