Favorite

Faubus or bust! 

Lawyers. The state Board of Education clearly thinks that Little Rock's children need more lawyers.

Lawyers. The state Board of Education clearly thinks that Little Rock's children need more lawyers. 

The state board approved big expansions last week for two Little Rock charter schools, eStem and LISA Academy. Because the decisions invite further desegregation lawsuits, the state board likely condemned a new generation of Little Rock kids, in both charter and traditional public schools, to growing up in a court-supervised education system.

A year ago, in this same space, just after the state takeover of the Little Rock School District, I wrote that we couldn't give up. Today, as frustrating as it is, we still can't give up. Families in the LRSD and in charter schools have to see we have one community and every child is our responsibility. No child or family can ever be seen as an enemy. But the future just got a lot harder.

Baker Kurrus, on the job less than a year but already the first competent superintendent anyone at LRSD remembers, calmly dismantled the charter schools' cases. He was joined by Little Rock parents and legislators asking for a pause to make a comprehensive plan that could unite the various parties. 

They presented data showing eStem and LISA charter expansions will do irreparable harm to the vast majority of Little Rock's children. They showed that the charters serve mostly affluent students at the expense of the most needy kids. They showed that eStem and LISA don't offer Little Rock families a fair choice — segregating students by income, race, disability and English language proficiency. They illustrated that expansion would create three separate and unequal school systems in Little Rock, which is immoral and illegal. They showed that eStem and LISA are mediocre schools, not terrible, but often outperformed by LRSD schools with similar demographics. 

The state board ignored the evidence, ignored the plea, and went blindly bumbling back to Faubusland. They said they wanted to give eStem and LISA students more choices but ignored the fact that the expansions will take choices and chances away from LRSD kids. 

Some state board members seemed shocked that Kurrus would put principles above politics and responded by calling him a rookie. They encourage competitors to take the LRSD's best students, but say stop whining and get to work.

Finally, more than a year after they took over the LRSD, the state board and Education Commissioner Johnny Key finally acknowledged they are responsible for making a long-range plan for Little Rock schools. They called for collaboration between charter schools and traditional public schools. Then, by blithely authorizing the expansions, they nearly guaranteed a wave of litigation that will make collaboration and planning almost impossible. 

Little Rock is now on the path of New Orleans, Philadelphia or Detroit. Anyone who sees those cities as models for prosperity needs to have their head examined. "Come to Little Rock — we're just like Detroit, but with more tornadoes and mosquitoes," is going to be a huge sell.

So where do we go next? Despite the setback, there are things we can do.

First, Little Rock doesn't have an education problem as much as we have a poverty problem. There is plenty we can do about that. Real neighborhood revitalization and supports for families would pay huge dividends for our city and our schools. Our city needs a plan for strengthening our neighborhoods.

Second, we must keep fighting for research-based solutions we know will improve education for every student. Quality early childhood education needs more state funding. We need to create quality afterschool and summer programs. We have to address food and housing instability. We have to improve discipline policies and keep creating diverse, desegregated schools.

One can only hope the state board will hold eStem and LISA accountable for the charters' promises to be more inclusive and to collaborate with the LRSD — but the past leaves little optimism. 

Finally, while some people try to segregate our city, we have to find ways to build meaningful relationships across the boundaries that divide us. That dialogue must lead to reform of systems across our city and state, or it will be hollow. Parents, students, educators and community members have to create a positive path forward. Our poor teachers have been blindsided yet again. Both the LRSD and charter schools have some hard decisions to make in coming years, with or without the courts. Those decisions will be much better if they are informed by our full community.

Bill Kopsky is executive director of the Arkansas Public Policy Panel.

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 Bill Kopsky

  • 20 years of progress

    An unlikely experiment in grassroots democracy begun 20 years ago in Arkansas today boasts a rich track record of profound improvements to the state's agriculture, civil rights, education, economic, education, election, environmental and health laws.
    • Jun 7, 2018
  • Finding solutions

    One advantage of the current political climate is an opportunity for a new and more honest conversation about race, gender and many other inequities we too often sweep under the carpet.
    • Jan 25, 2018
  • Gratitude

    Now, more than ever, I find myself thankful for those who resist. Those who remind us of our higher common values. The fact-checkers and truth-tellers. Those who build bridges in communities instead of walls to segregate. The ones who stand up and speak out against injustice.
    • Dec 14, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Seven

    The controversy over the Ten Commandments monument on the Capitol lawn just won't go away.
    • Feb 9, 2017
  • Banned in 2018

    Here's some arcana reeking of 2017 that I'm banning from consideration, attention, even out-loud mention in 2018. I'm unfriending all this 2017-reminding shit. It's dead to me in 2018.
    • Jan 11, 2018

Latest in Guest Writer

  • Don't arm teachers

    It's been roughly five months since 14 high school students and three staff members were shot and killed in their school in Parkland, Fla.
    • Jul 12, 2018
  • 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.
    • Jun 21, 2018
  • Lights out

    I was taught to turn lights out when I was not using them. We pay extra for electricity to finance energy-saving programs that involve devices that turn lights out when not in use. Yet, the city of Little Rock recently sent an email advising citizens to combat crime by leaving outside lighting on all night. That is backward, ineffectual, potentially counterproductive and environmentally irresponsible advice.
    • Jun 21, 2018
  • More »

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Let's vote

    • And while we're at it lets get a vouchers for private schools initiative on the…

    • on July 14, 2018
  • Re: Punishing the poor

    • Then maybe the congress will give up on the unsustainable socialized medical insurance fiasco that…

    • on July 14, 2018
 

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