The League of Women Voters of Pulaski County said in a prepared statement today that the Little Rock School Board should be kept in place and given a chance to correct deficiencies at schools in academic distress before the state takes more drastic steps.

The state Board of Education will decide Wednesday what to do about six schools in academic distress — Baseline elementary, Cloverdale and Henderson middle and Fair, McClellan and Hall high schools — comprised almost entirely of poor, minority students scoring in the 40 to 48-percent proficiency range on standardized tests where 50.5 percent is necessary to be judged succeeding academically.

The Board can accept the School Board’s plan to operate the schools; devise some type of shared administration; take over the six schools or take over the entire district, as wealthy elements of the business community, cheered by a paid lobbyist for the Walton Foundation has been pushing. The nine-member Board, based on past comments, has split thinking on the process. One Board member, Diane Zook aunt of the Walton’s lobbyist, Gary Newton, seems clearly in favor of instant total takeover. I think there are three probable votes for takeover for sure — all within the Walton sphere of influence. It’ll take five. A couple indicated interest previously at state oversight only of the six schools. That leaves four up in the air, or three really. The chair votes only to break ties.

Here’s the League’s statement:


The League of Women Voters of Pulaski County has a long history of supporting public education for all children as an integral part of maintaining an ethically functioning, and economically sound democratic society. We are concerned that the Little Rock School District is not meeting these standards for all of its children at the present time.
We do, however, have faith in the democratic process that elected the members of the Little Rock School Board, and we believe that these citizens, working with the school district administration, can succeed in raising the performance of the students in the six distressed schools.

We would ask that the School Board engage in team-building exercises to improve their ability to provide a unified plan to improve these schools, putting special emphasis on parental involvement and asking for input from business leaders and the Little Rock City Board of Directors.

We also ask that the State Board of Education give the District time to institute effective strategies and have the strategies impact pupils’ test scores, provide the necessary resources to support the LRSD in its recovery efforts, and to continue to monitor the progress of the District.