by Max Brantley
Somebody clip and mail this editorial in the Leader to the Asa! legions shocked that impoverished predominantly minority school districts have been most affected by overdue consolidation. And that tiny districts must be better because, well, just because.
Who really could be shocked that the schools most likely to be closed after administrative consolidation would be in the Delta? The all- or mostly black schools were so poor of resources that they could not offer a solid curriculum, compete for good teachers or provide modern facilities or equipment, and they begged for closing. Three-fourths of the majority-black schools in districts under 350 were closed.
Little Gould south of here, very poor and overwhelmingly black, closed last fall and the kids went to nearby Dumas, a thriving district with a solid program. The superintendent at Dumas said patrons at Gould supported the merger. Wise they are. Their children will one day thank them. We have been in that circumstance ourselves.
This is not an argument over which is better, a big school or a small school. There is much to be said for educating students in units that are small enough to maintain community and to recognize individual achievement. But these are not reasonable compact units. The schools are so small and generally so poor that they can never give children, at least secondary students, more than the most meager fare. There is one caveat. Taxpayers willing, the state could provide far greater subsidies to those schools to overcome their deprivation. There is no evidence that Arkansas taxpayers are so obliging.
After the mergers, not one of the children from the little schools is now attending what anyone could rationally call a large school. The consolidated schools are still small and rural — ever been to metropolitan Dumas or Barton? — and in some cases children are only marginally better off than they were because the merged schools are still relatively small and poor. But still better off.