Questions tonight about who should be responsible for educating kids in state run youth lockups. Right now a private contractor handles the teaching duties but some legislators want local school districts to step up.
With smart-board technology in the classroom, the Division of Youth Services building at the Arkansas Juvenile Assessment and Treatment Center is one any school district would want.
Legislators hearing today that the facility is a much better place now than five years ago, after the state handed education operations over to for-profit security contractor 4GS
"It’s not perfect, but it’s certainly moving up," state senator Linda Chesterfield (D)-Little Rock says.
State Rep Johnnie Roebuck (D-Arkadelphia) sponsored HB 2049
in the 2011 legislative session that is now an interim study looking at putting the education of approximately 100 youths at the center in the hands of the Bryant School District.
"I think we've forgotten them and now we think we can push them off to DYS and the public schools basically are not responsible," Roebuck says. "Bryant would have the oversight and the authority to treat these children the same way they would treat the children that come to their public schools everyday."
Roebuck already faces opposition to the idea, even within her party.
"If we're going to have a kid from Stamps who hasn't been in school in two years, suddenly becomes responsibility of the Bryant school district, I don't think its fair to the Bryant school district," Chesterfield says.
Roebuck says her proposal is just one idea to get the conversation started on how to improve the educational experience for youths at state run facilities.
Bryant superintendent Randy Rutherford says he has serious questions about the proposal. But said he'd wait until the committee's next meeting in October to make a formal statement about it.
There are eight state run youth facilities in the state with approximately 300 youths total. DYS says 43% have special education needs.