Little Rock City Board fails LR schools again | Arkansas Blog

Little Rock City Board fails LR schools again


ANOTHER WALTON INVESTMENT: Walton money will power conversion of the closed Mitchell School into another charter school draining kids from the Little rock School District.
  • ANOTHER WALTON INVESTMENT: Walton money will power conversion of the closed Mitchell School into another charter school draining kids from the Little rock School District.
The Little Rock City Board demonstrated again Tuesday night how empty its words of support for the Little Rock School District.

In the course of approving a new zoning plan to allow use of the former Mitchell School at 24th and Battery  for a Walton-financed charter school, only two board members stood up to point out the damage the school would do in draining still more students from the District. They were Directors Kathy Webb and Capi Peck.

Others were silent — or like dedicated Little Rock School District enemy Lance Hines — wholly supportive of the project. Hines said it would help revitalize the neighborhood. It was left to opponents like Sen. Joyce Elliott to note how little sense it makes to argue for a new charter school while the state-run Little Rock School District is busy closing schools in poor neighborhoods (and creating new blight) for the reason that the district is oversupplied with seats.

The City Board also sat silently about the contention that the school is necessary  because of the absence of good schools in the neighborhood. It's a libel to, among others, the Gibbs Elementary less than a mile away, one of the best schools in the district. I've written at length about the school choices in the neighborhood, from Mann and Booker to Carver, with lots more including Dunbar in between. I'm biased. My kids went to Dunbar and Gibbs and didn't suffer from it.

Please note: The Waltons are going to pump an enormous sum into fancifying this ancient building. Would but they only devote some help to the Little Rock School District rather than continuing to systematically attempt to wreck it. Please note, too, that this school has not been even reviewed by the charter authorizing panel much less approved by it or the state Board of Education. You think maybe the fact that the Waltons already paid almost a half-million for the building and have architects at work on a glorious reconstruction plan indicates the Waltons expect the usual routine approval of all they want out at their state government affiliate department? Of course they do.

Fair to note: If the city had not approved the proposal (8-2, with Mayor Stodola fittingly absent) the Waltons would have sent Jess Askew in to sue. Only a zoning proposal was before the board and I suspect City Attorney Tom Carpenter was on sound legal ground for once in saying the board could only consider zoning issues. But it was a time to stand up for the Little Rock School District. Two of the board's 11 members did. And all 11 should join a resolution before state officials opposing this school as unneeded, particularly in a district with achieving schools and so many surplus seats that it is closing schools in other nearby poor neighborhoods.

It won't happen. The city government's historic contribution to demise of the Little Rock School District will continue. City Hall's failure will hasten the Walton dream of privatizing of the entire district, including some good real estate investments for the Walton family. The resulting crazy quilt of unaccountable charter schools will be marked by winners, losers, corruption and generations of kids left behind, if experiences around the country are replicated. But not to worry. The Walton charter propaganda unit at the University of Arkansas has recently proclaimed that — if parents are happy with their school choices — it really doesn't matter if the schools are any good.

UPDATE: Read Senator Elliott's Twitter string on last night's decision. It includes a note about legislation passed in 2017 that certainly had the support of the army of lobbyists the Waltons employ. It exempts privately owned buildings, even if owned by a profit-making enterprise, from taxation if used for a "public" school, also meaning a privately operated charter school that gets public money. So the Waltons won't have to pay taxes on building they rent at a profit to take kids out of Little Rock School District. LRSD loses support for kids, loses property tax revenue, too. The Walmart way.

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