Dr. Anika Whitfield and retired Judge Marion Humphrey, both leaders of the grassroots movement to regain local control of the Little Rock School District, have blasted the decision by Superintendent Michael Poore to sell the vacant Garland school to an affiliate of the Walton Family Foundation, likely for another charter school in district borders.
The final decision will be made by Education Commissioner Johnny Key, who functions as the Little Rock “school board” under state receivership. He may or may not have approved the decision already. He and Poore refuse to discuss it. Key has said he will not hold a public meeting to hear thoughts on the sale. But a fair bet is that he’ll approve it. He fired Baker Kurrus as district superintendent because of Kurrus’ warnings about the danger of unlimited charter school expansion to the viability of the district, a concern also raised yesterday by a committee reporting to the state Board of Education about collaboration between the district and charter schools.
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The Walton Foundation has not announced its plans for the building. It does not take questions from the Arkansas Times. But the Foundation has provided support for most of the charter schools in Little Rock and has already purchased one former school building for a new charter school in the former Mitchell Elementary for another. That school will be considered by a state panel next week. I’ve speculated that the Garland building will be used as the site of another charter school on next week’s agenda that, at the time of the application filing, hadn’t identified a site.
Whitfield and Humphrey both say the Walton Family Foundation has undue influence over decisions made by Poore and Key in the operation of the School District.
Whitfield noted voters recent overwhelming rejection of more than $500 million in new taxes for the school district, precisely because of fears about what Key and Poore have in mind for the district and encroachment by charter schools.
Yet, you continue to usurp the people, to disregard democracy, and to disregard students and their parents by taking second liens on current bonds against the will of the people. And, you continue to sell our schools without our permission to private persons and entities who have never invested in the students nor the LRSD as a whole.
Humphrey applauded Whitfield’s letter to Poore and Key. He said;
It is increasingly apparent that the two gentlemen, as well as the overwhelming majority of the members of the Arkansas Board of Education, are guided by the Walton Family Foundation, and that they could care less about the vision and wishes of the patrons of the Little Rock School District.
Their full letters follow.