I’ve collected some items today related to the 2019 Little Rock school crisis, in which the Asa Hutchinson administration is attempting to supercharge the agenda of the Billionaire Boys Club, led by the Walton Family Foundation, to end a meaningful Little Rock public school district.

The plan is to continue to build charter schools (lightly regulated private schools operated with public money); to bust the teachers union, and to create a district of haves and have-nots. Under the Hutchinson plan, prosperous neighborhoods would have a semblance, but not complete democratic self-determination in schools. Poor neighborhoods (generally heavily black) would remain under control of a state Board of Education that has failed them miserably in five years as a supervisor.


Relevant recent developments:



Diane Ravitch reports on a new federal analysis:

the performance of students who attend charter schools is no better than the academic performance of those who attend true public schools.


 The report based its findings on 4th and 8th grade NAEP scores. No school, public or charter, can test prep students for success on the NAEP, thus it is considered by many to be the most reliable measure of student achievement.
In addition to a simple comparison of results, the researchers who prepared the report used regression analysis to control for the influence of parental education level on student achievement on the NAEP. This is important because it contradicts those who claim that charters do a better job at educating disadvantaged students, and that the equal academic performance between the two sectors is because public schools educate a more privileged population.  Parental education level has been shown repeatedly to have a significant effect on student achievement, even when controlling for SES. 
As Ravitch notes, anybody who’s been paying attention, including in Arkansas,  already knew this, including the Walton-financed researchers at their university branch in Fayetteville. The Walton gang is now busily finding reasons other than test scores to tout the superiority of charter schools. And note the research shows what we’ve been harping on continually: poverty and parents’ education are inextricably linked with student test scores.
You get a district with a high poverty rate and you get lower test scores. Governor Hutchinson wants to punish Little Rock for that, while holding harmless dozens of other schools and districts with similar low scores. Here, they blame the teachers.
The Walton billions, driving the assault on the Little Rock district, is sufficient to be spread around. Should Little Rock ever get to elect school board members, you might be on the lookout for the Waltons attempting to put their wallets on the scale in the elections.
Mercedes Schneider, a dogged Louisiana advocate for real public schools, reports that an Oregon nonprofit, Stand for Children, has poured more than $400,000 into races for seats on the Louisiana Board of Education. Oregon? Louisiana? Since 2010, the Walton Family Foundation has given more than $4 million to the nonprofit, with $400,000 earmarked for Louisiana. Bill Gates is another major supporter of SFC.
The Waltons, in addition to financing student-leaching charter schools, are also pouring big money into an anti-union teachers group in Arkansas and paying various people who steadily criticize the Little Rock School District, its leadership and the teachers union.

TIRED OF CRITICS: State Board of Education member Brett Williamson


And now we turn to Brett Williamson, a Hutchinson appointee to the state Board of Education and an employee of the Murphy Oil-born financial empire, including a side gig for $40,000 a year (he reports five hours of work a week in this duty on tax forms) as director of the Murphy Foundation. Murphy money has joined Walton, Hussman, Stephens and Dillard money in the fight for school “reform” — charter schools, vouchers, union-busting, etc.

A petulant Williamson responded in May 2017 to Little Rock parents asking the state Board for return of its schools: “With all due respect, I’m tired of hearing about the Little Rock School District. I’ve had it, OK?”
His attitude toward Little Rock and its supporters hasn’t approved in the two years since. Judge from this recent response to a critic of the board’s move to oust the Little Rock Education Association as the bargaining agent for teachers.

Not too surprising that someone attached to a nozzle of the Murphy fortune with a banking background is unfriendly to unions. Or that he’d like to pre-empt local voters and their school board in deciding now whether a half-century of mutually beneficial service by the LREA should be ended.

But he got even testier this week, in responding to another harsh critic of Board actions.


Two thoughts: 1) Who steps in when the state board fails for five years? 2) Touting a political candidate as a member of a public board is a bad look.

Resistance is growing. The Our LRSD group was busy Saturday canvassing the district to explain the war on their school district. The Waltons were probably busy preparing to write more checks.