The irony continues to run deep in the state takeover plan for the Little Rock School District, one that will put the state in charge of schools in the black part of town while giving token (but not complete) local control of schools in the white part of town.
The irony is in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, this year celebrating the 200th birthday of a newspaper it put out of business in 1991. The D-G now claims the dead Arkansas Gazette’s history as its own, even trumpeting that dead newspaper’s valiant support of the rule of law when the state was attempting to enforce school segregation in 1957. Today’s newspaper, a direct heir to the cowardly Arkansas Democrat of 1957, today cheered the state’s new segregation plan in an editorial. Resistance, if you believe the editorial, is only from the dreaded teachers’ union, long a target of publisher Walter Hussman and others in the Billionaire Boys Club. Their money now seems on the verge of achieving their desire of wrecking the old-style school district and replacing it with charters, vouchers and anything but the old egalitarian ideal of equal education overseen by democratically elected school boards.
The editorial writer ignores the hundreds of parents who’ve asked to be heard, including those excluded from Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s staged media defense of the state plan yesterday.
Columnist John Brummett provided a more accurate view of the day’s “mess” in Little Rock. He also mentioned a fact otherwise unmentioned in news coverage and unremarked editorially in the newspaper — the violation of the state Freedom of Information Act by members of the state Board of Education in arriving secretly at the 2019 segregation plan and the proposal to bust the teachers union.
Resistance will continue, but the template drawn up by the Walton-financed Little Rock school district destruction lobby will be put in place. The union will be busted and the district will be segregated into haves and have-nots. Private school management companies will have their way. The state will protect still more white flight. That will be no boon to the city of Little Rock. (Mayor Frank Scott Jr., awaiting your view on this.)
But in the meanwhile I urge all not to overlook the slander of Little Rock teachers implicit in the Arkansas Democrat editorial and the comments of Gov. Asa Hutchinson. From the editorial:
“You are not putting students first,” the president of the Little Rock Education Association told the Education Board. Translation: You are not putting teachers’ unions first. Any time teachers might be held accountable, as they might in this framework, and only at failing schools at that, you can count on the union to oppose. After all, bad teachers pay union dues, too.
Spoken by someone who likely has had little experience in the schools of the Little Rock School District and no appreciation for the hundreds of dedicated teachers and the efforts they make in often trying circumstances. (Publisher Hussman writes some of the newspaper’s editorials. His children never darkened the doors of the Little Rock public schools. CORRECTION: One child spent a year in an LRSD school.) Here’s a Tweet last night from someone closer to the classrooms.
From a @lrsd teacher at an “A” school (ya know- the ones who’ll be trusted to govern themselves under the @ArkansasEd 3-tiered system) Teachers across this district are overwhelmed, underpaid, under-resourced, & demoralized! WE SEE YOU!! #SaveLRSD #OneLRSD pic.twitter.com/2jquQgNorA
— Amanda Cabaniss-Rogers (@cabanissrogers) September 24, 2019
I also saw a post on Facebook last night by my friend Pat Goss, a lawyer whose children attended some of the same Little Rock schools my children attended and whose wife, Judy, is a retired Little Rock teacher. He gets at the core issue that Hutchinson and the newspaper ignore in their rush to blame the teachers union for ills in Little Rock. (All the while overlooking “failing” schools elsewhere in Arkansas that don’t have a union as a handy whipping boy.)
I don’t know why the Waltons and Walter Hussman want to have public schools run their way – or run everyone into a private school or a public charter school that is in no sense a public school. But the cudgel the State Board has used in taking over the LRSD is the performance of poor black and Latino students on standardized tests. Anyone who knows anything about learning – and Johnny Key and Asa Hutchinson and a bunch of folks on the State Board know nothing – knows the challenge of educating (especially as measured by standardized test scores) children who are handicapped by poor prenatal care, poor nutrition, and not having educational support in the home comparable to that of their peers. (This weekend one of our grandchildren did some math enrichment on an internet program on our computer; I will not hazard a guess at how few children from the “failing” schools logged in.) And after five years of takeover the Board has not fixed the “failing” schools. So now the scoundrels blame teachers and the teachers’ union.
Since I am angry and frustrated, I return to an old plea: I want the SAT or ACT scores and high school and college transcripts of Johnny Key and the legislators who support this meanness.
What he said.
UPDATE: Sen. Joyce Elliott commentary on the editorial is too good not to share:
An almost heart-arresting, dark-hearted, plantation-mentality-informed bucket of drivel from Walter Hussman & company abt state board’s framework: “Its framework for Little Rock’s schools is the best that could have been put together in this environment.” https://t.co/L7di6jMFx1
— Joyce Elliott (@xjelliott) September 24, 2019