Saturday, March 18, 2017

City Board votes Tuesday on message for Johnny Key on LRSD school closures

Posted By on Sat, Mar 18, 2017 at 8:21 AM

JOHNNY KEY:Little Rock City Board to vote on a message for the boss of the Little Rock schools. - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson
  • JOHNNY KEY:Little Rock City Board to vote on a message for the boss of the Little Rock schools.

The Little Rock City Board agenda includes a resolution asking state Education Commissioner Johnny Key, functionally the school board of the state-controlled Little Rock School District, for a community impact study of the schools in the district Key has decided to close to save money.

I note that the resolution is on the Board's consent agenda, with an expectation it will encounter no resistance.The sponsors are Mayor Mark Stodola and four of the 10 board members — Kathy Webb, Capi Peck, Doris Wright and Ken Richardson.

Some of the resolution:

WHEREAS, the City supports residents and partnerships working together to restore and/or build a vibrant quality of life in marginalized neighborhoods and believes that strong neighborhoods are anchored by strong institutions, such as houses of worship, healthcare facilities, recreational outlets and neighborhood schools supported by the residents; and,

WHEREAS, the City Board of Directors (“Board of Directors”), is aware of the recommendation by the Little Rock School District's superintendent to close neighborhood schools Franklin Elementary, Wilson Elementary and Woodruff Elementary and Hamilton Academy; and,

WHEREAS, the Board of Directors shares the concerns of the families, other residents, other stakeholders, and other supporters about the effects closures would have on the viability of their neighborhoods; and,

WHEREAS, the Board of Directors joins the families, other residents, other stakeholders and other supporters in their belief that a community impact study is merited in order to inform decision-making affecting our regarding our schools, neighborhoods and our city; and,

As I wrote in a column for the Times this week, this train has left the station. Key, who's a commissioner in hiding when it comes to taking questions about the school district he runs, suggested in a brief comment to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that the board's resolution is meaningless to him.

But it's not. If the leadership if Little Rock doesn't express defense of the school district, Key will conclude, with good reason, that he need not give a damn in his decision-making. He can continue to favor charter school expansion to the detriment of the Little Rock School District. He can continue to ask Little Rock school district taxpayers to fork over an additional half-billion dollars in property taxes to fix up buildings that might be handed over to private school operators. He can continue to express no problem with state control of a district where a scant minority (3 of 48) schools are barely failing short of test sufficiency standards while cosseting crappy charter schools. He supported publicly legislation that allows charter schools to take over public school buildings on terms wholly slanted in favor of charter schools. Does he think state tax money to give to children in Little Rock to go to private schools is a good idea? More silence.

So, however small the practical effect, it's important that city board voices be raised. It would be nice if the resolution got a unanimous vote including from the Little Rock School District enemies on the City Board.

The board has for too many years stood silent about — and, worse, at times actively aided damage to — the Little Rock School District. The city's fate and the schools are too intertwined for silence.


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