by Max Brantley
On Thursday, August 11 at 5:15 pm in front of the Little Rock School District administrative offices at 810 W. Markham, members and friends of Arkansas Community Organizations and the Arkansas Community Institute will release a report on attitudes of Little Rock residents on school closings. The report is based on in depth interviews with 117 people in Little Rock conducted by students taking a course on health disparities at the UAMS College of Public Health during the winter and spring of 2016. The release coincides with the first meeting of the new Little Rock School District Community Advisory Board appointed by the state earlier this year.
Students found that the people interviewed were split over whether it was necessary to close schools due to the loss of desegregation funding. Participants reported that there would be many more negative impacts than positive impacts on students, families and neighborhoods. Almost all of the respondents said that the school district should study the impact that closing a school would have on the community before making a decision on whether a school should stay open.
A little over 20% of the participants lived in neighborhoods where schools were closed. Almost 80% of those people said that the impact was negative. “There was no life in the neighborhood. When the school left so did the spirit of the neighborhood,” said one participant. Another person stated: “It was pretty bad. The building got broken into, people went there to drink and do drugs. The neighborhood declined. I was bused and hated my new school.”
Many of the interviewees expressed concerns about equity in the Little Rock School District. “Funding and resources should be available across the board. We have schools that are treated as if they were better and that does not help us meet the need of educating all of our youth. Quality of education shouldn’t depend on what area you live in,” said one of the people interviewed.
The study was a collaborative effort of the Arkansas Community Institute, Arkansas Community Organizations, and students and teachers of a course titled” Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities: Theory, Experience and Elimination” at the UAMS College of Public Health.
Copies of the report will be delivered to Superintendent Poore and the Community Advisory Board. Copies will be made available at the press conference and posted online.