Archives for category: Arkansas

Max Brantley writes in the Arkansas Times that the voucher lobby is determined to reverse their 44-52 loss in the Arkansas House. Backed by Walton money, they are naming and shaming the legislators who stood up for their community’s public schools.

Although Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, and his children attended public schools, they are determined to destroy public schools that provide the same opportunity for other people’s children. They blithely toss out millions to buy the support of people who have no heart or soul and will gladly lobby to harm the institution that has been an abiding symbol of our democracy for generations. Public schools have failings, like every other institution. They must be far better, and they should have the respect and the funding to provide equal opportunity to all children.

But the Waltons have led the forces of greed that seek to undermine public schools that accept all students and have standards for professionals. Let me tell you what I think of the Waltons: I think they are greedy. I think they don’t care about other people’s children. They hate unions and public schools. They love privately managed charter schools, vouchers,and any other substitute for the public schools they attended. They treat everyone else as peasants. They are arrogant. They are prideful.

The Waltons represent the worst of American society: people who have become fabulously wealthy by killing small towns, driving small stores out of business, underpaying their one million employees, using their vast wealth to impoverish others and to undermine the community institutions that enrich the lives of people they treat with contempt. For them and their ilk, playing with the lives of other people’s children is a hobby, a pastime. They are very, very rich, and they must have their way. They don’t understand why the peasants refuse to bow down to their wishes.

Max Brantley of the Arkansas Times reported good news. A proposal to expand the state’s small voucher plan was rejected by the House. Republicans joined Democrats to provide the votes to defeat vouchers. Many rural Republicans don’t want to hurt their public schools.

He writes:

After more than an hour and a half of impassioned debate, the Arkansas House today defeated a bill to double from about 500 the number of students in Arkansas who could receive state money for vouchers to attend private schools. The vote was 44-52, with two voting present and two not voting.

A motion to clinch the outcome failed, so the bill may come up again. UPDATE: Here’s the roll call.

The debate covered familiar talking points, with some legislators repeating speeches they’d given when the bill cleared a House committee 11-9 yesterday.

Proponents hammered on choice and emphasized that the bill would favor lower-income families (though the income cutoff is higher than the average family income in Arkansas.)

Opponents emphasized the loss of funding for public schools and the measure’s  open-ended growth from an initial outlay of $4 million. They talked of uncertainty about what students would be chosen and about the lack of standards for private schools. (They’d need only be approved by a private association of private schools.)

I was particularly moved by a couple of opponents.Rep. Jim Wooten (R-Beebe) said the bill would be “the final nail driven in public education in this state.” It’s a progressive nibbling away, he said. “If you think these private schools are going to take every comer that comes to their door, you are fooling yourself.”

Rep. David Tollett (R-Lexa), a school superintendent, told of the private schools in the Delta, creatures of segregation. He challenged legislators to name a minority private school in the state. “This privatizes of public education. It is a nationwide movement. It has struck many different states and not one of them has been successful.” He did the compounding of the cost: at a 25 percent growth rate, it will reach $1 billion in time.

He read from studies showing harm to students from voucher programs, particularly Louisiana where voucher students ended up in many poor quality private schools.

He said the state could have simply lifted a cap on the existing voucher program, which targets students with disabilities. Why, Tollett asked, does it take a 29-page bill to change things. “It’s a Trojan horse,” he said. “It’s not about the children.” He and Wooten both noted the money spent on scholarships ($30 million, Wooten said) by private schools to recruit athletes for prize-winning teams.ADVERTISEMENT

Tollett also said a promise of money for public schools in the fund that will finance vouchers is an empty promise because the categorical programs are already covered by federal money directed to needy districts. Tollett also commented that heard some say a vote by a Republican was a vote contrary to the party platform. He said nobody had tried to tell him that. Republicans accounted for a majority of the no votes. There are only 22 Democrats in the House.

Joyce Elliott is running for Congress in Arkansas. She is a wonderful, dynamic woman, and I ask you to send whatever you can to help her win the election.

Joyce was born in Willisville, Arkansas (population 152). She was only the second black student to integrate the local high school (her older sister was first). She was a high school English teacher for thirty years. In 2001, she was elected to the State Legislature, where she eventually became chair of the Education Committee.

Joyce is a member of the Network for Public Education. She has attended our conferences. Right now, she is running to become the first black person ever elected to Congress from the state of Arkansas. She is running against an incumbent who is a wealthy Republican banker.

Although Joyce has been outspent, the polls show that they are in a tie.

She needs and deserves your help. Send a teacher to Congress!

Joyce Elliott is a dynamic woman who is running for Congress in Arkansas. I’m asking you to send whatever you can to help her unseat French Hill, a loyal ally of Trump, a millionaire and former banker.

