Max Brantley, regular columnist for the Arkansas Times, tells the sorry tale of the likely Walton takeover of the Little Rock school district. Read here and here.
Six of Little Rock’s 48 public schools have low test scores. Instead of bringing help to those needy schools, Walton-funded lobbyists are promoting a state takeover of the entire district. That way, all the schools can be turned into charters with private managers. This eliminates the elected school board; reformers don’t like school boards. They like state control and mayoral control.
In the second link, Brantley writes:
“Following the money on the Walton-Hutchinson takeover of Little Rock schools
“It’s not yet clear when the final House Education Committee battle will be fought on HB 1733 to allow the state to privatize any or all of a public school district judged to be in academic distress.
“It’s monumental legislation that would make all school teachers and administrators fire-at-will employees without due process rights. It would destroy the last remaining teacher union contract in Arkansas. It allows for the permanent end of democratic control of a school district or those portions of it privatized. It would capture property tax millage voted by taxpayers for specific purposes, including buildings, and give them to private operators. It would allow seizure of buildings for private operators at no cost. CORRECTION: Fort Smith classroom teachers still negotiate with the Fort Smith School District. An anti-union organization they fund, the Arkansas State Teachers Association, has spent a great deal of money trying to solicit members in Fort Smith, a teacher there reports.
“This bill is the work of the Walton Family Foundation. People the Walton money supports — lobbyists Gary Newton of Arkansas Learns, Scott Smith of the Arkansas Public School Research Foundation, Kathy Smith of the Walton Family Foundation and Laurie Lee of Arkansas Parents for School Choice — are the leading lobbyists. Smith has been quoted by others as saying he’s the primary author (his organization gets $3 million a year from the Waltons), but it follows similar legislation introduced in other states, with poor to disastrous results (New Orleans).
(Concurrently and coincidentally, the Walton Foundation and Rockefeller Foundation are sponsoring a school study in Little Rock by the Boston Consulting Group, an outfit that has studied and recommended mass privatization in other cities.)
The goal is to make the Little Rock School District a laboratory for the pet education aims of the Waltons, who own the University of Arkansas, particularly the department ginning out propaganda in behalf of this bill. Gov. Asa Hutchinson is fully on board. He’s been resisting a solid plan to put competent people in charge in Little Rock and moving on fixing the six schools on which the entire district of 48 schools was placed in academic distress. His plan is to pass a law to overcome Johnny Key’s lack of a teacher certificate, master’s degree and 10 years education experience and become state Education Commissioner. Key would then find a Walton-favored outfit to run the six schools at issue and be poised to take over as many others as the Waltons deem necessary.
It’s been a long battle, but money does tend to win out.
Many tentacles. Lots of money….
If you think Johnny Key, who used Nick Wilson-style special language chicanery to increase the virtual charter school enrollment from 500 to 3,000 will stop at six Little Rock schools in the privatization scheme, I’ve got a Little Rock school to sell you for $1, subject to Walton approval.
The simmering pot full of Little Rock School District frogs (otherwise knowns as voters, taxpayers, parents, students and teachers) will soon be fully cooked, with no life left to jump out.