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Arkansas schools persist with AP African American History course


Arkansas schools continue to offer AP African American History

Last Friday, the Arkansas Department of Education decided it would no longer recognize Advanced Placement African American Studies for course credit in the state.

Now, all six schools in Arkansas planning to offer the course said they will continue to do so this year. State Education Secretary Jacob Oliva offered several reasons to explain the decision over the past week, which have been met with pushback. One concern was that he could not confirm with colleges and universities what college course would be the equivalent to AP African American Studies.

More than 200 schools, including the University of Arkansas, have signed on to accept credit. Olivia said another reason was the pilot program did not offer teachers a course audit opportunity that was required by the state. The College Board, an organization that administers AP courses, disputes the claim and said audits have been completed.

The Department of Education released a statement on Monday that said, “The department encourages the teaching of all American history and supports rigorous courses not based on opinions or indoctrination." The department declined to provide Ozarks at Large with specific examples of coursework it deemed based on opinion or was indoctrination.

“Until it’s determined whether it violates state law and teaches or trains teachers in CRT (critical race theory) and indoctrination, the state will not move forward," according to a statement from the department released Wednesday.

Ozarks at Large reached out to clarify what the department means by "move forward, and have not heard back.

Bella Vista struggles to control short-term rentals

Bella Vista city officials are struggling to control short-term rentals after an ordinance recently approved by city council had to be repealed last month under court order.

The city's first ever short-term rental code was approved last year and required site inspections, proof of property insurance, as well as water and sewer hookups for certain rentals on septic systems. Short-term rentals include homes and apartments rented to guests for no more than 30 days.

A group of short-term rental business owners sued the city, claiming the ordinance was too strict and violated their rights to control private property. The city council has since approved a second, much weaker code, which is expected to also face court challenge.

Bella Vista, population 30,000, counts more than 550 short-term rentals advertising online. Of those, only half are operating with a city permit. By comparison, Fayetteville, with triple the population counts have around 480 licensed short-term rentals.

Doug Fowler, a Bella Vista City Council member, said officials are fielding a rising number of nuisance complaints from neighbors living near certain short-term rentals.

“Noise, it could be parking, it could be trash, and then of course just over-occupancy period," Fowler said.

Another concern is impaired water quality with nearly 80% of Bella Vista’s housing on septic systems. State law limits occupancy in homes with septic systems to two people per bedroom, but the new ordinance allows up to three. Fowler said the state health department has approved this change.

“And we passed the new ordinance to require short-term rental owners to register their properties with the city and there's a fee associated with that, $150 for a home, and $50 for owner occupied," Fowler said.

Permit fees must be renewed annually. First offense violators are fined $500. Second offenses cost up to a $1,000. A third offense will lead to both a steep fine and permit revocation for one year.

The ordinance also limits the number short-term rental units in Bella Vista to 600, not including owner-occupied accommodations.

“But we didn’t have any type of ordinance here in the past and what's happened is because we didn't have an ordinance, we have had short-term rental owners, whether it be individuals or whether it be LLC or whatever, that have come in and basically taken advantage of our city not enacting an ordinance," Fowler said.

Plaintiffs are expected to challenge the revised ordinance, Fowler said. The Arkansas General Assembly attempted to pass legislation earlier this year to deregulate all short-term rental ordinances across the state, but the measure failed.

Razorback soccer season kicks off with a win

Six different Razorbacks found the net last night as Arkansas opened the soccer season with a 6-0 win over Arkansas State. The next match is next Thursday against Oregon in Fayetteville.

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Jacqueline Froelich is an investigative reporter and news producer for <i>Ozarks at Large.</i>
Kyle Kellams is KUAF's news director and host of Ozarks at Large.
Matthew Moore is senior producer for Ozarks at Large.
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