The state Board of Education has scheduled four meetings on the future of the Little Rock School District.
The board and Education Commissioner Johnny Key, in the almost five years since the state took control of the district on account of low test scores in a handful of the district’s four dozen schools, have mostly turned a deaf ear to public concerns in the district, particularly the call for return of local control. One board member even publicly announced how tired he was of hearing complaints from school patrons.
The board meanwhile has supported charter schools, including failing ones, and supported other measures that have contributed to deterioration of the district. It has followed a timetable that guarantees no election and thus no return of local control, if ever, until almost six years after the takeover in January 2015. Under state control, there’s been scant improvement in the district, as measured by test scores.
Expectations are that the Board will use the wide latitude provided in a law change passed after state takeover to avoid return of a democratically elected school board in control of the entire district. That could include a school board with limited power or it might mean turning some or all of the district over to private school management corporations. Animus against the district is evident among board members and control of the Board by Asa Hutchinson appointees means a strong sentiment for the school agenda of the Walton Family Foundation — more charters, more vouchers, more interdistrict transfers regardless of racial impact and anti-union.
In any case, the public is invited to be heard from 6:30-8 p.m. Aug. 20 at Arkansas Baptist College; from 6:30-8 p.m. Aug. 27 at St. Mark Baptist Church, and from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Sept. 3 at the state Education Department auditorium.
UPDATE: A fourth meeting was announced Aug. 19. It is to be from 6:30-8 p.m. Aug. 26, at Roberts Elementary in western Little Rock.