Little Rock School Board member Baker Kurrus, back from vacation, has circulated notes to other board members commenting further on the 4-3 Board vote several months ago to allow the district’s attorney to argue in federal court that the state’s ready approval of charter schools in Pulaski County contributes to segregation and violates the state’s agreement in settling the decades-old desegregation lawsuit.
As I’ve written before, Kurrus has been critical of several aspects of charter schools created in Little Rock and the state process that led to them. He is a defender of the School District in some, though by no means all, respects. He takes offense at the new campaign by charter school advocates to declare the entire school district a waste. But he’s also a fierce opponent of continuing legal action. He recognizes the district has large problems, including failing schools and underperforming employees. He’s, in short, as close to an honest broker in this controversy as exists. It’s a shame, if understandable, that he’s retiring from the School Board in September.
On the jump, you’ll find two memos Kurrus wrote recently in response to past correspondence from the district’s attorney, Chris Heller. They’ll be a big hit with the Billionaires Club and their paid lobbyist Luke Gordy, who want to bust the Little Rock School District up into dozens of charter schools.
I can’t quarrel much with Kurrus’ larger themes. But I do think (and I think Kurrus agrees, based on our many conversations) that there’s much to be said about a rigorous state effort in reviewing and approving charter applications and monitoring charter schools to see that they operate as promised. I also think the state does have a solemn constitutional obligation not to approve charter schools proposed in Pulaski or anywhere else more for reasons of sanctuary — racial, economic or clannish — than educational benefit.