Little Rock School District Superintendent Mike Poore has shared a letter with parents and the media about how the district will operate in the event of a teachers strike. Poore says schools will remain open, buses will run and meals will be served. You can see the full letter here.
The State Board of Education voted Oct. 10 to direct Education Secretary Johnny Key, who acts in place of an LRSD School Board, to no longer recognized the Little Rock Education Association teachers union after its contract expires Oct. 31. Teachers feel betrayed and outraged by what they see as state overreach. They’ve agreed to reductions in pay and benefits in recent years and fear the state will try to squeeze them further. They seem likely to mount a work stoppage on Nov. 4, the first day of school after the contract expires (Schools are closed to students Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 for professional development).
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From Poore’s letter:
We have been informed that the LREA may vote to take work actions following these decisions. While we are uncertain of what the LREA’s actions will be, parents need our schools to be open and we are committed to doing everything we can to avoid disruption to the learning environment, taking steps to ensure that our schools remain open in the event of a job action. All schools will be open, buses will run, and meals will be served. We will have security officers to keep your children safe and qualified substitute teachers to replace any teachers who do not report to work. The substitute teachers will have undergone and completed state-mandated background checks.
We believe having students in school is the best place for them. If we were to close schools, we would have to extend the school year. Additionally, we are required to take attendance each day, so parents must continue to report absences. This year, we have made significant strides to take learning to the next level for our students, with enhanced literacy efforts, new partnerships between the business community and our middle schools – including a $5.4 million technology investment by Verizon, and introduction of the Ford Next Generation Learning project. We want to continue to build on those successes together.
Poore and other administrators are not part of the LREA and are required by the state to try to keep schools opened. But that will be near impossible. Even with recent state approval to pay subs $180 per day (standard rates range from $70-$90 per day), the LRSD will be hard pressed to find enough subs to replace the district’s 1,600 teachers. Many of the subs are likely to feel allegiance to teachers. And many parents in the district may be inclined to keep their children out of school in solidarity with teachers.
Meanwhile, the LREA and community partners have been working to ensure safe spaces for children to go in the event of a strike. OneLRSD.org will have details of those arrangements once they’re finalized.
UPDATE: The LREA issued a statement today about its issues and its desires to also look after children