I went to a couple of Little Rock School Board members today for reactions to the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce assasult — on behalf of the Billionaire Boys Club — on the Little Rock School District.
Board members Baker Kurrus and Melanie Fox both have labored long for the district. Both voted against the motion for the district to contest the state's unbridled effort to cram more charter schools into Pulaski County, no matter the damage to desegregation of the three public school districts and their inter-district magnet schools. It is that motion that has the billionaires going nuclear.
Both Kurrus and Fox remain firmly opposed to that court intervention, but they were critical of the Chamber's latest. Fox said she'd informed Luke Gordy, lobbyist for the billionaires, to remove her name from a listing of the Arkansas Education Reform Foundation, one of several groups founded by the Hussman/Walton/Stephens/Murphy money pot to advance charter schools in the state. She said the attack was counter-productive. "I want to spend my time and energy improving what we have," Fox said. No one has been more outspoken than Fox about underperforming schools and administrators and the need for significant change in the district. But she said, "We have some great schools. We have great teachers. The whole thing about money? I don't mind spending money on kids."
Kurrus sent this e-mail from Colorado. He's not seeking re-election this September, I'm reminded. His comments, after reviewing the website the Chamber and Luke Gordy have created:
I got to a computer asap so I could look at the website on something bigger than my Blackberry. It makes me sick.
It is almost impossible to respond to the arguments posed on the website. It is sort of like responding to a legal brief which is baseless and illogical. It is better to tell the straight truth, rather than dignify the baseless arguments of ideologues. For example, the race dichotomy used by the Chamber group is not the proper framework for the analysis. Children of poverty are not sought by most charter schools, regardless of race. There are practically no poor whites in Pulaski County charters, and several of the Pu. Cty. charters have a practice of counseling poor Blacks out. Several of the charters are full of students classified as racial minorities, but those schools have few children of poverty, and even fewer children with no parental support.
The key to the whole question of charters is whether they are designed to pilot innovative ideas to assist children who are not otherwise achieving, or whether charters are a way of achieving other goals, such as union busting, public funded smaller "districts" led by self-selected administrators and boards, smaller specialized learning communities free of special needs students etc.
LRSD has some good things going. I got a complaint two days ago from a very committed and concerned parent who is worried that Fulbright has too many kindergarten classes (seven). This is after Roberts is enrolling over 700 kids. If we could get a new energy for excellence everywhere, as we have at those schools and many others, we could perhaps stem the tide, and begin some real progress. This type of effort requires an army of teach for America-style teachers, invigorated administrative support, and great principals.
I am going to take another long walk in Rocky Mountain National Park, and try to understand why some people kick their brothers and sisters, and then wonder why they cannot get up.