Favorite

Blackboard jungle 

There was a lot of local school news last week, all bad.

First, federal Judge Brian Miller shocked everyone by ordering an end to most state desegregation aid to Pulaski County school districts, currently about $70 million a year.

It was an off-the-wall decision. He had said he wasn't going to take up money yet in deciding whether North Little Rock and Pulaski County had achieved desegregation goals. (He said they had not.) But he decided, without a hearing, that the money hadn't done any good and he called a halt to it.

That the desegregation effort has failed is conventional wisdom, if not wholly wise. A big testing gap still remains between black and white students (here and everywhere). The judge showed no interest, however, in whether things would have been worse without the money or in student gains that have been made over the years. He said it was time to use the stick instead of the carrot on the school districts.

The judge didn't seem to realize that school districts are children, too — 50,000 of them. The judge's ruling could mean the immediate end of magnet schools, which enroll more than 3,600 students, and of interdistrict transfer programs that serve another 1,900. (For now, the transfer program is preserved, but the judge said the districts should demonstrate why it shouldn't be stopped, too.)

The three Pulaski districts have managed to maintain biracial attendance all these years through the magnet and transfer programs — school choice to use the popular slogan. The judge would summarily end them or severely punish some other schools, despite signed teacher contracts and student assignments made for next year. Quite a stick.

Did the judge do any homework? Or was he just overcome by personal feelings? A black man, he took great offense at testimony seemingly tailored to his race. I don't blame him, but the case was about school kids, not Brian Miller.

School starts in three months. An emergency appeal has been filed. Legislators, notably some white-flight area lawmakers, are salivating to get hold of the money. They care less than Judge Miller about what happens to 5,500 children who attend successful, desegregated Pulaski schools.

Less sweeping in impact was a report issued late Friday by Pulaski Prosecutor Larry Jegley on an investigation of a mysterious video that turned up last year purporting to show Pulaski County School Board member Gwen Williams accepting $100, ostensibly for her influence on a school sidewalk project (a project that turned out to be non-existent).

Williams solicited no money, took no bribe and committed no crime, Jegley said. Through statements of participants, subpoenaed phone records and other information developed by the sheriff's office, Jegley concluded that Williams had been targeted in a concocted video sting by then-Pulaski County School Board President Tim Clark and Michael Nellums, principal of the district's Mills High School and also a Little Rock School Board member. Williams was a key vote at the time in a labor dispute in the district, a dispute in which Clark and Nellums were foes of the teachers' union. Jegley didn't attempt to identify a motive for the "juvenile" plot, which employed a friend of Nellums and a private eye. But he said it was "shameful," a "terrible distraction of law enforcement resources and of a beleaguered school district which has been struggling to improve."

Jegley nailed it. Those involved should resign from positions of authority and employment with the districts they have dishonored.

Favorite

Sign up for the Daily Update email

Comments (2)

Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • Where's the outrage?

    Am I the only person, apart from federal prosecutors, outraged about the criminal enterprise that inveigled itself into a privileged position as an Arkansas taxpayer-financed human services provider to the tune, today, of $43 million a year?
    • Jun 21, 2018
  • Where's the outrage?

    • Jun 21, 2018
  • Rutledge opponent hits her socializing with corporate interests

    Mike Lee, the Democratic candidate for attorney general, has criticized Attorney General Leslie Rutledge over recent reports of her participation at private meetings where corporate interests make big contributions to a political group she heads for access to state legal officers.
    • Jun 21, 2018
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Double-talk

    A couple of instances of doublespeak cropped up in Little Rock over the weekend.
    • Jun 29, 2017
  • Along the civil rights trail

    A convergence of events in recent days signaled again how far we have come and how far we have yet to go in civil rights.
    • Jan 18, 2018
  • The Oval outhouse

    One thing all Americans finally can agree upon is that public discourse has coarsened irretrievably in the era of Donald Trump and largely at his instance.
    • Jan 18, 2018

Latest in Max Brantley

  • Where's the outrage?

    Am I the only person, apart from federal prosecutors, outraged about the criminal enterprise that inveigled itself into a privileged position as an Arkansas taxpayer-financed human services provider to the tune, today, of $43 million a year?
    • Jun 21, 2018
  • Where's the outrage?

    • Jun 21, 2018
  • The Arkansas swamp

    The Arkansas Capitol is a fetid swamp of corruption and the bipartisan lack of concern tells you plenty.
    • Jun 14, 2018
  • More »

Most Viewed

  • The battle over Issue 1

    The odds are that the most spending in a statewide campaign in Arkansas this year will not be for a constitutional office, but instead in a battle over a proposed state constitutional amendment.
  • The cult of Trump

    Nearly 40 years ago our country was introduced to two major phenomena centering around cults: namely, the Moonies and the Shiite Muslims. There were others, as well, and I soon became fascinated with the dynamics of cults and cult leaders (both religious and secular) in general — leading me to read a number of books and articles, some even written by those who had been deprogrammed after spending time in a cult.
  • Where's the outrage?

    Am I the only person, apart from federal prosecutors, outraged about the criminal enterprise that inveigled itself into a privileged position as an Arkansas taxpayer-financed human services provider to the tune, today, of $43 million a year?
  • Trump doctrine

    Let's face it: President Trump enjoys hurting and humiliating people, and that's the thing some of his loudest supporters like about him. Making women and children cry makes him feel manly and powerful. The more defenseless, the better. He particularly enjoys punishing racial minorities.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Him, again

    • That's why it is better to bag babes at the bigger libraries. You get a…

    • on June 20, 2018
  • Re: Legislative boodlers

    • The U6 unemployment rate is still at 8%, partly because they can get benefits and…

    • on June 19, 2018
  • Re: Him, again

    • Regardless of my success or lack of it, I've been way ahead of Trump all…

    • on June 19, 2018
 

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation