Save Our Schools,
a grassroots group working to regain local control of the Little Rock School District
, has written Education Commissioner Johnny Key
to press for more study of his decision to close schools in the district to save money.
Key functions as the Little Rock School Board since a state takeover two years ago. He has endorsed Superintendent Michael Poore
— his choice of district day-to-day leader after he fired Baker Kurrus for criticism of charter school proliferation — in his decision to close two elementary schools, a pre-school and am alternative school location. He's also dismissed as irrelevant to him a City Board resolution asking for a community impact study on school closures.
Save Our Schools isn't giving in so easily. It wrote Key and Poore in requesting a meeting this week:
Your recent decision to close two elementary schools, an early childhood center, and relocate the alternative high school was made hastily and without due diligence. The decision was made by looking only at narrowly defined criteria that cuts the LRSD budget at the expense of students, families, and neighborhoods in areas of our city that have been historically neglected and underserved. We firmly demand that you back up and look at all of the potential benefits and consequences to this decision before making final arrangements.
We request, in particular, that the community impact study include a look at school closures in the LRSD over the past 10 years and the effects those closures have had on the surrounding neighborhoods, as well as a review of studies done on school closures in other cities around the country. We are ready and willing to be active partners in these efforts.
Please show us that you mean what you say about having the best interest of students at heart. A good public education is only one piece of the story when it comes to our children’s future. Healthy and safe neighborhoods, safe housing, access to quality health care, and a vibrant economy are also essential for children, families, and our city to thrive. We are counting on you to do the right thing!
The SOS group's effort plays against the backdrop of a coming school tax vote
May 9 in which Key wants School District taxpayers to approve adding 14 years of payments of an existing 12.4 tax mills that otherwise would end in 2033 so as to borrow money for school construction. In sum, voters are being asked to approve payment of at least an additional $600 million in tax payments and likely much more given the general rise in property values each year on which the tax mills are assessed. Signing the letter:
Save Our Schools
Little Rock Collective Liberation
The League Of Women Voters of Pulaski County
The League of Women Voters of Arkansas
Arkansas Public Policy Panel
Be The Change Alliance
The Rev. Ed Wills Jr
St. Michael's Episcopal Church
Rabbi Eugene Levy
Rabbi Barry Block
Congregation B'nai Israel
Rev. Marion A. Humphrey, Sr.
Allison Memorial Presbyterian
Rev. Joyce Campbell, Pastor
St. Andrew AME Church
Bishop Vernon Kennebrew
Christ Temple Church of Christ Holiness USA
Rev. Carissa Rodgers
Quapaw Quarter UMC, Senior Pastor
Rev. Shelby Taylor
Michael Blanchard, Pastor
Oak Forest United Methodist Church
Wendell Griffen, Pastor
New Millennium Church
Pastor Barbara A. Douglas
WE CAN, Inc
Second Baptist Church
First United Methodist Church, Little Rock
Rev. Dr. Denise Donnell
Human Rights Campaign
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Arkansas
Rev. Marie Mainard O'Connell
Second Presbyterian Church
Rev. Dr. Roy Jones, Jr.
Pastor, Bethel A.M.E. Church
Rev. Maxine Allen, President
Christian Ministerial Alliance
Rev. Chestine Sims, Pastor
Union A.M.E. Church, Little Rock