The Arkansas Public Policy Panel has distributed a statement calling “tepid” the state Board of Education’s response to an outpouring of comment today from people pushing for local control of the Little Rock School District and a level playing field with the charter schools that have enjoyed favor from Education Commissioner Johnny Key despite lackluster results.
The statement included distribution of a full video of Sen. Joyce Elliott’s unhappy remarks to the state Board about the “shock and awe” campaign to destroy the Little Rock School District in favor of charter schools and the agenda of moneyed people, a clear reference to the Walton Family Foundation-financed assault on the district.
The statement from #StandUp4LR noted passage of motions creating a civic advisory Board and the hastening a review of academic progress, but said ‘it is simply not enough.”
The group said there’s little reason for faith in the new advisory board given past performance in Key and the Board’s ignoring of input at past community forums. “The process of state control of any school district has been made illegitimate by the bungling of the situation in Little Rock in a rush toward an agenda of school privatization and segregation.”
The statement called for these “reforms”:
* Implementing a moratorium on charter schools in Arkansas until there is greater evidence of their value, until their problems with segregation can be addressed by creating more transparent and accountable enrollment processes, and until there is a comprehensive plan on how they will integrate with existing public school structures without wasting taxpayer dollars by duplicating services in some areas, while ignoring the parts of our city with the most need.
* The State Board of Education should hold monthly hearings on enrollment at LISA Academy, eStem and other charter schools about the demographics of their enrolment and their outreach strategies.
* The State Board should insist that the staff at ADE and the LRSD create a process on how they will handle school closures that are likely due to budget cuts. How will those decisions be made? How will the community be able to inform those decisions? How can those decisions be made that ensure the principle of quality and equitable educational opportunities for ALL students in the district? The expansion of charter schools will only accelerate the drive to close more schools in Little Rock — the State Board and Commissioner Key need to hold community meetings where they meet directly with impacted students, families, staff and neighborhoods.
* The State Board should create a clear, transparent, and accelerated path back to the local control of an elected school board. The State Department and Board of Education’s actions have proven the state is either unable or unwilling to making decisions in our children’s best interests.
* The State Board should convene a committee to look the existing consensus on research proven strategies that improve student outcomes.The Department’s attention should be focused on those areas instead of divisive battles on discredited privatization. There are research based reforms we already know will work. Student achievement would start rising tomorrow if we implemented them today. PreK, nutrition and afterschool programs are just a few of the things we should be investing in, rather than polarizing and segregating experiments.
* Finally it is time for Commissioner Key to resign or be replaced. He has rigged the process to favor an ideological agenda of privatizing public schools despite a mountain of evidence of the harm it would do to Little Rock’s students and community. He has made unaccountable and non-transparent decisions about our Superintendent, about approving charter school expansions, about hiring unlicensed novice teachers to serve in the neediest schools and more. He has broken the public’s trust and simply has no remaining credibility to lead the Department.
If Key or Gov. Asa Hutchinson even reads these, you may be sure they are headed to the round file, but they needed saying — as a warning to other school districts: This could happen to you.