Little Rock School Board member Baker Kurrus has circulated a memo sharply criticizing a proposal put forward by the School District yesterday to settle desegregation issues, particularly a dispute over open enrollment charter schools in Pulaski County.
The memo, which follows, says the proposal is "too complex to be workable." Kurrus favors phasing out state support in even increments over a seven-year period and simply focusing on the task of educating children, with some consideration to working out lingering magnet school issues with North Little Rock and Pulaski County.
His viewpoint will be popular. And it makes a lot of sense. But I still don't think the district is wrong in using these negotiations to pressure the state to be more vigorous in committing itself to meaningful review of charter school applications and of their subsequent performance in meeting promised objectives. Education Director Tom Kimbrell has vowed to step up monitoring, a departure from past lax practices by the department and state Board. Of particular importance is being sure the state -- with its history of promoting segregation in Little Rock -- does not encourage formation of schools with no greater purpose than to be havens for predominantly non-black student populations from families with better economic circumstances.
FROM BAKER KURRUS:
I assume I received a copy of the settlement proposal put forward by LRSD so that I could offer up my thoughts about it.
In my opinion this settlement proposal is far too complex to be workable, even if all of the parties agreed to it as written. Such a settlement, like all of the others, would be the beginnings of more endless litigation. I request that our counsel advise the other parties that I had no hand in crafting this proposal, and that I am not supportive of it. I would prefer to make this clear now, before this goes any further, rather than argue against this proposal when it comes to the board. I would also appreciate the superintendent or our counsel telling me how LRSD came to put this most convoluted proposal forward.
If we wish to attract students, we should magnetize our LRSD schools with excellence. Good students find their way into good schools. Right now Pulaski Heights Middle is full because parents want to send their kids there. It is desegregated. It is not a magnet, and it receives no extra funding. If our concern is desegregation, we have ample numbers of white students who reside in the boundaries of LRSD. They choose to go elsewhere. If we focused on quality, we might get some of them back. In the meantime, all of our kids would benefit because we would improving our schools for the kids we now have.
We need to stop blaming others, and get to work improving the things we can control.
As I have said repeatedly, I do not think our problems are caused by a lack of funding. I would support a settlement that ended state funding by reducing the payments by 1/7th per year. This is simple, and understandable. The magnet schools would either go away, and we would be left to do what all other schools in Arkansas are called to do, or we would work out magnet schools on terms satisfactory to NLR and PCCSD.
Please forward a copy of this to the press under FOIA.