Favorite

While I was away... 

I'm just back from two weeks out of the country. A couple of catchups:

LITTLE ROCK SCHOOL LEADERSHIP: State Education Board Chair Sam Ledbetter took the lead in working out a deal with Education Commissioner Johnny Key and Gov. Asa Hutchinson to install Little Rock lawyer and former Little Rock School Board member Baker Kurrus as superintendent of the district, now under state control.

I remain sympathetic to those unhappy about the loss of democratic control of the school district. I believe that business establishment antipathy toward the majority black school board was a key factor and yet another indication of the state's long history of racially motivated actions against the interests of Little Rock schools.

But the state Board of Education is now firmly in the hands of a Republican administration without sympathy for big-D or little-d democratic and racial politics in Pulaski County. This outcome is far better than their preferred alternative.

Kurrus was in sympathetic attendance at the pivotal community meeting that helped a successful drive to defeat legislation supported by Key and Hutchinson to turn the Little Rock School District into a laboratory for private operation. He and I have talked for years about the essential dishonesty of much of the charter school movement, which often "succeeds" by skimming better students from conventional public schools. He knows, for example, that any plan to "save" Baseline Elementary that merely entailed moving in new students was no salvation for the students moved out. He believes in strong principals held accountable for their teachers. He speaks knowledgeably about places where the district can save money.

His own kids went to Little Rock schools. His wife is a PTA stalwart. He made enemies in pushing for new schools in growing West Little Rock, but those schools were needed. He speaks today of something that once was unspeakable by the power structure: The Little Rock district was screwed when city leaders let Chenal Valley annex into the city without joining the Little Rock School District. It is now a district without a community, its boundaries frozen to a decaying core of a much larger city.

Kurrus brings great intellect, great energy and a belief in a conventional school district. Nothing less than the city's future depends on preserving a reliable, productive city school district, as opposed to Balkanized private fiefdoms with some lucky winners and many losers. He's already demonstrated he can work with the teachers union, its own future on the line. Many people I consider friends won't be persuaded by my encouraging words, but they shouldn't lose sight of how bad the alternative would have been. They also can take heart that a direct result of their organized unhappiness was the removal of Dexter Suggs as superintendent.

THE ARKANSAS SUPREME COURT: The Arkansas Supreme Court abruptly and, so far without explanation, fired Stephanie Harris as its communications counsel. She won't be replaced. There's little doubt that the poisonous division on the court was at least a factor in the change. A statement Harris issued on behalf of Chief Justice Jim Hannah was even cited in a recent court decision taking exception to what Hannah had said in that statement about which justices should hear the same-sex marriage case appeal.

Politics aside, the court needed this position, just as the U.S. Supreme Court has a press office. The clerk's office isn't a sufficient fallback. Sometimes a spokesman can help reporters with procedural questions that justices can't or won't answer. Harris was important in arranging media access to important judicial events, including the West Memphis Three case, which drew international attention. For whatever reason, the court doesn't get its weekly decisions online in a timely fashion. Harris always distributed the list on release at 9 a.m. each Thursday and provided copies of important decisions when requested. For her good efforts, she got rough treatment. I fear there's more — with much more at stake than one person's job — where that came from.

Four female justices — Courtney Goodson, Karen Baker, Jo Hart and Rhonda Wood — apparently have seized control of court leadership, including administrative matters once viewed as the purview of the chief justice. This seems to have produced the ouster of Harris. It so happens Harris founded Women Lead Arkansas, a nonpartisan group that encourages women to run for office.

Favorite

Speaking of...

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

  • Ad man Heathcott sues CJRW for damages in ouster

    Gary Heathcott the long-time ad and PR man who now lives in San Antonio has sued CJRW, the major ad and PR firm, over its severing of a consulting deal with him last year and asks $1.3 million in actual damages plus unspecified punitive damages.
    • Dec 18, 2018
  • Court dismisses ethics complaints against Kavanaugh

    The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has dismissed numerous judicial ethics complaints against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh because the law exempts Supreme Court members, even for acts committed as a judge covered by the law. In short: Bart O'Kavanaugh is above the law.
    • Dec 18, 2018
  • In face of blowback, state will slow down assisted living cuts

    Brett Rains of 40/29 is tweeting from the Capitol that the Department of Human Services is slowing its push for cuts in reimbursements for home health aides that critics have said could force many people into more expensive nursing home and force companies that provide the services out of business.
    • Dec 18, 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

  • Hope and change LR

    While I was away, Frank Scott Jr. won a historic victory in a runoff with Baker Kurrus to succeed Mark Stodola as Little Rock mayor.
    • Dec 13, 2018
  • A real mayor

    Baker Kurrus is trying to brand himself as an agent for change as mayor of Little Rock, but labors under a handicap.
    • Nov 22, 2018
  • How red are we?

    Election results in Arkansas were discouraging for Democrats and progressive voters.
    • Nov 15, 2018
  • More »

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: No leash

    • I used to believe I wasn't a cat person, till I had my first cat…

    • on December 18, 2018
  • Re: No leash

    • I once had a cat -- Earl was his name -- who loved to ride…

    • on December 17, 2018
  • Re: Beware of 'unity'

    • I like this opinion piece of yours published on my 71st birthday. My best friend…

    • on December 17, 2018
 

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