Joyce would be the first black member of Congress from Arkansas. She was a public high school teacher. She is a member of the Network for Public Education. I have contributed to her campaign eight times.

Joyce is a teacher and public servant running as a Democrat for Congress in Arkansas.

Born and raised in rural Willisville, Joyce could see divisions in her community from an early age. She and her sister were the first Black kids to graduate from their newly integrated school.

In the years since, Joyce has dedicated her life to public service: First, as a public high school teacher, then as a State Representative and Senator, and now as a candidate for U.S. Congress.

The latest reports say Joyce is in striking distance of winning this race and flipping Arkansas blue for Democrats. Her race has been given the prestigious “Red to Blue” distinction, and she is endorsed by EMILY’s List and the Congressional Black Caucus.

But at this moment, Joyce is massively outraised. We’re counting on grassroots support to win. Will you chip in today and help us send Joyce to Congress?


Joyce Elliott for Congress
PO Box 179
Little Rock , AR 72203
United States


In a letter sent to Arkansas legislative leaders last week, Public Funds Public Schools, along with other state and national organizations, urged the Arkansas General Assembly to end the state’s harmful and inequitable private school voucher program. The letter highlights alarming information revealed in the recently released biennial report on the “Succeed Scholarship Program,” Arkansas’ voucher program for students with disabilities and students in the foster care system.

The letter was signed by leading advocates for Arkansas students and families, including Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, Arkansas Citizens First Congress, the Arkansas Public Policy Panel, and Arkansas-based philanthropic and education leader Dr. Sybil Jordan Hampton. In addition to PFPS, several regional and national education advocacy groups also signed on, including Education Law Center and SPLC Action Fund (which collaborate on PFPS), and the Southern Education Foundation.

“The 2020 Report illustrates in detail the glaring deficiencies in Succeed Vouchers’ ability to improve academic outcomes and promote equity and access for historically – and currently – marginalized students. It also illustrates the profound difficulties in ensuring appropriate oversight of this publicly-funded program,” the letter notes.

The State’s 2020 Report, which was mandated by bipartisan legislation passed in 2019, also underscores the lack of data necessary to evaluate the academic effects of the Succeed Vouchers, noting that “meaningful comparative data regarding student performance based on the assessment scores private schools provide is hindered by several factors.” The academic outcome information that was collected, however, shows low test scores for the majority of voucher recipients. This failing is consistent with research demonstrating the ineffectiveness of private school voucher programs across the country in improving students’ academic outcomes.

The 2020 Report also exposes inequitable enrollment statistics, troubling data inconsistencies, and little accountability for the public funds spent on the voucher program.

Key findings include:

* There are significant gaps in data on the racial demographics of voucher students. Of those for whom data was available, there are significant racial disparities: 5% of voucher students were Latinx, 12% were Black, and 78% were White. Students with disabilities in Arkansas public schools, on the other hand, are 11% Latinx, 23% Black, and 61% White.

*Due to participating private schools’ inconsistent reporting and data collection standards, the Free or Reduced Price Lunch (FRPL) status of 44% of participating students is unreported. Of available data, just 30% of voucher students were eligible for FRPL, while 60% of Arkansas public school students are eligible.

*Only three-quarters of participating private schools are accredited, while a quarter are on some type of path to accreditation. Thus, schools participating in the voucher program are receiving taxpayer dollars without completing a rigorous accreditation process, let alone being held to the same accountability and reporting standards as public schools.

*Nearly 20% of voucher students have left their private schools, for reasons including dismissal, inability to pay tuition amounts not covered by their voucher, and lack of access to transportation.

The letter to Arkansas lawmakers notes that, as more resources are needed to meet students’ needs due to COVID-19, the impact of the pandemic on Arkansas’ education budget will be over $2 billion for the next fiscal year, making it more urgent than ever to focus limited public funds on effective, research-based programs that meet the needs of Arkansas’ public school students, who are the vast majority of Arkansas schoolchildren. Instead of diverting millions to an ineffective and inequitable voucher program, the letter urges legislators to “redirect those public funds to the public school system in order to improve educational opportunity for students with disabilities, foster care students, and students from low-income families.”

Press Contact:
Sharon Krengel
Policy and Outreach Director
Education Law Center
60 Park Place, Suite 300
Newark, NJ 07102
973-624-1815, ext. 24

Today is an important day in the history of education in the United States. Federal courts had ordered the schools of Little Rock to admit nine black students. Crowds of white supremacists gathered to block their entry. On this day, Governor Orval Faunus called up the National Guard to prevent the black students from entering Little Rock’s Central High School.

