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Questions linger whether LRSD teachers will return to class Monday

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Monday is the first day back to school after the Little Rock Education Association’s contract expired, and there’s no word about whether those teachers will return to class.

A lot has happened this past week concerning the fate of the Little Rock School District.

Between Arkansas education officials releasing their draft plan to return the district to local control, to the state proposing its timeline for the LRSD Board of Directors election. 

The big question still lingering though, whether or not teachers will hit the classrooms or hit the streets on Monday. 

“The state has refused to listen to their voices, the state has also denied them the respect of being recognized as a union and so we know that any point if they decide to have a work stoppage that we are in support of them fully,” Dr. Anika T. Whitfield, Arkansas Grassroots Co-Chair said. 

An activist from the beginning, she said she doesn’t know if the teachers will strike but firmly stands behind them if that decision is made. 

“We have to stand up for our children, we have to stand up for our parents and our guardians, and we must stand up for our teachers and our educators, as well,” Whitfield said. 

The Little Rock Education Association’s contract expired just last Thursday, Oct. 31. The union is upset its bargaining power was revoked and that the state has not returned full control of the district to a locally-elected school board.

Something Whitfield said Grassroots Arkansas believes, as well. 

“We are very tired of the state prolonging the process. There is no reason we could not have an election March 2020. There’s no reason they couldn’t call for a special election,” she said. 

Last Friday, Nov. 1, the state released a proposed timeline for Little Rock to elect its own local school board. Nine members would make up the Board of Directors, but before the community can vote on those people the state has to establish nine zones for which those school board members will be responsible. 

Whitfield said this plan highlights how the state continues to create ideas that are not welcomed by the LRSD community. 

“Absolutely we are not supportive of what the state has put out and again, it is another reflection that they aren’t listening to us. They are only imposing and enforcing things that we have not asked for,” she said. 

Whitfield hopes elected officials for the state, county and city will open their ears to hear the community’s voice loud and clear. 

“We don’t need them to reinvent the wheel, we don’t need them to buy another program. We simply need them to step back and let us step up so we can do what’s right for our children,” she said. 

An LRSD parent told THV11 closing schools and decertifying teachers is not the way to go. He believes the teachers are being made scapegoats and he is concerned about the way things are being played out. 

LRSD’s Director of Communications said they had not heard of any work stoppage happening on Monday and believes they plan to be back at school like normal.

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