Favorite

Tipping point 

I was extremely cautious before engaging in the educational debate about the State Board of Education's decision to take over the Little Rock School District. I did not want to be just another black voice saying no to the powers that be. Then, a lightbulb turned on: I'm a lawyer, so I should just go read the law. I read the law, talked to parents, talked to students, talked to teachers, talked with lobbyists who support charter expansion, talked with those opposed to the proliferation of charters schools, and met with policymakers about this important issue in educational history in Arkansas. Coupled with my life experiences and being a graduate of Little Rock McClellan High School, I have developed my own perspective and approach to the educational landscape in Little Rock.

In April 2016, the State Board of Education approved the creation of the Little Rock Area Public Education Stakeholder Group. Along with six others, I was appointed to serve on the group. After a year of research, meetings and presentations, the stakeholder group gave its final report. In connection, I authored a concurring opinion to highlight some additional recommendations to the state board to assist with the creation of a strategic plan. It focused primarily on the policy issues surrounding charter authorization.

My first recommendation was that the Arkansas Department of Education must ensure collaboration between traditional public schools and public charter schools. However, before the department can facilitate any semblance of collaboration there must be equity and enforcement. For example, department rules say that a local school board may review the application of a proposed open-enrollment public charter within the district's footprint. A local school board would not have the final say on whether the charter school was approved, but the rule was presumably created to provide some much needed context and consideration from local representation on the need or impact of an additional charter school. With regard to LRSD, because there is no school board, there is no one to fulfill this check and balance.

Despite the department regulation permitting it, neither the state charter-authorizing panel nor the State Board of Education hears from a local school board regarding the potential effects of a new charter on a local school district. The only analysis of the potential impact concerns whether the charter school will negatively affect desegregation efforts. This is a noteworthy analysis, but it's also important to consider whether a charter school will negatively affect the social and financial viability of the local school district or any specific school within the local school district.

This is a critical concern because on Sept. 14, the state board will decide whether to approve an additional three charter schools in the LRSD footprint. As stated in the stakeholder group's report, there is a tipping point where the growth of charter schools negatively affects traditional schools. We do not know the financial tipping point, but the societal tipping point has already been reached. Aside from the protests, rallies, town halls, op-eds, lawsuits and social media posts, the social tipping point is affecting families in other ways.

Take a moment to consider the child and the family that continues to attend school in the LRSD and how they must feel to hear their school repeatedly belittled. Consider how a child and family must feel to know that we are talking about them when we discuss "poor test scores," perceived "discipline issues," and low socioeconomic status. Think about the message we send to those students and families if we continue to choose not to attend school with them. This hits home with me, because as a child I fit that description. I was a member of one of those families. This hits home with me, because it is my belief that some parents would welcome the opportunity to send their children to school with my future children, but would have hesitated to send their children to school with me when I was a child. This hits home with me because I am not who I am today without my educational experiences in the LRSD.

Some reading this will attempt to label me as anti-charter. There was a place for charter schools, but it was not to replace traditional schools. I'm not anti-charter; just pro-LRSD. Unless the plan is to create over 20,000-plus charter school seats, there will always be students in the LRSD. As long as there are students in the LRSD, our community, our city leaders, and the Department of Education need to be deliberate and thorough in determining how decisions impact the educational environment of students in the LRSD. The Department of Education and state board must evaluate how the continued growth of charter seats impacts the social, fiscal and educational viability of the LRSD.

Antwan Phillips is an attorney at Wright Lindsey Jennings.

Favorite

Speaking of...

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

More by Antwan Phillips

  • No different

    We were leaving Southwest Little Rock heading north on Interstate 30. There were four of us — four black male teenagers. I was in the backseat. There was a BB gun that resembled a handgun inside the car.
    • Apr 12, 2018
  • Paternalism

    I cannot count the number of times that more established people have told me how I should think, how I should dress, how I should get my hair cut and when it is my time to place my name in the proverbial election hat.
    • Dec 21, 2017
  • Good anger

    Recently, I attended a training session with the Little Rock Organizing Committee, an alliance of churches, schools, unions and other organizations concerned with social justice. The three-day workshop was essentially a crash course in community organizing. There were multiple lessons, but the biggest benefit to me was learning that anger is not always bad.
    • Nov 30, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • 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
  • A new statue to represent Arkansas in D.C.

    Like all states, Arkansas has two statues selected by the legislature to represent our state in the U.S. Capitol. Uriah Rose, a successful and innovative lawyer, and James P. Clarke, a former governor and U.S. senator, have represented Arkansas in National Statuary Hall for approximately 100 years.
    • Oct 11, 2018
  • Demand more

    I want you to think of the three biggest challenges facing Arkansas right now. Take a second and get them in your mind. Anything you come up with is great. Got them?
    • Oct 25, 2018

Latest in Guest Writer

  • Legislators take page out of Trump's playbook to victimize vulnerable women and girls

    This year, state legislators in Little Rock have been staging an all-out, unrelenting attack on abortion access in Arkansas.
    • Apr 5, 2019
  • Support ANNN

    In the past year alone, our small organization has made an impact with major stories on political corruption, health care, juvenile justice and more.
    • Dec 20, 2018
  • Slow the school waiver train

    The State Board of Education's controversial plan to waive the Teacher Fair Dismissal Act in the Little Rock School District (and now others under state takeover) has received a lot of attention in recent weeks. But few people are aware of a broader threat to educational standards, accountability and transparency for every public school in the state: waivers under Act 1240 of 2015.
    • Dec 20, 2018
  • More »

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: 'Exonerated'

    • Sounds like Webster is giving the definition of the mainstream media.

    • on April 22, 2019
  • Re: Bernie, the millionaire Socialist

    • Sooner or later you will run out of other peoples money

    • on April 22, 2019
  • Re: Bernie, the millionaire Socialist

    • Socialism in general has such a blatant record of failure that only great intellectuals could…

    • on April 22, 2019
 

© 2019 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation