Belatedly, LR Board moves on resolution on city school closures | Arkansas Blog

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Belatedly, LR Board moves on resolution on city school closures

Posted By on Sun, Mar 12, 2017 at 12:48 PM

VICTIM OF STATE CONTROL: The Woodruff Early Childhood Center will close to save money. At the same time, the state boss of the district wants a half-billion in new tax money from district taxpayers.
  • VICTIM OF STATE CONTROL: The Woodruff Early Childhood Center will close to save money. At the same time, the state boss of the district wants a half-billion in new tax money from district taxpayers.
Chelsea Boozer of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported progress this morning on a long-delayed resolution by some members of the Little Rock Board of Directors asking state Education Commissioner Johnny Key to conduct an impact statement before closing several Little Rock School District schools to save money.

The decision is Key's because he functions as the school board since the state takeover. Wilson and Franklin elementaries and the Woodruff pre-school are to be closed to save money.

Three things:

* This resolution was delayed, though the story doesn't mention it, because of difficulties in getting Director Kenneth Richardson to recent meetings. A separate story in the paper today discusses his frequent absences in recent weeks — absence he explained by citing unspecified family issues.

* The request is dead except for its symbolism. The closure decisions are final. But: Will other directors join in support of local control and input into the school district or will they not? Sadly, I expect there will be some naysayers.

* The real news is that the newspaper got a quote from Little Rock School Czar-in-Hiding Johnny Key. He was as dismissive as you might have expected.
"If they pass it, that would be their opinion, but I've addressed the issue of impact statements. I really don't have anything else to add on that," he said.
This is 30 words or so more than the public or others in the press have typically been able to wring out of Key about the Little Rock School District, except for his no-tolerance view of keeping a stranglehold on state control as long as two or three schools (of 48) don't quite creep over the arbitrary "sufficiency" score pegged to student test scores.

Ask him or the LRSD haters on the state Board of Education about one of the failing charter schools in Little Rock, however. There you're likely to get a sermon on the difficulties faced by those so-well-intentioned schools with high-poverty, high-minority enrollments and the unfairness of an outside power suddenly taking control of those schools' destinies

Being a charter school means never having to say you're sorry.

Being a Little Rock school patron means never being able to talk to the person who controls your destiny and who's asking you  for a half-billion dollars in additional tax authorization in a special election. All the while, private, unaccountable charter school operators (certain to qualify for Walton subsidies as needed) stand ready to take over taxpayer-built facilities at the first opportunity for bargain prices.

It is PAST time for the Little Rock City Board to stand up and be counted on its school district, even if only in a symbolic vote. Its history is littered with benign and malign neglect, decisions that contributed to the situation today. Do they favor local control? Or do they favor control by an unaccountable, unreachable dictator whose legislative history reflects that he's no friend of traditional public education in Little Rock?

Anika Whitfield, a leader of the Save Our Schools coalition, put it well:

"It is our hope that as we move forward together, our city leaders will continue to more visibly engage in actions that are meaningful to the people with which they were elected to serve," she said.

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