The League of Women Voters of Pulaski County released a letter today to Arkansas Education Commissioner Tony Wood with questions about future state control of the Little Rock School District.
An important question is what criteria will be used to determine that academic “distress” has improved sufficiently to return the schools and district to control of school district voters? It’s a good question, because it’s still unclear why the state removed Lee County schools from the academic distress list based on improvement that to at least one interested observer, state Rep. John Walker, seems marginal.
Another even more pressing question is where residents of the district go with questions now that Tony Wood is the “school board.” Dexter Suggs remains interim superintendent, but he hasn’t had many answers to questions so far.
I remain skeptical that the broader agenda at work in the Little Rock takeover intends for the school district to be democratically governed, except for perhaps a scrap of remnant inner city schools remaining after voucher, charter and other billionaire-favored strategies take over most school operation in the next three to five years. But perhaps the experience in New Orleans, Philadelphia, Memphis and other cities, with the help of the same consulting group now at work in Little Rock on Walton and Rockefeller money, are not intended for replication here.
One clue will be whether people with piercing questions, like the League of Women Voters, or charter sycophants have the balance of influence on the toothless “citizens advisory committee” that will advise Wood and his successor on the directives the state will give to the district.
Add to unanswered questions — such as what improvement prompted the return of Lee County to local control — this one: Is there a message in pending legislation that would end the requirement that the state Education Department director have a teacher’s license and classroom experience? Does the future under Gov. Asa Hutchinson include a business person as a transformational leader of Arkansas schools? Wood has said he plans to leave the Department by mid-year.
Here’s the League’s letter from Carol Young, Anne Bell, Margaret Eckart, Janet Berry and Ruth Bell to Wood:
Dear Commissioner Wood:
Like many Little Rock School District patrons and supporters, we in the League of Women Voters of Pulaski County have questions about the change in Little Rock School District oversight from the local school board to State Department of Education.
Our questions are:
What criteria will the State Department of Education use to determine that the six distressed schools have improved enough to no longer be classified as distressed?
Does the State Department of Education plan to implement the strategic plan that was adopted by the Little Rock School Board in 2010 following much input from our community? Is there any possibility that the community based group that developed the strategic plan for the District could become part of the steering committee for the plan’s implementation?
When the Little Rock School District is released from Arkansas Department of Education control, will the Little Rock School Board that exited January 28 be reinstated?
To whom should concerned citizens, students, staff and parents address their questions about the State Department of Education assumption of the Little Rock School District operations?
League of Women Voters of Pulaski County