City board squelches Little Rock school talk | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

City board squelches Little Rock school talk

Posted By on Wed, Feb 22, 2017 at 12:05 PM

click to enlarge SILENT TOO LONG: The Little Rock City Board.
  • SILENT TOO LONG: The Little Rock City Board.

The Little Rock City Board Tuesday night declined to hear more from Little Rock School District patrons about their desire for action from the board on decisions to close neighborhood schools.

Mayor Mark Stodola said the issue had been discussed at a meeting before and rules prohibited bringing up again subjects that had been discussed before during the citizen communication period. No city board member challenged his ruling

The decision left Little Rock school activist Dr. Anika Whitfield unhappy, but she was allowed to speak on silencing of the issue. Her complaint happens to underscore a point I made earlier today — and in a column to be published this week. Some of the school district's problems can be blamed on the historic benign neglect, and sometimes even malice,  toward the Little Rock School District by members of the Little Rock City Board of Directors.

The schools have been taken over by the state. The City Board — with several notable individual exceptions, including Capi Peck, Kathy Webb and B.J. Wyrick — has had nothing official to say about it, a pattern that has been evident on the board for decades.

Whitfield wrote to the Board:

.. it was very disappointing to learn that the city would not listen to us as citizens because we wanted to encourage you to resolve to request an impact study in the neighborhoods and communities being affected by the potential school closures in the LRSD.

..  Has the Walton Family Foundation gotten to each of you? What financial and political losses have they threatened you that you are unwilling to go on record to speak for public citizens who want to support their public schools, neighborhoods and community?

... More than being disappointed about what you didn't do last night, is knowing that you are aware that your public inaction will make room for the furtherance of plans to destroy our public education system and replace it with one that big businesses will use to further segregate, discriminate against, and disenfranchise tax paying citizens based on a persons race, ethnicity, gender, class and disability. 
Whitfield, I'd guess, didn't help her cause because she painted all the board with the same brush and some HAVE been standing up — against the firing of Baker Kurrus, against the district takeover, against school closures. But, as a body, the record is empty and it includes some individual board members such as Lance Hines and Joan Adcock who've supported destruction of local control.

It is months past time for the Little Rock City Board of Directors to stand up and be counted.

Where does the City Board stand on local control? Where does it stand for a half-billion in taxation without representation except by an education commissioner who's been an enemy of the school district and won't speak to the press or public? Where does it stand on state takeover of closed buildings for charter schools? On state takeover of districts in academic distress for private operation? On legislation by Sen. Joyce Elliott to give state board clear authority to return power to schools? On legislation to strip protection of the fair dismissal law from Little Rock school teachers?

If there's to be election on a half-billion in new school taxes in May — pushed by Johnny Key — the City Board should lead the charge to get something in return, including concrete assurances that vacant school buildings won't be used for the district's further destruction and that democracy will again prevail in the LRSD. Silence speaks volumes.

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