New school board position maps have been released by the Pulaski County Election Commission indicating from what areas board members would be chosen if the state ever gives up control of the Pulaski County Special School District.
Melinda Allen, director of the commission explained that the election commission never approved the new boundaries because the district is exempt under state law.
That led to the confusion whether the district had met its requirements to redraw the maps every ten years following the decennial census.
In fact, on May 16, 2012, the Pulaski County attorney addressed that issue with the commission.
“Karla Hutchins, County Attorney, explained that the statute that requires Election Commissions to approve school district zones was passed in 1993. There are several under federal court ordered exceptions to the statute. The school districts in Pulaski County are exempt from the statute. Although school districts in Pulaski County draw their lines to comply with the Federal Voting Rights Act and the Federal Constitution, they don’t do it subject to that statute. There is no Election Commission oversight according to federal law,” the commission minutes from that meeting note.
Allen noted Arkansas statutes A.C.A. § 6-13-631 contained an exemption for districts under federal court ordered desegregation plans that PCSSD has been since the late 1980s.
The statutes read, “(f) (1) At least ninety (90) days before the second annual school election after each federal decennial census, the local board of directors, with the approval of the controlling county board of election commissioners, shall:
(A) Divide each school district having a ten percent (10 percent) or greater minority population into single-member zones; and
(B) (i) File a copy of the plan with the county clerk of the county where the school district is administratively domiciled.
(ii) The plan shall include a map showing the boundaries of the zones and documentation showing the population by race in each zone.
(2) The zones shall be based on the most recent federal decennial census information and be substantially equal in population.
(3) At the annual school election following the rezoning, a new school board of directors shall be elected in accordance with procedures set forth in this section.
(g) (1) The following school districts shall be exempt from the provisions of this section:
(A) A school district that is currently operating under a federal court order enforcing school desegregation or the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, as amended.”
The state board of education took over the embattled district on June 20, 2011 ousting the seven-member board of trustees that spent so much time arguing with each other and replaced them with Tom Kimbrell, state commissioner of education.
Superintendent Charles Hopson was fired and Kimbrell hired Jerry Guess as superintendent.
Hopson unexpectedly died last fall while visiting Dallas.
Since its state takeover the district has held one public meeting it called a board meeting.
In response to complaints that the new board answers to no one and doesn’t act in public, Guess said all the business that used to come before the former board is shared on the district’s Website as if it were in a board book prepared for the board members but also given to media and interested parties. With Maumelle’s increased population the board zone primarily covering the Maumelle area has shrunk a little mostly by losing some of its extensive area inside the city limits of Little Rock on the southwest side near Lawson Road and the Otter Creek area.
A comparison of the coverage area is delineated in the attached graphic map prepared by the election commission showing both the old and new zones.
The last school board member from Maumelle, Tim Clark said he was glad to see the new zone maps and said it made sense to shrink his old zone.
Clark said with all of Maumelle, Oak Grove and much of western Little Rock the old board zone was too large. Plus he said with the growth in Maumelle it only makes sense that the zone covering Maumelle would get smaller.
Clark said he also was unaware of the zone changes until sent a copy for a quote.
But he noted that right now the zones mean nothing because Maumelle has no representation in the decisions that determine the future for all its school children.
Since Maumelle pays more money into the district coffers through higher property values and taxes, Clark said it clearly is a case of taxation without representation.
Clark said he also found it odd that the state had used the widespread corruption in the PCSSD that he uncovered as the excuse to take over the district once the theft had been stopped.
When he became president Clark said things just didn’t add up and as he explored the issue s further he realized quickly that a full legislative audit was needed to correct what he suspected. And he noted the state at first refused to do the audit claiming it was too backlogged with work but once his revelations became known they shifted staff from other audits to work within the district.