Archives for category: Little Rock

Thomas Ultican writes here about the Walton-funded effort to control the public schools of Little Rock. Given the Walton love of charter schools, we can safely assume that they hope to eliminate democratic control of the citizenry and impose charter schools. Ultican follows the money, where it comes from, where it goes.

He writes:

In an apparent reaction to the 2014 school board election, new Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson and the state of Arkansas assumed stewardship of Little Rock School District (LRSD). A law passed January 28, 2015 authorizing the takeover requires the state to give control back to Little Rock voters by January, 2020. New racially motivated proposals hearkening back to the days of openly racist governor, Orville Faubus, ensure minority residents lose their democratic rights. Big money from the Waltons – The world’s wealthiest family – is driving privatization and segregation within LRSD.

A leading Little Rock community activist, Reverend Anika Whitfield, said in an interview, “The Governor, the Attorney General and the state legislature are all controlled by the Walton family.” In 2016 when new Superintendent Mike Poore came to Little Rock from Bentonville, Arkansas (headquarter of the Walton family), Whitfield was suspicious and asked him about his relationship with Walmart’s owners. He replied, “I know you all are apprehensive; I don’t even know Jim Walton.”

Driving Corporate Education Reform in Little Rock

Littls Sis Map Attacking Little Rock Schools

Little Sis Map Showing Leaders of the Attack on LRSD

Bear in mind that the point of corporate reform (as practiced by the Waltons, Bill Gates, Eli Broad, and other of their ilk) is disruption, not school improvement. Their efforts seldom lead to better schools, but always produce disruption.

On November 26, the New York Times published an article that had this headline: ‘Minority Voters Chafe As Democratic Candidates Abandon Charter Schools.’

The point of the article was that many black and Latino families are very disappointed that all the Democratic candidates have turned their backs on charter schools, excepting Cory Booker, currently polling around 1-2%. The article was especially critical of Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who have, as the article put it, “vowed to curb charter school growth.”

The article implied that the shift was due to the candidates’ pursuit of the support of the teachers’ unions, and charter schools are mostly non-union. Thus, if you want the union vote, you oppose non-union charters. (In my experience, neither the AFT nor the NEA is anti-charter, since they seek to organize charters to join their unions and have had some modest success; still, about 90% of charters are non-union.)

The article was prompted by an organized disruption of a speech in Atlanta by Elizabeth Warren, who was talking about a washerwomen’s strike in Atlanta in 1881, led by black women. The disruption was led by Howard Fuller, who, as the article notes, has received many millions from rightwing foundations, not only the Waltons but the Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee, to sell vouchers and charters to black families.

Not until paragraph 25 does the article mention that the national NAACP, the nation’s largest organization representing black families, called for a charter moratorium in 2016. That fact alone should raise the question of how representative the protestors are.

I wrote this post about the article. The gist of my complaint was that the Times’ article gave the impression that black and Latino families are clamoring for more charters, when in reality there are many cities in which black and Hispanic families are protesting the destruction of their public schools and the loss of democratic control of their schools.

I questioned why the article relied on a five-year-old press release from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools as evidence for its claim that the “wait list” for charter schools was in the “hundreds of thousands.” Actually, the 2014 press release from the charter advocacy group said the “wait list” topped one million students. My comment was that “wait lists” have never been audited or verified and that a claim by a lobbying group is not evidence.

I added to my post a commentary by Robert Kuttner, the editor of the American Prospect,  who was also critical of the article.

Both Kuttner and I heard from a reporter from the New York Times. In the response posted below, he acknowledges he made an error in citing poll data in the article, without reading the underlying poll.

I heard from one of the writers of the Times article. She said my post had many inaccuracies. I invited her to write a response and promised I would post it in full. I pleaded with her to identify any inaccuracies in my post and said I would issue a correction. She did not send a response that I could post nor a list of my “inaccuracies.”

