Favorite

Schools: Winners and losers 

I spent some time last week with a political consultant who's part of the growing army of people funded by the Walton family and other wealthy Arkansans to reshape education in the billionaires' image.

One objective is to destroy the Little Rock School District as it currently exists because it has a teachers' union.

It happens that the consultant moved to her job in Little Rock not long ago, but chose to live in Cabot and commute. Why? The first reason she cited was to avoid placing her high-school-age daughter in the Little Rock School District. I pressed for her thinking, but couldn't really get to the nub of it beyond a general reluctance. She also had friends in Cabot and Cabot has a good school district. Fair enough. Cabot students happen to be whiter and better off economically than Little Rock public school students, but I'll take her word that these were non-factors.

Still, many things the consultant said — including about "failing" Little Rock schools and misinformation about school assignments in the Little Rock district — demonstrated how effective the Billionaire Boys Club has been at selling a poisonous narrative about the Little Rock School District that many don't investigate on their own. Like most things, it's not so simple.

The Waltons are, for example, financing a lobby group that is attempting to balkanize the Little Rock School District into innumerable independent school districts — quasi-private schools in that they are unaccountable to voters but operated with public money, sometimes by private money-making corporations — known as charter schools. The group is currently pushing to build a charter middle school that would grow into a high school to serve the affluent white neighborhoods of western Little Rock. They want to open before Little Rock can get its planned new middle school built. The battle cry: Avoiding the "failed" schools of Little Rock.

Many of the "failed" schools are actually making progress, as measured by inching-up test scores, with the predominantly impoverished populations they serve. And they'd do a lot better if they could have a dose of the economic integration that is a proven boon to student achievement. A shared commitment to the entire district would be beneficial to more children than the charter movement, which has failed nationally to demonstrate its superiority. One of the proven charter laggards, in fact, is the private Texas charter operator chosen by the Walton lobby to run the proposed Chenal Valley charter middle school. The school first must be approved by the state over the Little Rock District's opposition for its segregative impact.

All schools aren't failing. Consider conveniently situated Parkview Arts and Science Magnet, which had four among Arkansas's only 150 National Merit Scholarship semi-finalists this year. Any parent who wants to see the American public education system at work should turn on the cable TV educational access channel the next time they replay the March on Washington program by Parkview students at the Clinton Library. Beautiful singing, speaking and orchestra. The students were very nearly the red, yellow, black and white of hymn — Martin Luther King's dream fulfilled in inspiring harmony.

Parkview is not alone. Those parents who want a new west Little Rock high school (some of them, I'm told, find the county's nearby Robinson High unacceptable on class grounds) could motor a few more minutes east on I-630 to Central High School, which provided 24 — one in every six — of Arkansas's National Merit semi-finalists this year.

Central was, for whatever reason, an uncomfortable choice for the Walton hired hand I lunched with. So I don't expect her patron's organizing effort to be pushing people in THAT direction. It doesn't fit the anti-LRSD narrative. A successful Little Rock charter movement will inevitably destroy it, too.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Speaking of Walton Family Foundation, Little Rock School District

Comments (3)

Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • After the storm open line

    Flooding remains after a deadly storm that left damage over much of Arkansas. An open line for Sunday evening.
    • Apr 30, 2017
  • LR City Board talks about crime and gang violence

    Police Chief Kenton Buckner talked to the Little Rock City Board this afternoon at a special meeting about violent crime and the role being played by gang activities. The police can do more — and will, he said. But police alone are not the solution for problems besetting the most crime-prone neighborhoods.
    • Apr 30, 2017
  • Opponents of Little Rock school tax say construction possible without new taxes

    Opponents of an extension of 12.4 millions in Little Rock School District property taxes at a cost of $600 million or more say critical construction needs in the district can be made without a bond issue that lines the pockets of bond firms and lawyers.
    • Apr 30, 2017
  • 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

  • Workers stiffed

    How is it going with the great experiment to make the Republican Party the champion of the sons and daughters of toil instead of the oligarchs of wealth and business?
  • O'Reilly's fall

    Whom the gods would destroy, they first make TV stars.

Latest in Max Brantley

  • Executionpalooza

    Appearances count. I was struck by a single sentence over the weekend in a full page of coverage in The New York Times devoted to the killing spree in Arkansas, beginning with a front-page account of the recent flurry of legal filings on pending executions and continuing inside with an interview with Damien Echols, the former death row inmate.
    • Apr 20, 2017
  • The end of democracy in LR

    The state Board of Education was scheduled to talk this week about the Little Rock School District, under state control for two years because six of its 48 schools failed to meet an arbitrary pass rate on a standardized test.
    • Apr 13, 2017
  • Internet looting continues

    The 2017 legislative session concluded without passage of a bill to encourage internet merchants to collect and remit taxes on sales in Arkansas, though internet giant Amazon has begun doing so voluntarily.
    • Apr 6, 2017
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Fishing the Diamond Lakes of Arkansas

Fishing the Diamond Lakes of Arkansas

Arkansas angler and fishing expert Billy Murray shares his extensive knowledge of the Diamond Lakes of Arkansas

Event Calendar

« »

April

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  

Most Viewed

  • Intracity tourism

    The issues that tug at my heartstrings are neighborhood stigma and neighborhood segregation, which are so prevalent in Little Rock. In my opinion, the solution to those problems is "intracity tourism."

Most Recent Comments

 

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