The smell ripens.

In the midst of heated criticism of the state Education Department for hurrying up and waiving rules to allow an expansion request from the academically deficient Little Rock Preparatory Academy, Board member Diane Zook dropped a small bombshell:

Zook told one critical speaker who brought up Little Rock Prep, that Little Rock Prep had dropped its request for expansion, though she said it would continue with its application to move to a new campus in the old Lutheran school on West Markham Street from an existing location in Southwest Little Rock on University Avenue.

Background: Zook is a committed advocate for charter schools and a vicious critic of the Little Rock School District. Her nephew, Gary Newton, is paid to lobby for charter schools by the Walton Family Foundation. A Walton-related entity, KLS LLC, bought the building to which Little Rock Prep wants to move its middle school — in an affluent neighborhood near majority black and successful Little Rock District elementary schools. The move of Little Rock Prep, whose test scores are far behind those in Little Rock schools, has spurred widespread condemnation in Little Rock as a tangible sign that the system is rigged for the Walton education agenda, which Key dutifully carried as a member of the Arkansas legislature and continues to do as Asa Hutchinson’s education commissioner. Speaking of waivers: The law had to be waived to give Key his job. He had no qualifications as an education administrator.


Gee, wonder how Diane  Zook came to be delivering news about the expansion pullback?

This a PR move to blunt another stupid charter school trick. It reminds me of LISA’s “mistake” yesterday in targeting affluent white neighborhoods for its recruiting mailer and ignoring black neighborhoods.

The LR Prep move to the Walton-bought school should still get a tough look. They don’t want that big  building without plans to eventually expand the student body when the heat is off. The question for the state board is whether failure supports a case for state approval of laying the groundwork to expand and to desert a neighborhood with more people (poor and minority) that the school allegedly targets? The answer is yes only if all the speakers who see a hidden agenda at the state Department are right.