The Times posted an article last July about the growing backlash against charter schools. But I do not think the Times has exhausted the question of why the charter “movement” is in decline.  It would surely be interesting if the Times wrote a story about why the NAACP took a strong stand against charter expansion, despite the funding behind charters. Or why Black Lives Matter opposes privatization and supports democratic control of schools. Or why black families in Little Rock, Chicago, Houston, and other cities are fighting charter expansion. None of those families are funded by the Waltons, Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Charles Koch, or Michael Bloomberg, so they don’t organize buses to take hundreds or thousands of people to demonstrations.

The Times should take note of the fact that white Southern Republicans have made the charter issue their own, and they are using it to recreate segregated schools. Indeed, the Republican party has made charter schools and vouchers the centerpiece of their education agenda, and Democrats in most state legislatures have resisted that agenda and support public schools. There is also the fact that DeVos and Trump are pushing charters and school choice even as they dismantle civil rights protections.

I wish the Times had noticed a court decision in Mississippi a few months ago that upheld the right of the state to take tax money away from the predominantly black public schools of Jackson, Mississippi (which are 96-97% black), and give it to charter schools authorized by the state, not the district. They might note that the sole black justice on the Mississippi Supreme Court, Justice Leslie King, dissented from that decision. The district, under black leadership, fought that decision and lost. The black parents of Jackson, Mississippi, are fighting for adequate funding of their public schools, while the white Republicans in state government are imposing charter schools.

In Justice Leslie King’s dissenting opinion, which Justice James Kitchens joined, he wrote “This Court should not be a rubber stamp for Legislative policies it agrees with when those policies are unconstitutional.”

Public school districts in Mississippi receive local funding from ad valorem tax receipts. When a student enrolls in a charter school, which is a free public school, money that would have gone to the district follows the student to the charter school instead.

My view is that we need a great public school in every neighborhood, with experienced teachers, a full curriculum, a vibrant arts program, a nurse, and all the resources they need for the students they enroll. I think that charter schools should be authorized by districts to meet their needs and supervised by district officials to be sure that there is full transparency and accountability for the academic program, the discipline policies, and the finances. Charter schools should complement public schools, not compete with them or supplant them.

Here is Robert Kuttner’s second commentary on the article:

americanprospect

 

DECEMBER 2, 2019

Kuttner on TAP

Charter Schools and the Times: a Correction and Further Reflections. I made an error in my On Tap post last week on the New York Times feature piece on black public opinion and charter schools.

My post criticized the Times for publishing a page-one story with an exaggerated headline, “Minority Voters Feel Betrayed Over Schools.”

The Times piece cited a poll showing black support for charter schools at 47 percent. My mistake was to infer from this figure that black support and opposition were about equally divided. As one of the story’s authors pointed out in an email, the actual poll showed support at 47 percent, opposition at 29 percent, and no opinion or similar for the rest.

That 29 percent opposed figure was not mentioned in the Times piece. Nonetheless, I should have pursued the underlying poll and reported it, and not just made assumptions. I regret the error.

That said, polling results vary widely depending on the wording and framing of the question, the sponsor of the poll, and the context. For instance, a poll by the Public Policy Institute of California, in a state that has more charters than any other, reverses the finding of the Education Next poll cited by the Times. In California, blacks, with just 36 percent support, were far less likely to support charters than whites.

One of the two polls that the Times linked to used the phrase “public charter schools.” Most charter schools are public only in their taxpayer funding; their actual accountability to public systems varies widely. Many are for-profit, or nominally nonprofit but managed by for-profit management companies.

Another poll, which my post cited, by Peter Hart Associates (for the American Federation of Teachers), finds that black parents are strongly opposed to the idea of reducing funds for public schools and redirecting them to charters, which is often the practical impact of increased spending on charters. As this study shows, the practical effect of charters, in a climate of fiscal scarcity, is often precisely to divert funds from public schools.

I owe our readers a much deeper look at the charter school controversy, as well as error-free reading of polls. Both will be forthcoming. ~ ROBERT KUTTNER

Robert Kuttners new book is The Stakes: 2020 and the Survival of American Democracy.

Follow Robert Kuttner on Twitter

LilSis (also known as the Public Accountability Project) pays careful attention to the networks and money behind nefarious efforts to destroy the public sector.

