Favorite

Build it or … 

The Little Rock School District has been relatively peaceful since the school election confirmed that the school board would continue for a second year with a majority of black board members. But major issues, inevitably tinged with race, continue to face the board.

The biggest lately is the new school planned at Cantrell Road and Taylor Loop in western Little Rock. The board has not finally decided whether it will be only an elementary school or include a middle school.

Interim Superintendent Linda Watson favors an elementary school. This seems to reflect the thinking of the board majority. Board president Katherine Mitchell told me that when the school was first discussed, it was to be an elementary school (then K-6). She said the district has empty middle school seats. She said demand for middle school might rise and an additional school could be considered later.

Later could be too late. Little Rock is at a tipping point. The city is majority white, barely. The school district, which doesn't include Chenal Valley, among other western neighborhoods, is likely majority minority, counting blacks and the growing Hispanic population. The district is growing poorer by the minute, particularly in Southwest Little Rock. Though district enrollment is up slightly, white enrollment continues to decline. Many in the black community resent the suggestion that an all-black district would be a negative, but, in their hearts, they know that a successful district must have support across all sectors of the community. One way to do that is to retain white children in public schools.

The state is making that hard, by approving a charter middle school in western Little Rock geared to high math and science achievers, and moving to end magnet school support. The state also makes school construction decisions hard for a land-locked urban district. The 18-acre site at Cantrell and Taylor dwarfs, for example, the Pulaski Heights elementary-middle school complex, but it is considered too small by today's standards for both an elementary and middle school. The state could, and should, work with the city on this.

But the main obstacle is the school board. To the extent white students have stayed in the Little Rock schools, they've been attracted to successful neighborhood elementary schools like Fulbright, Jefferson and Forest Park. But it's becoming increasingly difficult to hold those children in middle school. There are none to attend west of Interstate 430.

Parents are reluctant to make a long ride to be part of a shrinking minority in a poor part of town if they have easier choices, such as nearby private schools full of neighbors. Public schools can't compete where they don't exist.

I hope the school board will give careful thought to building a middle school in western Little Rock. It would broaden district support. This would help, not hurt, all board members' interests at tax millage time. It also would be a hand of friendship to a number of district parents who've come to feel — rightly or wrongly — that their views count for little in board deliberations.

Katherine Mitchell told me that a middle school was sure to be considered at some point in the western part of the city. But we are still two years away from opening the new campus on Cantrell, if then. If further study of a middle school doesn't begin until after it is built, there might not be a need for study. The children may already be gone.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

More by Fritz Brantley

  • He talks, and talks, the talk

    A fellow posted an old newspaper article on his blog about a Mike Huckabee speech to a religious group in 1998. A friend faxed the article to me, then called to ask if I’d yet read it, which I had.
    • Dec 20, 2007
  • The incredible shrinking Huckabee

    Plus: COPS!
    • Dec 20, 2007
  • Going whole hog

    A Q&A with irreverent Arkansas-raised comedian Matt Besser
    • Dec 20, 2007
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Neighborliness, in Little Rock and beyond

    I had a parochial topic in mind this week — a surprise plan by Mayor Mark Stodola to address the Arkansas Arts Center's many needs.
    • Nov 19, 2015
  • Bootstraps for me, not thee

    Mean spirit, hypocrisy and misinformation abound among the rump minority threatening to wreck state government rather than allow passage of the state Medicaid appropriation if it continues to include the Obamacare-funded expansion of health insurance coverage for working poor.
    • Apr 14, 2016
  • Trump: The Obama of 2016?

    Conner Eldridge, the Democratic challenger to incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. John Boozman, launched an assault on Boozman Monday morning rich with irony and opportunity.
    • May 5, 2016

Most Shared

  • Raw feelings in the Arkansas Justice Building over workload, pay

    Strained relations between the Arkansas Supreme Court and the Arkansas Court of Appeals broke into public view this week. I expect more to come.
  • Denny Altes resigns as state drug czar

    Former legislator Denny Altes of Fort Smith, appointed state drug prevention director by Gov. Asa Hutchinson in May 2015, resigned today effective July 1.
  • Virgil, quick come see

    There goes the Robert E. Lee. But the sentiment that built the monument? It's far from gone.
  • Real reform

    Arkansas voters, once perversely skeptical of complicated ballot issues like constitutional amendments, have become almost comical Pollyannas, ratifying the most shocking laws.
  • Conspiracy theorists

    Back in 2000, I interviewed Rev. Jerry Falwell on camera in connection with a documentary film of "The Hunting of the President," which Joe Conason and I wrote.

Latest in Max Brantley

  • Virgil, quick come see

    There goes the Robert E. Lee. But the sentiment that built the monument? It's far from gone.
    • May 25, 2017
  • You want tort reform? Try this.

    The nursing home industry and the chamber of commerce finally defeated the trial lawyers in the 2017 legislature. The Republican-dominated body approved a constitutional amendment for voters in 2018 that they'll depict as close to motherhood in goodness.
    • May 18, 2017
  • French Hill's photo op

    The U.S. House of Representatives last week passed a health care bill that only the blind, dumb or dishonest could call good for any but the wealthy. For its many flaws, it has been hailed as a ticket to congressional gains for the Democratic Party.
    • May 11, 2017
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Paddling the Fourche Creek Urban Water Trail

Paddling the Fourche Creek Urban Water Trail

Underutilized waterway is a hidden gem in urban Little Rock

Event Calendar

« »

May

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 31  

Most Viewed

  • Real reform

    Arkansas voters, once perversely skeptical of complicated ballot issues like constitutional amendments, have become almost comical Pollyannas, ratifying the most shocking laws.
  • Conspiracy theorists

    Back in 2000, I interviewed Rev. Jerry Falwell on camera in connection with a documentary film of "The Hunting of the President," which Joe Conason and I wrote.
  • Virgil, quick come see

    There goes the Robert E. Lee. But the sentiment that built the monument? It's far from gone.
  • Not leaders

    As soon as I saw the Notre Dame graduates walking out of their own commencement ceremony as Vice President Mike Pence began to speak, I thought, "Oh no, here we go again."

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Conspiracy theorists

    • Here's the conspiracy Gene Lyons knows is true: Trump conspired with the Russians - criminally…

    • on May 24, 2017
  • Re: Trump unfit

    • And now, although it is probably too late on this feed - the horrible bomber…

    • on May 24, 2017
  • Re: Trump unfit

    • Sorry, sorry - I mis-spoke or mis-wrote - the ACTUAL headline on the article was…

    • on May 23, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation