There's always next year 

It's graduation time. Many in the school business will go into summer hibernation.

But it is not time to hibernate about issues facing the state's largest school district, here in Little Rock.

For one thing, one of the Little Rock School Board's best members, Baker Kurrus, won't seek re-election in September. He's counting the meetings he has left, a measure of his pessimistic outlook. It should unsettle anyone who, like Kurrus, has sent kids to Little Rock schools, defended them against unilateral condemnation and never quit working to make things better.
Kurrus at least will see the realization of one dream before he leaves, opening of a packed, new primary school in western Little Rock. It will be named for one of the district's great superintendents, Don Roberts. We should be so lucky that he was young again.

Fulbright, another west Little Rock primary school, will be full, too. The problem comes at middle school time. There is no middle school in western Little Rock. Elsewhere, there are precious few pockets of excellence for these difficult years.

Charter schools have drained once-thriving magnet schools. The regular middle schools have a mixed record, often uninspiring, on quality of leadership, commitment of faculty and discipline. It is not enough to say, well, you just need to figure out a way to get your kid into Pulaski Heights Middle School.

The charter schools continue to be a problem for conventional school districts here and everywhere. They are Voucher Lite for a lucky comparative few. They've encouraged segregative practices in Pulaski County, contrary to the state's solemn promises. But, as Kurrus has noted, whites were fleeing public schools before charter schools came along. Limiting charter schools won't prevent parents from moving to Cabot or Bryant. What's more, the popularity of charter schools among many black parents demonstrates the movement isn't a one-race phenomenon.

Kurrus, though he's been a strong critic of the charter school movement in Pulaski County, thinks the School District will waste money and goodwill by suing to stop their proliferation. The brilliance of the district's legal brief could produce a hollow victory, he says. Little Rock has already been declared desegregated. Courts are unfriendly to new actions based on racial percentage arguments. The suit could drive the state away from further financial help and, even if it produced some limitation on charter schools, it would do nothing to address the district's failure to close achievement gaps between black and white, rich and poor.

Little Rock needs aggressive, game-changing leadership. The strategic plan on which Kurrus and others worked is a good start.

But, the School District isn't confidently led. Sometimes, it is simply muddle-headed.

Just last week, the School Board voted to partner with the state Education Department in competition for federal Race to the Top grants. Yet the Obama administration has made it clear that friendliness to charter schools is a key consideration in its award of such grants. Little Rock can't have it both ways.

The School Board is no longer so sharply divided on race as before. Black and white members alike have resisted an extension of Superintendent Linda Watson's contract for lack of forward progress in the first two of her three years. But the black members seem reluctant to move forcefully. Protection of the administrative ranks, full of so many old friends and colleagues, continues. A new consultant or a new administrator is discussed as fixes when signs point to more elemental problems. It's past time for workarounds.



Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • The arrival of autumn open line

    Here's the open line. Harvest Fest still happening in Hillcrest. Hog Roast tomorrow in North Little Rock in perfect weather.
    • Oct 22, 2016
  • Nasty women rise up against The Deplorable Donald

    It had to happen. Donald Trump's debate interjection that Hillary Clinton was a "nasty woman" has become a battle cry among women; a Twitter meme; a Facebook favorite, and, naturally, a marketing opportunity for T-shirt, button and bumper sticker makers.
    • Oct 22, 2016
  • Formal opposition emerges to Issue 3, the corporate welfare amendment

    It became apparent this morning that at least some money would be spent in opposition to Issue 3, a massive corporate welfare proposal to allow the state to pledge unlimited tax money to private projects and to allow local governments to also give money to private business and chamber of commerce lobbyists, a practice that has been ruled unconstitutional currently.
    • Oct 22, 2016
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • The education legislature

    Republican political control in Arkansas means many things: lots of gun bills, lots of anti-abortion bills, lots of efforts to make religious belief law, such as discrimination against gay people.
    • Mar 10, 2015
  • Asa's team

    It's a measure of Gov. Asa Hutchinson's appointments that the most widely praised appointment so far was of a man ineligible to hold the job.
    • Mar 3, 2015
  • Supremely discredited

    Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Rhonda Wood and her allies continue to discredit the state's highest court.
    • Jul 30, 2015

Most Shared

Latest in Max Brantley

  • 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
    • Oct 20, 2016
  • So many provocations...

    Another bad week demands a Worst Of listing.
    • Oct 6, 2016
  • State university secrets

    Today's subject: lack of accountability at state universities.
    • Sep 29, 2016
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Logoly State Park dedicates new visitors center

Logoly State Park dedicates new visitors center

Arkansas’s first environmental education state park interprets the importance of the natural world and our place within it.

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: The big loser

    • We are leaving in 3 hours. An I never said that anybody said I DID…

    • on October 22, 2016
  • Re: The big loser

    • Here's some more information for the investigator from the Enquirer. It's a confession from somebody…

    • on October 21, 2016
  • Re: The big loser

    • Nobody here but you said anything bad about Shelton. Nothing that happened to her was…

    • on October 21, 2016

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