In this report, LilSis describes the corporate backers of school privatization against whom Little Rock teachers went on strike. The money behind this network of interlinking organizations and individuals is the Walton family, whose wealth clocked in at $163 Billion (that’s Billion with a B) in 2018.

LilSis writes:

A major backer of the anti-union, pro-charter agenda in Arkansas is the Walton family, whose foundation is a huge funder of the school privatization infrastructure that exists across the state. In addition to the Waltons, corporate elites from Murphy Oil, the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, the Arkansas Democrat Gazetteand others are backers of the school privatization efforts. These corporate interests are close to Governor Hutchinson, who supports their agenda, and they have close ties to the state Board of Education. In addition, they are also interlocked with a host of lobbyists and academics that push their agenda…

The Waltons are major advocate of charter schools nationally, and they carry out their school privatization agenda through their Walton Family Foundation, which showers hundreds of millions on pro-charter groups and schools. The foundation claims it has invested a whopping $407 million into pushing charter schools since 1997.According to a recent report put out by the Arkansas Education Association, the Waltons pump millions into propping up the state’s school privatization infrastructure – or what the report calls the “Arkansas’s School Privatization Empire.” 

It’s not just that the Waltons give big money to a few groups – it’s also that these groups then distribute that money to other organizations, lobbyists, consultants, and academics, creating a vast network of billionaire-funded activity to attack unionized teachers and push charter schools. 

For example, the Walton family Foundation gave $350,000 to the Arkansans for Education Reform Foundation (AERF) in 2017 – around 80% of all the contributions the organization took in that year. 

The AERF board includes other powerful funders and advocates of school privatization in the state, such as Claiborne Deming, the former CEO of Murphy Oil, a big backer of charter schools in Arkansas; William Dillard III, part of the Dilliard family that owns the Dilliard’s department stores; and Walter Hussman, publisher of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the state’s flagship newspaper. Jim Walton is also on the board.

In addition to the $350,000 that the Walton donated to the AERF in 2017, Deming gave $60,000 and Dilliard III gave $10,000, while the National Christian Foundation gave $15,000, according the the group’s 2017 990 form.

AERF has in turn used the money it receives from the Walton billionaire fortune and other Arkansas elites to fund other school privatization efforts. For example, it gave $115,000 to Arkansas Learns, which describesitself as “the Voice of Business for excellent education options – including industry-relevant career pathways…” The CEO of Arkansas Learns, Gary Newton, is also the Executive Director of the AERF (for which he earned $189,639 in compensation in 2017). 

In turn, Arkansas Learns has the same board members as AERF, and Randy Zook, the CEO of the Arkansas Chamber of Commerce, whose wife Dianne Zook is on the state Board of Education that decided to end recognition of the Little Rock teachers’ union, is also a board member. Dianne Zook is also the aunt of Gary Newton.

What a cozy and mutually beneficial arrangement: The Waltons have a lot of money to hand out to achieve their goal of privatizing public schools and breaking unions, and the recipients take the money and carry out the Waltons’ wishes.

Any time you see a group called “XXXXXXX for Education Reform,” you can be sure it is committed to charter schools, union-busting, and privatization, and the odds are high that there is Walton money behind it.

The Waltons have claimed credit for subsidizing one of every four charter schools in the nation.

LilSis creates wonderful graphical depictions of networks.

Here is the LilSis graphic of the Little Rock school privatization network. 

If you want to understand what is happening in the Little Rock school District today, read Eric Blanc’s article. 

Eric Blanc has covered every one of the teachers’ strikes since the West Virginia strike in the spring of 2018. Now he is in Little Rock, where he interviewed teachers who went on strike yesterday to protest the State Board of Education’s heavy-handed control of the district and its decision to strip school employees of collective bargaining rights.

Teachers are outraged that the State Board of Education, which took control of the district in 2015, utterly failed to improve student outcomes, yet refuses to relinquish control to a democratically elected board. Teachers believe that the state wants to resegregate the district.

