The Save Our Schools coalition has issued a statement criticizing Education Commissioner Johnny Key’s expected approval of school closure decisions recommended by his Little Rock school superintendent, Michael Poore.
Franklin, Wilson and Woodruff will be closed as budget-cutting moves. Said SOS:
We, the members of the Save Our Schools coalition, wholeheartedly reject Commissioner Key’s decision to close Franklin and Wilson Elementary Schools, Woodruff Early Childhood Center, and move Hamilton Learning Academy. We reject any decisions made by unelected officials who ignore community concerns and neglect the consequences on vulnerable students in low-income and marginalized neighborhoods. Our coalition will continue to engage with lawmakers, district officials, and community members until this decision is reversed and the local school board is restored.
We are firm in our convictions that ALL children and ALL parents in the LRSD matter to us. We stand together in solidarity to say that ALL neighborhoods should be respected. Those in power blatantly disrespect parents’ choice to send our kids to these public schools and then seek to impose their own prescribed ‘choices’ for our kids. They threaten our neighborhoods’ security and protection by attacking the schools that serve vital and irreplaceable roles in keeping the community safe, healthy, and connected. This attack on our children, on our safety and well-being by unaccountable state government and powerful special interests will not succeed.
In this 60th anniversary year of the desegregation of schools, we honor the work of Mrs. Daisy Bates and the Little Rock Nine by committing to continue our resistance to the destruction and re-segregation of our schools.
Until the locally elected school board is restored, we will continue to challenge the illegitimate decisions made by unelected officials and we will continue to fight any attempts to undermine the viability of our public schools and our neighborhoods. We are not going away.
Key has made plain in his limited communications with residents of the Little Rock School District that local control will not be returned until the district has no schools in academic distress. It was taken over because six of 48 schools carried that label, based on the percentage of students judged proficient on standardized tests. The number is now down to three. They happen to be schools made up almost entirely of poor, minority students and include high percentages of special ed and non-English-speaking students. They also must count students assigned to alternative schools in their test score rankings. In short, they are schools that face big challenges. If they were charter schools, they would be forgiven by the state Board of Education and continued to allow to operate freely. But there are special rules for Little Rock School District. If not this year, Key’s willingness to turn the district over to private operators, as the Walton Family Foundation has long wanted, soon will come to flower.
In the meanwhile, remember the lack of voice and the damaging designs on the district by those who also want local voters to approve a half-billion dollars in additional property taxes to improve the facilities that Key would be happy to seen privatized on the Walton model.
IN A SOMEWHAT RELATED DEVELOPMENT: The Youth and College Division of the NAACP says it will sponsor a gathering of youth, community leaders, politicians and educators on Feb. 19 to organize a response to threats expected from Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and the Republican congress. The event includes the Mrs. Daisy Lee Bates March on Arkansas for Education at 3 p.m. Feb. 19 at the Capitol.
The goal is “a new era of activism and protest.”
“We are faced with a moral and ethical crisis during this critical time in our nation’s history after the election of Donald J. Trump,’ said Chris Kingsby, President of the Arkansas State NAACP Youth & College Division. It is time for nonviolent resistance, he said.