by Max Brantley
John Lyon of Stephens Media outlines the steps the state can take in changing leadership, including a school board, of a troubled school district, such as the Pulaski County School District. A decision is expected next week on the state's course of action.
This situation is immensely complicated by the district's role in the ongoing Pulaski County desegregation litigation. The state is also a party and has effectively become an adversary of the district, particularly on continuing state desegregation funding. That money is critical to continued stability of operation in the school year that begins in August, but federal judge Brian Miller surprised all with an abrupt, unrequested end to the funding with teacher contracts already signed.
High scrutiny will be merited if the state makes leadership appointments. Are they named wiith an expectation that they'll adopt the state's argument on funding? Will they be appointed with an eye to satisfying this or that political constituency, such as the Jacksonville group that has long pushed for separtion from the district?
It's not simply a funding issue. Pulaski is the farthest behind of the three county school districts in meeting desegregation obligations of the federal court settlement. In its rush to extricate itself, the state would also be under scrutiny for its seriousness of purpose in meeting those goals. The state already has shown little concern about resegregation by support of open enrollment charter schools and by opposition to the funding of proven desegregation tools — magnet schools and interdistrict transfers.