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Arkansas Considering Redrawing District Lines in Little Rock Area

With the state board of education voting last week to take over the Little Rock school system, Arkansas education officials say they are now contemplating redrawing district boundaries in the Little Rock area.

According to the Associated Press, Jay Barth, a member of the state board of education from Little Rock, will lead a committee looking at the current school district configurations, the tax bases, and other demographic factors to determine whether the current system is the most effective for the Pulaski County area. The committee will look at the Little Rock, North Little Rock, and Jacksonville/North Pulaski districts.

The findings from the study will be presented to the board in June. However, because Pulaski County Special District is under federal court supervision stemming from a 34-year-old desegregation case, any changes to district lines must be approved by U.S. District Court Judge D. Price Marshall Jr., according to the AP.

The state board of education voted 5-4 last week to take over the Little Rock school district and dissolve the locally elected board of education. Superintendent Dexter Suggs will remain in charge of the district on an interim basis, but he will now report to the state education department.

Six of the district's 48 schools have been declared to be "academically distressed" because fewer than half of the students were deemed proficient on state tests. Nearly 45 percent of the district's 25,000 students attend schools that are "underperforming," the AP reports.

The decision to take over Little Rock came nearly a year after Judge Marshall ruled that the state can stop providing desegregation aid to local school districts in the Little Rock area. The funds—nearly a billion since 1989—paid for programs aimed at integration, such as student transfers and magnet programs.

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