YOU'RE NOT THE BOSS OFME: Education Commissioner Johnny Key says he need not answer public questions from Little Rock School District group, though he's serves as its school board under state law.
State Education Commissioner Johnny Key
has refused to meet with a Little Rock citizen's group that petitioned for a meeting as the law prescribes
for school boards.
Key said the law that provides for a petition to meet with a school board didn't apply to him, though he functions as the school board to which Little Rock School Superintendent Michael Poore
reports since the state Board of Education took over the school district for lagging test scores in six of 48 scores (one school is no longer judged in academic distress.)
In short: Key to LRSD: I don't answer to you. I just control you.
It was bad timing in that Key decided to hold a special election in March, rather than at a regular election last November, to commit Little Rock taxpayers to at least a half-billion in additional property taxes
to pay for school construction. Questions 1 and 2 for Key are whether he'll continue to support draining of LRSD students into more charter schools and whether he supports allowing use of taxpayer-improved buildings for private charter school operation. If charter schools are to proliferate as Key and his allies at the Walton Family Foundation desire, plus virtual schools and vouchers, there's not much point in taxpayers putting more of their money into schools they'll never again control. Let the Waltons pay for it.
Look next week for this: A big demonstration Wednesday at the Capitol on national "school choice" day by supporters of voucher, private and charter schools. I don't think many conventional public school students will be dragged out for the performance art. Rumors are circulating that the day will be used to drop legislation desired by the Walton Family Foundation-financed anti-public school lobby. It could be a broadening of school vouchers. It could be another attempt to legislate the ability of private takeover of the Little Rock School District. It could be symbolic passage of the legislation to allow Key to fire at will anybody in the Little Rock School District — no due process dismissal procedure — because it's in "academic distress." Whatever is planned, it will not be good for the Little Rock School District.
The law says the education commissioner assumes "all authority of the board of directors." But Key said the advice from his legal counsel — that is from lawyers that he employs, not exactly impartial lawyers — is that it would be "impractical" for the commissioner to assume all duties. Key suggested that it would be better to take questions and grievances to the powerless community advisory board he appointed.
Key's letter, addressed to Dr. Anika Whitfield, who led the petition effort, said he'd be willing to try to schedule an appointment to meet with her "individually."
DR. ANIKA WHITFIELD: Rebuffed on meeting request.
This is, simply, an outrage. The man in charge of the Little Rock School District isn't willing to face the public, take questions and talk about how he justifies decisions he makes that are educational life and death to parents, students, staff and taxpayers.
Here's key's letter to Anika Whitfield.
Whitfield responded to Key, saying she was surprised at Key's refusal to meet with the public., since he had not done so in a year.
Mr. Key, you have appointed a Superintendent of the LRSD twice without public weigh-in which is atypical of any Superintendent hiring in the LRSD and any other district for that matter.
Mr. Key, you have not shown up to any public forums that engage you with the community on public discussions about the state of the LRSD, yet you find time to make public appearances at community events where you are positioned to be present but not to engage in meaningful dialogue and discussion with the people.
We don't want a puppet as our leader. We don't want a dictator as our leader. We don't want someone who is not interested in serving all the constituents with which you have been appointed to serve.
She said she'd like to meet with Key, but would like Sen. Joyce Elliott, Wanda Hamilton and at least one parent from each school slated for clsoure to join in the meeting. she said:
In a democracy, the people rule, not the leaders. The AR Department of Education has been showing more and more signs of a direction that is less and less democratic.