Education Secretary Johnny Key has responded to Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott’s proposal to transition the Little Rock School District back into local control. Key has acted as the school board while the district has been in state control for the last nearly five years.
“I appreciate Mayor Scott’s proposal and thoughtful approach to a very difficult issue. This is the kind of input the State Board members hoped to receive when they asked for community feedback on the next steps for LRSD. I am open to having conversations with the State Board about the proposal to find areas of agreement while balancing the responsibility of the state.”
That’s the most promising statement that’s come from any of the state powers that be.
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State Board Chairwoman Diane Zook said yesterday by email, “Partnerships with parents, VIP’s, the faith community, Boys and Girls clubs, the city, etc. would all be helpful for students in all the schools.”
Zook said she wasn’t in favor of a newly appointed temporary board.
“I see no need to replace the current [Little Rock Community Advisory Board] members who have volunteered their time and worked tirelessly becoming familiar with every aspect of the of LRSD over three-plus years with a temporary board who would serve less than a year.”
She also told the Associated Press, “We’re calling for a partnership and how his would differ from that, I don’t really know,” she said.
Zook may know more about the state’s plan than the public, but the difference in the two seems pretty clear: Under Scott’s plan, the entire district would return to a locally elected school board, and the state would provide some help for challenging schools. Under the state’s plan, schools that score “F” under the state accountability system would operate under different leadership than the rest of the district, which has led to outcry among parents, teachers and members of the community that the plan would divide the district along racial and economic lines.
UPDATE: Sen. Joyce Elliott of Little Rock also issued a statement today in advance of a news conference tomorrow by the Legislative Black Caucus. She repeated her call for return of local control to the Little Rock School District, but said the caucus has broader concerns, specifically the state’s single-letter grading system and the impact it has had on majority African-American districts.
She noted, too, that the legislature had failed today to approve a full, objective study of the adequacy of state funding of schools, a requirement of the Lakeview decision.