Blanc writes:

Little Rock teachers today are not demanding raises for themselves, but an end to the state’s push to resegregate schools, its takeover of their district, its decertification of their union, and its disrespect for school support staff. As second grade teacher Jenni White explains, “this is literally about standing up for our kids and not dividing our community…

The immediate roots of this week’s action go back to January 2015 when the Arkansas State Board of Education announced that it was taking over Little Rock’s schools due to low standardized test scores. By all accounts, the ensuing state takeover failed to accomplish its nominal goal of improving stability and educational opportunities for the town’s low-performing schools. Yet rather than return Little Rock School District to local control in 2020 as promised, the state board instead proposed in September of this year that it would continue to oversee so-called “F”-rated schools, those with the lowest test scores.

Since all but one of the “F” schools were in black and brown neighborhoods south of I-630, teachers and parents saw this an attempt to create a two-tier school system. “The plan was blatantly racist, it separated the haves and the have notes,” Jenni White told me.

In a dramatic protest on the evening of October 9, thousands of teachers, support staff, students, and community members congregated on the steps of Central High, where the Little Rock Nine had famously confronted the National Guard decades earlier. Teresa Knapp Gordon, president of the Little Rock Education Association (LREA), closed the rally with the following declaration: “Either we accept segregation, or we stand and fight.”

This public outpouring forced the state board to change tactics. At the next evening’s contentious Arkansas Board of Education meeting, it dropped the proposal to split Little Rock’s school district. But surprisingly, the board then immediately proceeded to cease recognition of the LREA as the educators’ representative, thereby scrapping the last remaining collective bargaining agreement for school workers in Arkansas. The decision was blatant retaliation against not only teachers but also Little Rock’s school support staff, who were in the midst of negotiating a pay raise.

Next, the board issued a draft “Memorandum of Understanding” explaining that instead of returning full local control to the school board set to be elected in November 2020, the state would appoint a parallel “advisory board” that could veto local decisions. The Memorandum also insists on closing up to eleven neighborhood schools — which would thereby accelerate privatization, since state law gives charters first access to any vacant school. Stacey McAdoo, a teacher at Central High, told Labor Notes, “they are trying to charterize the [district] like what happened in New Orleans and disenfranchise people and make a separate school system out of the areas that are primarily Black and Latino.”

As in so many other states across the country, this offensive against the labor movement, public education, and working-class communities of color is being directly funded by billionaires. And it’s not just any billionaires: Little Rock teachers and students are up against the Arkansas-based Waltons, founders of Walmart and the richest familyin America.

The Walton family: the Death Star of Public Education. The ingrates who graduated from Arkansas public schools but now want to destroy them and public schools everywhere. Rich and shameless.

I hope you will join me by donating to Bread for Ed, which supports the strike of the teachers in Little Rock.

The Walton-controlled State Board stripped them of their collective bargaining rights.

They are demonstrating for their students, their right to organize, and for democracy.

Grassroots Arkansas reports that the teachers of Little Rock will strike this Thursday. It will be a one-day strike. The State Board of Education (a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Walton family) stripped the local union of its collective bargaining rights and is trying to destroy and privatize public education in that city. For the billionaire Waltons, Little Rock is the petri dish that is near at hand. They have so many petri dishes, all of which have failed. Why don’t they leave this small but historic district alone? (Answer: Because the Waltons want everything; having $150 billions has made them willful and arrogant.) The state took control of the district in 2015 and has agreed to return limited control, with a powerless board still controlled by the state.

Little Rock educators have announced a strike this Thursday, November 14, to demand that the state stop its re-segregation plan, return democracy through full local control of the LRSD, and recognize the union’s bargaining rights. Our educators and students need all of us to stand up for them before unlicensed subs and private companies complete the destruction and further segregation of our public education system.

There are several ways that you can support students and teachers. If you are a caregiver, please do whatever you can to keep your students home on Thursday, or send them to one of the childcare sites to be announced soon. The money follows the students, and the only power we have is if the students stay home. If they go to school, they will be babysat by unlicensed subs. Other ways you can support include:

  • Donate and share the Bread for Ed campaign to feed kids while the schools are shut down.

