by Max Brantley
We, the members of the Save Our Schools coalition, wholeheartedly reject Commissioner Key’s decision to close Franklin and Wilson Elementary Schools, Woodruff Early Childhood Center, and move Hamilton Learning Academy. We reject any decisions made by unelected officials who ignore community concerns and neglect the consequences on vulnerable students in low-income and marginalized neighborhoods. Our coalition will continue to engage with lawmakers, district officials, and community members until this decision is reversed and the local school board is restored.Key has made plain in his limited communications with residents of the Little Rock School District that local control will not be returned until the district has no schools in academic distress. It was taken over because six of 48 schools carried that label, based on the percentage of students judged proficient on standardized tests. The number is now down to three. They happen to be schools made up almost entirely of poor, minority students and include high percentages of special ed and non-English-speaking students. They also must count students assigned to alternative schools in their test score rankings. In short, they are schools that face big challenges. If they were charter schools, they would be forgiven by the state Board of Education and continued to allow to operate freely. But there are special rules for Little Rock School District. If not this year, Key's willingness to turn the district over to private operators, as the Walton Family Foundation has long wanted, soon will come to flower.
We are firm in our convictions that ALL children and ALL parents in the LRSD matter to us. We stand together in solidarity to say that ALL neighborhoods should be respected. Those in power blatantly disrespect parents’ choice to send our kids to these public schools and then seek to impose their own prescribed ‘choices’ for our kids. They threaten our neighborhoods’ security and protection by attacking the schools that serve vital and irreplaceable roles in keeping the community safe, healthy, and connected. This attack on our children, on our safety and well-being by unaccountable state government and powerful special interests will not succeed.
In this 60th anniversary year of the desegregation of schools, we honor the work of Mrs. Daisy Bates and the Little Rock Nine by committing to continue our resistance to the destruction and re-segregation of our schools.
Until the locally elected school board is restored, we will continue to challenge the illegitimate decisions made by unelected officials and we will continue to fight any attempts to undermine the viability of our public schools and our neighborhoods. We are not going away.