The Arkansas Learns PAC, led by charter school lobbyist Gary Newton, filed a financial report yesterday that shows the Walton money arriving in the first election for Little Rock School Board in six years.
Newton, who is paid by organizations underwritten by Walton billions in their fight to upend conventional public education, particularly in Little Rock, reports raising $11,000 so far — including $5,000 from Lisenne Rockefeller, widow of the former Republican lieutenant governor, and $5,000 from Jim Walton of Bentonville, billionaire son of Sam Walton. The Walton Family Foundation has spent millions to support charter schools in Little Rock along millions in other so-called “school choice” initiatives. Their damaging influence, as detailed by Baker Kurrus, got Kurrus fired as Little Rock school superintendent by state Education Secretary Johnny Key.
Newton supported the state takeover of the Little Rock School District almost six years ago and his aunt, Diane Zook, was a key state Board of Education vote for the takeover and subsequent handling of the district since, down to dictating the name of a high school in West Little Rock and its principal.
Arkansas Learns has spent $9,600 so far.
In the Little Rock School District, Arkansas Learns has given $2,200 to Tommy Branch (Zone 3), FranSha’ Anderson (Zone 6), and Jeff Wood (Zone 9). And he’s given $1,000 to Norma Johnson (Zone 7). These four were endorsed by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, whose publisher, Walter Hussman, is chairman of the board of Arkansas Learns and a charter school advocate and Little Rock School District critic of long-standing.
Interestingly, Arkansas Learns also gave $500 Sept. 18 to Ryan Davis, an opponent of Johnson in Zone 7, endorsed by the Little Rock Education Association. The teachers union is reviled by the Walton education forces.
Davis posted this on Facebook on Sept. 18.
Davis hasn’t filed a campaign report yet. I’ve sent a message asking him if he’s planning to keep the Arkansas Learns contribution.
UPDATE: Davis sent me a note:
Mr. Brantley, tis true… I got a check from AR Learns ($500) after (within a week and a half of actually) I participated in the
LR Chamber’sFifty for the Future candidate interview. I got good advice the idea that I should deposit that and use it for this fledgling campaign… you know — take the money and do good works. Or as the Galilean said, be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” I waited because I didn’t want this to be a distraction BUT at the point that he very specifically endorsed my opponent – I deposited it and paid the person who made my website.
Newton’s PAC also sent $1,000 to Lisbeth Huggins, a candidate for North Little Rock School Board.
The PAC made one $500 contribution early this year, to Kendon Underwood of Cave Springs, a Republican who unseated Rep. Jana Della Rosa of Rogers in the Republican primary for a state House seat.
The Ryan Davis funny business aside, I stick with my view of Little Rock School races expressed here.
None of the above in Little Rock, except for Ryan Davis, who I still think is a perfect candidate for this Board.
Zone 5: Ali Noland
Zone 6: Vicki Hatter
Zone 7: Ryan Davis
Zone 8: Greg Adams
Zone 9: Dr. “Bao” Vang-Dings.
In the only other contested race, the LREA has endorsed Evelyn Hemphill Callaway for Zone 3. Michael Sanders is also a promising candidate in that seat. They are clearly preferable to Tommy Branch, who has declined to oppose the second-class status assigned local teachers by Johnny Key. Which was good enough for the Democrat-Gazette publisher and Gary Newton.