Brian Chilson

Mayor Frank Scott Jr. has issued a statement on yesterday’s action by the state Board of Education against the Little Rock School District.

I include his headline, because it happens to echo the Hutchinson administration talking point on the bait-and-switch pulled yesterday. The votes leave the state in control of the district and end 68 years of Little Rock Education Association representation of Little Rock teachers for no stated reason (other than the well-known Republican Party’s animus toward labor unions).

Mayor Frank Scott, Jr. Releases Statement on Unanimous Vote to Return Local Control of Little Rock School District

“Thursday our community won our schools back. I am heartened at how the residents of Little Rock came together to fight for full, local control of the Little Rock School District. I appreciate the State Board of Education and Secretary of Education Johnny Key for listening to Little Rock residents and passing an amendment, which included tenets of the plan from the Little Rock Board of Directors and our administration. This is in the best interest of our most precious assets, our children.

 

“While I am excited about our future that includes a fully unified school district, with no tiered and divided schools, I am disappointed that the decision to decertify the Little Rock Education Association was not left up to a locally elected school board.

 

“I remain hopeful that our teachers will continue to prioritize the needs of our students, as we work to re-establish a locally-controlled school district. Through the State Board of Education’s re-establishment of the Fair Dismissal Act for Little Rock School District teachers, it is our hope and expectation that the men and women who work so hard every day for our kids have access to due process.”

I don’t see it so happily. Scott’s statement is too celebratory given actual events and the abundance of unanswered questions.

“Return of local control”? The withdrawal of the framework of tiered schools does not mean the state can’t impose the same formula without a name.

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Board Chair Diane Zook declared the district remains officially in academic distress. That means, even if a school board is elected at the end of 2020, the state Board can override anything it doesn’t like. And we still don’t know what powers that local board might be allowed to possess.

Zook has raised troubling questions about how the future board will be selected. Might it include at-large members that dilute the power of poor neighborhoods? How will the districts be drawn? How will redrawing of school attendance zones affect the district? Gone, too, is notion of an interim board whose members include some chosen by the city.

There were no specifics in the motion adopted by the Board yesterday. Everything is yet to be worked out. A sneak attack on teachers at the end of the meeting, including not only union decertification but neutering of the personnel policy committee selection process, makes it hard to trust the state Board on what’s to come.

Scott chooses to emphasize the positive, which is his style. But little evidence exists in support in the Chad Pekron original gneralized motion for local control, later belied by his and others’ generally negative approach to Little Rock and its teachers.

Scott stepped forward as a key broker of a compromise that held promise. That promise seems dubious today. One sentence of disappointment over treatment of teachers? They deserve better. Thousands said as much at a rally Thursday night at Central High.

Scott insists he had no heads-up on the orchestrated performance by Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s board yesterday, though he had been in discussions with Johnny Key and Asas Hutchinson.

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Nonetheless, Scott sings their lyrics. He emphasizes that the vote to decertify the union was followed by restoration of the fair dismissal act for Little Rock teachers. This is a sop, worth not nearly so much as it was worth when a teacher could count on union representation in the grievance process.

Disappointing.