  • Tuesday and Wednesday: Pass out flyers at schools during drop-off and pickup times. Go by the AEA building at 1500 W 4th Street or call them at (501)375-4611 to see which schools most need coverage.

  • Tuesday and Wednesday: 4:00-7:00 Sign making at the AEA building. 1500 W 4th St by the Capitol.

  • Thursday: Picketing at schools from 7-9:30. Picket the State Board of Education meeting at 11:00. Sign up here.

Together, we can reclaim democracy and a world-class education for ALL students!

STRIKE DATE SET IN ARKANSAS: The Little Rock Education Association is calling for one locally elected city school board with full decision-making authority following the state’s takeover of the district in January 2015. The union planned the strike for the day of the next state board of education meeting, when the district is on the agenda.

— The state board last month voted to stop recognizing the union as a bargaining agent for its members. The state board also voted to return control of Little Rock schools to a locally elected school board by 2020, but limited its authority.

— “They specifically stated that the school board, once elected, would not be able to reinstate our recognition, nor would they be able to hire or fire a superintendent and that the commissioner of education would still have veto power over any decisions that the state or that the school board makes,” Knapp Gordon said.

— The announcement said the union is working with #OneLRSD to stop Gov. Asa Hutchinson and his appointed state board from “segregating the city’s public schools.” The board last month backed away from a plan to divide the district under separate governing systems amid complaints that it would segregate the district. But Knapp Gordon said “by retaining control over the district, they still get to make those decisions that will lead to the resegregation of our school district.”

Tim Jackson is a parent with children in the Little Rock School District and an active member of Grassroots Arkansas, which has been fighting for the restoration of democratic control of the LRSD public schools. He is also a film-maker. He attended the state school board meeting that theoretically restored local control.

He wrote this account:

ARKANSAS STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION MEETING – 10.09.19

Yesterday’s meeting of the Arkansas State Board of Education was another exercise in futility for the true stakeholders in the Little Rock School District. Don’t believe the headlines that local control of the district has been returned or will be retuned anytime soon to an elected school board. All the State Board did yesterday was trash an ill conceived and inequitable framework for reconstituting the district that it announced last month but could not sustain in the face of political and public opinion headwinds.

Board Chairman Diane Zook made it clear – much to the chagrin of Board members who were trying to appear conciliatory – that nothing changed yesterday. And Zook has no intention for things to change until the District is recreated in the image of the prevailing “business knows best” education model that bedevils American public education. As if American public education needed another self-important, self-entitled, shortsighted, external force bedeviling it.

I sat on the front row at yesterday’s meeting for eight hours until I was invited to leave by the Arkansas State Police who were brought in as a show of force by the board. Chairman Zook – whose personal animus toward the Little Rock School District is both unreasonable and inexhaustible – read twice from a prepared statement that anticipated more public outcry to what she knew was coming later in the meeting. We were told yesterday that 1) Police officers would escort anyone who spoke out of turn from the building. 2) Anyone who was escorted from the building yesterday would be banned from speaking in future meetings. 3) The Chairman would decide what constituted out of turn.

One of Ms. Zook’s frequent rebuttals when we cry “taxation without representation” over the State’s heavy-handed and demonstrably underhanded takeover is to remind us that we have a Community Advisory Board. Under the terms of the State takeover the Community Advisory Board of the Little Rock School District has no authority, no public accountability, and members serve solely at the pleasure of the State’s Education Commissioner, Johnny Key – a man so unqualified for the job that the Arkansas Legislature had to reduce the qualifications for the job in order for Governor Asa Hutchinson to appoint him.

An influential member of that Citizens Advisory Board stood in the parking lot of the Arkansas Education Building a month ago and told me that the nine members of the State Board of Education are the Governor’s choice for overseeing public education in Arkansas. This CAB member elaborated that under the Arkansas Constitution those nine appointed people don’t owe the people of Little Rock a vote, a voice, or an explanation for anything they do.I was told that if I didn’t like, I should go change the Arkansas Constitution.

So, that’s our representation. That’s what Diane Zook wants us to feel good about.