From Garrison Keillor’s “The Writers’ Almanac”:

It was on this day in 1957 that Arkansas governor Orval Faubus called out the National Guard to bar nine black students from entering Central High School in Little Rock. In response, President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent in the 101st Airborne Division to make sure they could enroll. A few days later, Eisenhower made a prime-time, live televised speech to the nation in which he said, “Mob rule cannot be allowed to override the decisions of our courts.

President Eisenhower proceeded to nationalize the Arkansas National Guard and directed them to protect the nine black students.

From Wikipedia:

By 1957, the NAACP had registered nine black students to attend the previously all-white Little Rock Central High, selected on the criteria of excellent grades and attendance.[2] Called the “Little Rock Nine”, they were Ernest Green (b. 1941), Elizabeth Eckford (b. 1941), Jefferson Thomas (1942–2010), Terrence Roberts (b. 1941), Carlotta Walls LaNier (b. 1942), Minnijean Brown (b. 1941), Gloria Ray Karlmark (b. 1942), Thelma Mothershed (b. 1940), and Melba Pattillo Beals (b. 1941). Ernest Green was the first African American to graduate from Central High School.

When integration began in September 4, 1957, the Arkansas National Guard was called in to “preserve the peace”. Originally at orders of the governor, they were meant to prevent the black students from entering due to claims that there was “imminent danger of tumult, riot and breach of peace” at the integration. However, President Eisenhower issued Executive order 10730, which federalized the Arkansas National Guard and ordered them to support the integration on September 23 of that year, after which they protected the African American students.

The students endured mobs of hateful whites, screaming at them and shouting curses and insults.

White racists soon realized they had lost in the courts, but got their wishes by abandoning public schools and moving to the suburbs.

In time, the Little Rock School District became majority black. Now it is under state control, a fate that is often imposed on majority nonwhite districts, crippling local control and removing a path to political power for those who are not white.

Little Rock will forever be a symbol of white racism and of the courage and political will required to combat racism.

Grassroots Arkansas is a coalition of parents and civil rights activists. When reading anything about Arkansas, bear in mind that in the background is the Walton Family. They pull the strings.

Grassroots Arkansas sent the following letter to Mike Poore, the state-appointed superintendent of the Little Rock School District:

Mr. Poore,

We realize that you have been serving the LRSD community as Superintendent for four years now, at the behest of Governor Asa Hutchinson and AR Sec. of Education, Johnny Key, and not at the will of the people of our community.

We are yet seeking your humanity and your ability to appreciate that you have the power and the authority to right some wrongs during your administration.

Under your watch, LRSD students have NOT experienced safety and equity in their public school education.

African American and Latinx students have disproportionately been over criminalized with you as Superintendent. Though, Johnny Key has the authority to overturn your decisions or make decisions without your permission, you have not shown strong leadership in protecting the students and educators you have been entrusted to serve.

Again, I understand that you were not brought here to make things better for our LRSD community, but to further promote the agenda of the billionaires who have used their wealth and power to dismantle public schools all over this country.

My appeal to you is to get off the train of destruction and join the moral movement to overturn systems of racism, poverty, and the oppression that results from both.

You have seen and read the news reports: nothing good comes from forcing educators and students back into classrooms during this Covid-19/Corona crisis.

Surely, you don’t want the blood of students and their families, school bus drivers, school cafeteria workers, school nurses, school environmental service workers, school secretaries, school teachers, school librarians, school counselors, school social workers, school paraprofessionals, and other school personnel and administrators on your hands.

Surely, you don’t want to put yourself at further risk of testing positive and potentially dying for the sake of helping billionaires stay ridiculously wealthy, while the community you are serving gets sicker and experiences mass, untimely and avoidable deaths under your watch.

We know that you have children and grandchildren. We hope that you would protect our LRSD community with as much or more love and protection with which you provide them.

We are asking you to take the high road of moral justice by calling for temporary remote, safe and equitable schooling until reputable scientists say so. And, we hope that you will wait until the number of persons in our being infected and dying by Covid-19/the Corona Virus are what we experienced in mid March of this year when you called for LRSD school buildings to temporarily close.

This is a more than reasonable ask of you.

You owe it to us to engage in a school by school assessment to ensure that no students or educators are without necessary means and access to the effective resources they need to begin safe schooling remotely on August 24, 2020.

Upholding Justice and Human Love,

Rev. Dr. Anika T. Whitfield
LRSD community member
Grassroots Arkansas, co-chair
Arkansas Poor People’s Campaign, co-chair

Media Advisory

August 17, 2020

For more information, contact:
Chris Danforth

Arkansas Public School Communities Funeral, Sponsored By: Grassroots Arkansas, the Central Arkansas Democratic Socialists of America, Arkansas Community Organizations, the National Association of Social Workers in Arkansas, and Arkansas Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival

Little Rock, AR —

What – Arkansas Public Schools & Communities Funeral

When – Monday, August 17, 2020, 6 PM.

