SUPPORTING TEACHERS: Pickets at Central High today.

Bad weather for it, but informational picketing  is underway today at Little Rock School District campuses to show support for teachers targeted by State Education Commissioner Johnny Key’s desire to make it easier to fire teachers at 22 Little Rock schools with low scores on standardized tests. Meanwhile, less than a week remains to come up with a new contract before the current one expires Oct. 31.

A school support group, Our Community Our Schools, announced the demonstrations on Facebook.

Hey friends, our teachers met last night and they have decided not to give up the fight for our kids and for great public schools in Little Rock.

Here is the issue. The commissioner of education, Johnny Key, wants to take away the due process rights that teachers have under the Arkansas Fair Removal Act. We believe all teachers should have basic due process rights. It’s fundamental to our democracy.

Our teachers need your help. Starting tomorrow all across the district, teachers will be standing on sidewalks in front of schools to share information with parents and anyone else that comes by. YOU CAN JOIN THEM. They need our help.

Come to Little Rock Central High School at 7.30AM till 8.30 AM or after school between 3.55 and 4.30 and hold a sign or talk to our teachers. We will be standing on Daisy Bates Dr. by the library. Just look for the signs.

If you’d like to join Stephens Elementary, they have a sign up. Join them too!…

You can also join Henderson Middle School from 8:00 – 8:30, then 3:45 – 4:15. Join us!

This is a great opportunity to show Mr. Key and others around the state that we stand for liberty and justice for all.

Key demanded changes in a new contract agreement between the District and the Little Rock Education Association on the expiration of this year’s contract Oct. 31. He wants reinsertion of a clause that allows him to terminate recognition of the LREA at any time and also for a waiver of the law requiring a hearing for teachers proposed for termination. He contends the law limits his flexibility, though he’s been unable to demonstrate it has blocked any desired firing in the district since the state took over four years ago and he became de facto school board.  Under his leadership, the number of supposedly deficient schools in the district has grown from 6 to 22. He wants the ability for speedy firing in the 22, not other schools and not in other schools statewide with a similarly low grade.

If no new agreement is reached by Oct. 31, it will effectively be the end of union representation of LRSD workers, Superintendent Michael Poore confirmed for me yesterday. He added that in other places with contract agreements, new arrangements approved after the expiration of contracts have been possible. He said he hasn’t discussed that eventuality with Key, his boss, as yet.


Poore said the LREA, led by Teresa Knapp Gordon, had agreed to continue to negotiate on a contract and he was hopeful for a resolution. He said he had favored the agreement Key rejected and declined to respond to questions about operating a district with different standards for teachers in different schools or the fairness of waiving the law only in one district statewide.

Poore confirmed in our conversation something to which Key had alluded — that many “stakeholders” had pressured him to get rid of union representation. He declined to identify any of them. He also said the union had advocates as well.


Legal experts say it’s easy to fire a teacher if an administrator is competent and keeps an adequate record. Poore acknowledged that many underperforming teachers leave of their own accord after counseling by supervisors. He also had no figures to offer on failed firings. He said most firings resulted from non-performance-related reasons, such as criminal law violations or other factors.

PS: We told you that Johnny Key limited attendance at his news conference about his directive this week. A state senator and LREA people were among those prohibited from attendance. Benji Hardy of our staff received a notice of the event. I did not. I asked a state Education Department spokesman if I’d been allowed to attend had I joined Benji. She did not respond to the question, which I repeated to be sure she’d received it. Critics unwelcome, apparently, at Johnny Key’s limited press availabilities.