It's official: Little Rock school patrons have no say in district decisions | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, August 10, 2017

It's official: Little Rock school patrons have no say in district decisions

Posted By on Thu, Aug 10, 2017 at 11:42 AM

click to enlarge DO NOT CALL: Johnny Key has no intention of hearing from Little Rock School District residents before deciding whether to facilitate another charter school in the district. - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson
  • DO NOT CALL: Johnny Key has no intention of hearing from Little Rock School District residents before deciding whether to facilitate another charter school in the district.
Last night I learned that Little Rock School Superintendent Michael Poore had recommended selling the former Garland School to a Walton Family Foundation affiliate, likely for yet another charter school.

Poore said he wouldn't discuss his decision until Education Commissioner Johnny Key had acted on his recommendation. No discusson until it's too late, in other words.

Poore distributed an "agenda" for the "school board" meeting that indicated it was to be held at 5:30 p.m. last night Since the district was taken over two years ago, Key functions as the School Board. When I pressed for more information, in light of the fact that I got the news release after the announced time of the meeting, LRSD backtracked and then said there'd been no meeting yet.

So I asked Johnny Key when the meeting would be. I asked if the public would be invited. I asked if the public would have an opportunity to be heard on another potential blow to the district.

I didn't have high hopes of a positive answer. The LRSD and Key pulled this same rookydoo a few weeks ago with a secret proposal to sell $90 million in second lien bonds. Poore made the recommendation and Key approved it before anybody in the public knew about it. (That bond issue was ratified today by the state Board of Education. It will lead to a new high school in 2019 and, hold onto your hats on a coming topic, Poore told me earlier this week that opening of a new high school will mean a realignment of the Central High School attendance zone. You can bet it will diminish Central's role as an academic exemplar in the state, as the Walton lobby has long wanted.)

Key did not respond to my questions personally. Instead, I got this response from Department spokeswoman Kimberly Friedman:

The packet was received yesterday and has not been reviewed. The Little Rock School District does not have a board of directors, and thus, there is no open meeting requirement. The State Board directed the commissioner to assume all authority of the LRSD board of directors as may be necessary for the day-to-day governance of the school district under the authority of Ark. Code Ann. 6-15-430 (now Act 930).

As has been the practice for all previous districts in state takeover, there are no public meetings for consideration of monthly or special business actions.
In other words LRSD patrons, screw you.

I've asked the Department for a formal attorney general's opinion on whether state takeover exempts the "school board" of a district in receivership from the Freedom of Information Act. I think an action taken in private without required notice to the public should be just as illegal when Johnny Key does it as when an elected school board does it. The law might not be on my side. The do-right rule is. It was long ago jettisoned for the Little School District, however, and this is yet another piece of concrete evidence.

I'm happy to say Facebook comments on this development last night indicate I'm not alone in unhappiness that Poore has sold out to the Walton Family Foundation, which is intent on cratering the Little Rock School District as a functioning, traditional, publicly accountable school district. We are closer than I ever thought to a privately run system of schools run according to Walton dictates. They hate elected school boards, I can tell you.

But, hey, as Murphy fortune tool Brett Williamson, a member of the state Board of Education, has made clear: The billionaires are "sick of hearing about the Little Rock School District."

Coincidentally, the state Board of Education heard today from the task force that studied collaboration between charter schools and the Little Rock School District.  The presentation included comments by Jim McKenzie, in talking about the previously released report, on the potential threat to the district posed by charter schools. Collaboration is meaningless if the district implodes. His presentation today included these points:

click to enlarge tipping.jpg

Should Johnny Key ever consider this recommendation, well, that's between him and the Waltons.

PS: Here's a link to the intensive presentation on school collaboration, product of a year's worth of work, by McKenzie, Antwan Phillips and Ann Grigsby. Wonderful stuff. Wasted before this Board of Education, I fear. The report was received, filed and members thanked for their service.

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