LEGAL ACTION: Home page of new group aiming to challenge state control of Litle Rock School District.

A Little Rock School District advocacy group has been formed with the aim of taking legal action against “state mismanagement” of the district. It is called Education Defense League of Arkansas.

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Given recent events, it’s needed.

Those working to establish the group include Elizabeth Lyon-Ballay, the blogger whose work has uncovered charter school foibles in Arkansas and poor management of disciplinary issues in the school district; familiar LRSD activist Dr. Anike Whitfield, (correction, I should have said Alex Handfinger, who works with Whitfield in Grassroots Arkansas) and Little Rock lawyers Matt Campbell, Chris Burks and Amelia LaFont. 

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The group is seeking to raise money. Contributions may be made anonymously, but they will not be tax-deductible. Information here on their fund-raising.

The State Board of Education “work session” yesterday — not streamed to the public — indicates how badly the district needs protection from the whims of the Asa “Faubus” Hutchinson-controlled state apparatus.

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Power-mad Diane Zook, chair of the board, is at least honest about her desire to micromanage the district. Education Czar Johnny Key and Asa’s Republican state Board cutouts, Sarah Moore (Chris Burks’ sister) and Chad Pekron are busy gaslighting  people in the district. They claim interest in only the lightest of controls on the district. But check their demands: No union contract, no ability to file lawsuits, no control of superintendent and continuing veto power over anything else they don’t like.

There’s now also talk of allowing the current Asa-controlled Community Advisory Board to call important shots in the year before a promised school board election next year. This could include the board’s own membership; attendance zones, and who knows what else? This group was carefully selected in the first place to favor Republican orthodoxy. Attendance of the board has been sketchy. The real powers are Republican supporters of the Walton-financed “choice” agenda, Jeff Wood and Melanie Fox. In short, if this board is put in charge, the district will be controlled by people from rich, white neighborhoods in a district that is majority brown and black in population and overwhelmingly brown and black in student enrollment. That, of course, is what the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce has achieved in city governance and what was behind its leadership of the move to oust the majority-black school board five years ago.

Also important context is recent legislation by a Republican senator who lives outside the district, Mark Johnson (coincidentally son of one of the state’s most famous segregationists). It allowed expansion of the school board to nine members. This diminishes the likelihood of a re-emergent black majority. Senator Johnson also worked with Wood, unsuccessfully in this case, to extend state control of the district for seven years, the better to insure that Wood gets ASAP the full high school he desires for Northwest Little Rock.

Do not be fooled by the likes of Chad Pekron and Johnny Key. State Control Lite is still State Control. Fewer local powers, far less fulfilling than real democracy.

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I miss John Walker.