Faubus or bust! 

Lawyers. The state Board of Education clearly thinks that Little Rock's children need more lawyers.

Lawyers. The state Board of Education clearly thinks that Little Rock's children need more lawyers. 

The state board approved big expansions last week for two Little Rock charter schools, eStem and LISA Academy. Because the decisions invite further desegregation lawsuits, the state board likely condemned a new generation of Little Rock kids, in both charter and traditional public schools, to growing up in a court-supervised education system.

A year ago, in this same space, just after the state takeover of the Little Rock School District, I wrote that we couldn't give up. Today, as frustrating as it is, we still can't give up. Families in the LRSD and in charter schools have to see we have one community and every child is our responsibility. No child or family can ever be seen as an enemy. But the future just got a lot harder.

Baker Kurrus, on the job less than a year but already the first competent superintendent anyone at LRSD remembers, calmly dismantled the charter schools' cases. He was joined by Little Rock parents and legislators asking for a pause to make a comprehensive plan that could unite the various parties. 

They presented data showing eStem and LISA charter expansions will do irreparable harm to the vast majority of Little Rock's children. They showed that the charters serve mostly affluent students at the expense of the most needy kids. They showed that eStem and LISA don't offer Little Rock families a fair choice — segregating students by income, race, disability and English language proficiency. They illustrated that expansion would create three separate and unequal school systems in Little Rock, which is immoral and illegal. They showed that eStem and LISA are mediocre schools, not terrible, but often outperformed by LRSD schools with similar demographics. 

The state board ignored the evidence, ignored the plea, and went blindly bumbling back to Faubusland. They said they wanted to give eStem and LISA students more choices but ignored the fact that the expansions will take choices and chances away from LRSD kids. 

Some state board members seemed shocked that Kurrus would put principles above politics and responded by calling him a rookie. They encourage competitors to take the LRSD's best students, but say stop whining and get to work.

Finally, more than a year after they took over the LRSD, the state board and Education Commissioner Johnny Key finally acknowledged they are responsible for making a long-range plan for Little Rock schools. They called for collaboration between charter schools and traditional public schools. Then, by blithely authorizing the expansions, they nearly guaranteed a wave of litigation that will make collaboration and planning almost impossible. 

Little Rock is now on the path of New Orleans, Philadelphia or Detroit. Anyone who sees those cities as models for prosperity needs to have their head examined. "Come to Little Rock — we're just like Detroit, but with more tornadoes and mosquitoes," is going to be a huge sell.

So where do we go next? Despite the setback, there are things we can do.

First, Little Rock doesn't have an education problem as much as we have a poverty problem. There is plenty we can do about that. Real neighborhood revitalization and supports for families would pay huge dividends for our city and our schools. Our city needs a plan for strengthening our neighborhoods.

Second, we must keep fighting for research-based solutions we know will improve education for every student. Quality early childhood education needs more state funding. We need to create quality afterschool and summer programs. We have to address food and housing instability. We have to improve discipline policies and keep creating diverse, desegregated schools.

One can only hope the state board will hold eStem and LISA accountable for the charters' promises to be more inclusive and to collaborate with the LRSD — but the past leaves little optimism. 

Finally, while some people try to segregate our city, we have to find ways to build meaningful relationships across the boundaries that divide us. That dialogue must lead to reform of systems across our city and state, or it will be hollow. Parents, students, educators and community members have to create a positive path forward. Our poor teachers have been blindsided yet again. Both the LRSD and charter schools have some hard decisions to make in coming years, with or without the courts. Those decisions will be much better if they are informed by our full community.

Bill Kopsky is executive director of the Arkansas Public Policy Panel.


Comments (2)

Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

More by Bill Kopsky

  • Coalition building

    In 1993 a group of Arkansas grassroots, religious and labor leaders got together to strategize how they could more effectively move positive reforms through our often resistant legislature. The leaders were frustrated that big business interests worked together to win favors and block reforms, while community and worker interests were isolated and often defeated.
    • Jun 23, 2016
  • Rigged system

    Welcome to the Arkansas Department of Education, where inequity, ideology and incompetence are our specialties — but trust us with your kids.
    • Apr 27, 2016
  • Must address racial inequities

    We mourn for the families of the dead at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. As we grieve it's time to rekindle a conversation about race in America and press for the changes that the Emanuel congregation championed for centuries — changes that also made it a target.
    • Jun 25, 2015
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Arkansas condones child abuse?

    If Harrises and Duggars go unpunished, yes.
    • Jun 4, 2015
  • Must address racial inequities

    We mourn for the families of the dead at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. As we grieve it's time to rekindle a conversation about race in America and press for the changes that the Emanuel congregation championed for centuries — changes that also made it a target.
    • Jun 25, 2015
  • Racism is systemic

    In a speech on Sunday at Bethel A.M.E. Church, Gov. Asa Hutchinson played directly into the narrative of respectability politics, where white people tell people of color how they should respond to a situation and condemn responses from others in the community experiencing anger, rage and other expressions of grief.
    • Jun 25, 2015

Most Shared

Latest in Guest Writer

  • Don't blame trigger warnings

    "Trigger warnings" have recently resurfaced in the news because of a letter from a University of Chicago dean of students that warned incoming freshmen to not expect advance notice of potentially upsetting material in the classroom
    • Sep 22, 2016
  • Schlafly's influence

    Phyllis Schlafly, mother, attorney and longtime antifeminist, died recently. What Schlafly promoted was not novel or new. Men had been saying that men and women were not equal for years. However, anti-feminism, anti-women language had much more power coming from a woman who professed to be looking out for the good of all women and families.
    • Sep 15, 2016
  • Global health is local health

    First with the 2014 Ebola outbreak and now with the Zika virus, Americans are becoming reacquainted with the fear of infectious disease. But although Ebola and Zika are both serious public health threats, they pale in comparison to three other diseases in terms of inflicting suffering and loss of life around the world — tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malaria.
    • Sep 15, 2016
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge opens veterinary clinic

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge opens veterinary clinic

Eureka Springs non-profit will provide on-site veterinary care to its more than 60 exotic and native large animals.

Event Calendar

« »


2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31  

Most Viewed

  • Arkansas 2016: the microclimate election

    In the lead-up to the past four Arkansas election cycles, the forecast has been a fairly simple one: strong winds blowing in the GOP direction.
  • The big loser

    So now the big crybaby says he's losing because his opponent is crooked and the referees are blind.
  • Trumped in Arkansas

    After two solid debates and the release of a video and corroborating testimony that further confirmed the misogyny of Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton is favored to win the presidential election Nov. 8

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Trumped in Arkansas

    • You lump the convict Jim Guy Tucker in with men like Clinton, Fulbright, Rockefeller, Bumpers…

    • on October 20, 2016
  • Re: The big loser

    • I hope you're right, but it only takes one nut with a gun and a…

    • on October 20, 2016
  • Re: The big loser

    • Wonder what the blind follower Asa and his motley crue of numbskull republican non-legislators thought…

    • on October 20, 2016

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation