The state Board of Education will take up the future of the Little Rock School District at 1 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 10.
The Board agenda lists several items pertinent to the Little Rock discussion:
- Most important will be the release of scores for each district school based largely on standardized test scores. The index scores and resulting letter grades will determine which schools fall in the categories outlined in a framework for future district governance. As outline, schools with acceptable scores will mostly be subject to oversight of a newly elected School Board, though the state board may also decide to put limits on board powers. The schools with “failing” scores will remain under state control, said by Education Commissioner Johnny Key to include control of personnel. This could mean private management. A middle category will be subject to some hazier degree of control and include some changes in school mission. There’ll be a new high school combining the McClellan and Fair High Schools and perhaps taking in students now at Hall High. Middle schools are going to be realigned. It’s unclear when the Education Department will release scores and grades. I’ve requested them, but the Department has typically been slowing in responding to such Freedom of Information Act requests.
- The Board will review a settlement of a lawsuit over the sufficiency of advanced placement classes that promises steps to assure they are available equally to all. The settlement includes a $100,000 payment to the plaintiffs’ lawyer, John Walker, and includes a stipulation that high school attendance zones will be withdrawn on a race-neutral basis in time for classes next fall.
- The Board will take up Sarah Moore’s motion, tabled at the last meeting, to end recognition of the Little Rock Education Association as a bargaining agent for district teachers. This motion likely has majority support, as a long-wished aim of Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s administration. He made Key education secretary and appointed all but one member of the board, Diane Zook, who also is a foe of the LREA. There’s been talk of a strike if the board moves to end recognition in advance of election of a school board next year after five years of state control.
- The Board intends to consider a recommendation to further neuter teachers by waiving state law on how personnel policy committees are established so that control of the election can be given to an outside group. That is, the Board will essentially violate state law on how such committees are selected by invoking the power given to the state Board to ignore the law for districts judged in academic distress.
There will be a crowd. Most of them will likely be unhappy when it’s over, unless the strong resistance to what’s been outlined so far has any impact on the governor. Probably not. He committed a revolution in the LRSD to the Billionaire Boys Club years ago and his board and education department are expected to deliver.
Might it matter that the state plan for Little Rock continues a march to “freedom of choice” in law and policy that furthers segregation by race and economic status? It should.