The House Education Committee, in a rare evening meeting, last night approved the bill to give charter schools first dibs on vacant school buildings.

Opponents of the bill said the committee chair had promised the bill wouldn’t come up until next week, but with charter school advocates cheering, the bill was jammed through last night. Mayor Mark Stodola and Little Rock School Superintendent Michael Poore opposed the bill. Education Commissioner Johnny Key, who is the real power in the Little Rock School District, has not been heard on this topic. It’s a dereliction of duty, but he’s a historic charter school supporter.

Key wants voters here to approve 14 more years of 12.4 construction mills in May, meaning a half-billion or more a year, but won’t fight continued escalation of charter schools that take students from the Little Rock School District and disproportionately leave some of the hardest cases behind. This legislation will allow private school operators to swoop in and take over schools closed in the name of efficiency and cost-saving (think Franklin and Woodruff, particularly) to suction still more students out of the Little Rock School District.

This could happen anywhere in Arkansas. Indeed, it will happen elsewhere in Arkansas. The Walton-funded school movement has nothing less in mind than ending the public education system that has served the U.S. so well in favor of an every-man-charter-voucher school-for-himself model.


Bill Kopsky, a grassroots organizer, commented on Facebook:

If you want to watch the House Education Monday night attack to steal your local school buildings and give them to charter corporations, here is the link. It’s starts at about the 4:30pm time mark. We had no notice SB308 would run today, after being told by the chair that it would not run until next week, so they could avoid the public outcry against their overreach. Amazing how many small government proponents just ran BIG GOVERNMENT down the throats of local communities to steal their facilities for charter schools.

UPDATE: Save Our Schools, the ad hoc group working for return of the Little Rock School District to local control, plans a peaceful demonstration tonight at Breckenridge Driver and Lantern Hill Road near Johnny Key’s home.

Parents, community leaders, and Little Rock residents will hold a peaceful demonstration and press conference in the Colony West neighborhood (near the home of Commissioner Key) to object to the February 9th announcement to close four LRSD schools in low income and marginalized communities.

Republican Sen. Trent Garner has legislation pending to prevent demonstrations at private residences. He also favors more guns in more places. Just saying.