Where – Arkansas State Capitol, starting at the Little Rock Nine Memorial and ending on the Capitol front steps.

Join us on Monday, Aug. 17 from 6 PM to 8 PM at the Arkansas State Capitol for a visual demonstration of the continued and intentional endangering of Arkansas’ children, teachers, educators, parents, grandparents, families, schools, and communities by the State of Arkansas during the ongoing COVID 19 crisis.

By continuing to withhold economic resources from Arkansans, by continuing to plan for forced school reopenings in the face of CDC best practices, and by ignoring the impossibility of safe physical attendance in the classroom, Governor Hutchinson and the State of Arkansas are sacrificing the lives and well-being of our communities so that he can stand in front of the cameras and say that “Arkansas Is Open For Business”.

We will practice 6ft distancing, wear masks, and use hand sanitizer.

Grassroots Arkansas is a coalition of activists dedicated to fighting for an equitable Central Arkansas. We want to bring an end to social, economic, political injustice and inequality by transforming the power relations and structures that create and hold them in place. We place education at the democratic center of this struggle that reaches every aspect of our lives. Learn more at

For many years, the Walton family has owned the state of Arkansas. Their collective wealth exceeds $150 billion, yet Arkansas is one of the poorest states in the nation. All that money, and very little has trickled down. Perhaps you have seen the ads on national television about how much Walmart cares about its neighbors. The people of Little Rock know better.

Veteran journalist Cathy Frye reports on a dramatic series of events that occurred yesterday. Peaceful protestors closed down four Walmart stores in Little Rock.

Frye writes:

But why? Why close Walmarts?

To these anguished pleas, I offer this by way of explanation.

Because the Waltons need to understand that it’s time to relinquish their iron-clad grip on the state of Arkansas, on its economy, and on its public schools.

I worked for three years for a Walton-funded “nonprofit” organization called the Arkansas “Public” School Resource Center. If you scroll down this blog, you will find numerous posts about how APSRC operates. Its mission is to destabilize, deconstruct and resegregate public schools. It also is working with other Walton nonprofits to create a private-school voucher system in Arkansas.

The Waltons have put themselves, their politics, and their wealth above what is good for all Arkansans.

So here we are, in the midst of a pandemic and the Waltons are using this public-health crisis and the resulting school closures to retain and even strengthen their control over the Little Rock School District…Protesters shut down Walmarts because those stores symbolize everything that is wrong in Arkansas for those who are marginalized and oppressed.

You can’t put lipstick on a pig. The Waltons are the avaricious family that destroys communities and Main Street across America. Good on Little Rock for calling them out.

Cathy Frye is a veteran journalist who worked for the Arkansas Public School Resource Center, then quit when she decided she could no longer stomach being part of the Walton Goubdation machine.

She writes here about the plan to outsource schooling this fall to a tech corporation that is under investigation.

She writes:

I got curious and took a little gander today at the Arkansas Public School Center’s website. And yep, there it was – APSRC’s latest attempt to help its digital “learning” providers by – once again – taking advantage of the pandemic’s effects on public schools.

Pay attention, folks: This partnership – announced today – involves the Arkansas Public School Resource Center, the Arkansas Department of Education and an outfit known as Lincoln Learning Solutions. This partnership will affect how public schools operate during the 2020-2021 school year.

APSRC and the Arkansas Department of Education are endorsing a digital learning provider that is currently under investigation by the Pennsylvania State Auditor General’s Office.

Why an investigation? Because a five-year audit revealed that Lincoln Learning Solutions had received more than $110 million in taxpayer dollars. Now, Arkansas’ parents and schools are about to get sucker-punched in a similar fashion.

You can also be sure that someway, somehow, APSRC Executive Director Scott Smith will also find a way to profit from this. Smith does not believe in MOUs that offer no benefit to his Walton-backed empire – er, I mean, “non-profit” organization.

I dealt with digital-provider “representatives” – not educators but salesmen – for three years. They expected free vendor booths at each APSRC conference. They also expected to be wined and dined on APSRC’s tab. Initially, they got what they wanted via a grant awarded to APSRC’s teaching and learning department. But when the money ran out, they still expected to be wooed and catered to. And Smith didn’t seem to mind, which tells me that APSRC also was making money by supporting these digital providers.

APSRC has been trying for years – well before my time there – to sell this digital-learning crap to Arkansas schools. Problem is, this crap, aside from being crap, has been too pricey even for the better-off districts.

Open the link and read the rest. The Waltons are happy to disrupt public schools at any time.