Members of the Little Rock Education Association and others demonstrated in front of the Governor’s Mansion tonight pressing Gov. Asa Hutchinson, his education czar Johnny Key and the Hutchinson-controlled state Board of Education to reconsider ending recognition of the LREA as a bargaining agent for Little Rock teachers.
The existing contract ends Oct. 31. There’s talk of a strike if the state doesn’t relent from derecognizing the union, a decision made without notice, discussion or explanation. (Except that it’s given that Republicans hate unions.)
Video is from the Facebook page of Teresa Knapp Gordon, president of the LREA.
Late Tuesday evening, a PR representative for Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. issued a prepared statement about a meeting the city held with Education Department officials on Friday of last week to discuss cooperation with the city on helping poor neighborhoods improve their schools. Scott continues to indicate that the state board has returned local control to the district. It has not done so. It has made clear the state retains control because of academic deficiencies. To the extent the state currently has community input, it comes from a puppet advisory board selected by legislators friendly to Hutchinson. As yet there’s been no clear indication of what power an elected board will have (or how it will be constituted) come elections toward the end of 2020, six years after the state took over. The takeover vote in 2015 was 5-4, with the swing vote, Chair Sam Ledbetter, now regretting his vote on account of the state’s failure since to materially help the district.
In any case, here’s the city statement:
In the spirit of continued collaboration and commitment, the City of Little Rock, the Little Rock School District (LRSD), and the Arkansas Department of Education held meetings Friday, Oct. 18 to build on the State Board of Education’s October 10th vote regarding return of local control and the implementation of a community schools model. These schools will support students, teachers, and families of the LRSD. Specific action items include the following: creation of a student needs assessment; plans for community engagement meetings to hear from parents and residents about student needs outside of the classroom; and data analysis in neighborhoods where struggling schools exist. Representatives from each organization discussed shared goals to include the Little Rock community’s voice and for all students to have the best academic outcomes. This unprecedented partnership is a significant commitment to ensure the success of our vision to increase educational achievement in Little Rock.
It’s Scott’s style to emphasize the positive.But his key “partner” has demonstrated to date few reasons to trust their good faith. Are teachers part of the community whose voices will be heard by the state, for example? Even the state held community meetings. And ignored the outpouring of impassioned input it heard. Indeed, we know much already of the scourge of poverty in the neighborhoods with low-ranking schools and Sen. Joyce Elliott has talked eloquently of ways to address a broad array of needs: Parental help, nutrition, health care, pre-school and more. The city has made a welcome commitment to that cause. Will the state? It isn’t cheap. There are some teachers who labor in these schools who could provide important insights, if only the Hutchinson administration didn’t think so little of them.