News here yesterday of legislation apparently being orchestrated by Walton-financed charter school advocates Gary Newton
and Scott Smith has set off a strong reaction
Rep. Bruce Cozart's
bill to allow the state to turn over schools or whole districts judged in academic distress to private management companies is being viewed as a means to put Little Rock schools in the hands of charter school operators under the umbrella of a state "achievement" school distort. This would follow the pattern of the failed "recovery" school district in New Orleans and a similarly criticized "achievement district" in Tennessee.
Supporters of the former Little Rock School District
aren't sitting silently.
A public meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. Monday at Calvary Baptist Church at 5700 Cantrell Road. Students, parents, staff and the community are invited.
Evidence grows — particularly from this legislation and from the naming of charter school advocate and non-educator Johnny Key
to head the Education Department — that Gov. Asa Hutchinson
is firmly in the Billionaire Boys Club "education reform" camp.
A potential takeover of a school district, its facilities and its tax base comes against a backdrop of administration acquiescence to legislation ending the statutory requirement of consolidation of inefficient small school districts. That was a key piece of the move to equal and adequate education under the Lakeview decision, which is slowly being eroded. It falls also in the context of ruinous health insurance costs for school employees and a general resistance in the new political era to increased spending on schools, from pre-K on up.
It doesn't take a genius to see in all this that major lawsuits lie ahead — both from the Little Rock school takeover and the diminishing commitment to a suitable pubic education. The Arkansas Supreme Court
illustrated its deference to legislative wishes last week in an election proess lawsuit, but that doesn't mean it won't take some time and obstruction before the billionaires realize their manifest destiny.