The State Board never fails to create chaos at the end of its meetings – at least at meetings in which the Little Rock School District is on the agenda. Yesterday was no exception. In a flurry of confusion and a complete flaunting of acceptable procedure the Board voted 9-0 to cease recognition of the Little Rock Educators Association as the sole contract negotiator for teachers and other full time support staff in the Little Rock School District. The LREA has been under attack since the State takeover and FOIA requests bear out that the Board’s plan for the LREA hasalways been death for the union by a thousand cuts. Yesterday the Board twisted the knife.

This action did not kill the union. But it is another serious attack and clear evidence that Zook and Company do not have a plan for the Little Rock School District but they do have a vision for it. It’s a vision that values the haves and patronizes the have-nots while expanding a privatized system of public education that we will pay for as a society for the next 50 years.

Tim Jackson | tjackson@category-one.com 

Yesterday the Arkansas State Board of Education voted to return control of the Little Rock School District to the people of Little Rock. This followed massive demonstrations and demands by the citizenry. At the same meeting, the board voted unanimously to deny recognition to the Little Rock Educators Association, which represents 60% of the teachers in the district.

Rev/Dr. Anika Whitfield, an activist in Grassroots Arkansas, was outraged by the latter decision. She is a podiatrist and an ordained minister. For her volunteer fight for public schools and democracy, she is one of the heroes in my new book SLAYING GOLIATH.

She wrote the following response to the board’s stripping of the teachers’ right to join as a union.

October 10, 2019 will be a day marked in Arkansas history as the enslavement of LRSD teachers and educators, a day when democracy and liberation was denied to them.
 
The Auditorium in the Arkansas Department of Education was overflowing with concerned community members from the LRSD.  People who took leave from work to lend their voices for a people’s democracy to a nine member board appointed by a republic/empire run by billionaires and millionaires who maintain their wealth primarily from the economy of persons who earn the lowest compensation.  With the help of Gov. Asa Hutchinson, the Walton Family Foundation, Stephen’s, Inc. and Walter Hussman have been siphoning money from the people in our state who are the most vulnerable, our children.  And, to add insult to injury, they are targeting our children who primarily come from homes were their families are the lowest income earners in our state. The wealthy are maintaining their riches by stealing from the poor.  This a model of capitalism that traces back to the origins of this nation that we call the United States of America. 
 
Yesterday, we witnessed the nine appointed members of the state board of education unanimously remove the collective bargaining power of teachers and educators.  Their coup of sorts was made deliverable through a myriad of chaotic twists and turns of the worst type of confusion and violations of Robert’s Rules of Order.  And, after reflecting on the manner in which the state board of education directors conducted themselves on yesterday, it has become more evident that their goal was to be deceitful and underhanded, to ward off any opportunities for the public to call their hand and stop their votes. 
 
Dr. Sarah Moore, one of the nine appointed directors of the Arkansas State Board of Education, who worked as a Doctoral Academy Fellow at the Office of Education Policy (funded by the Walton Family Foundation) at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, made the initial motion to no longer recognize the Little Rock Educators Association (LREA) at the end of their call meeting on September 27, 2019. Yesterday, Atty Chad Pekron, who was appointed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson to the state board of education in July 2019, made and rescinded two or three motions to overturn, table, and then to vote on Dr. Moore’s tabled motion from the September 27th meeting.
 
After all of the smoke was clear, and the confusion was never resolved, the public realized that the state board of education voted to unanimously deny the Little Rock school teachers and educators the recognition of their union.  What a sad day in Little Rock and in Arkansas history. Justice, Liberation, Equity and Democracy continue to be lawfully denied by the Empire of the Republic of wealth, greed, and fear that is being unjustifiably marketed as a great America.  

 

The Arkansas State Board of Education planned to restore local control to schools in the whitest part of Little Rock, but the community rose up in opposition and demanded the restoration of the entire district, one Little Rock.

Massive crowds gathered to raise their voices in protest and the state board folded.

THE ARKANSAS STATE Board of Education abandoned its previously adopted plan to relinquish only partial control of Little Rock School District after widespread pushback by thousands of teachers, parents, students and community activists who argued it would have catapulted the city into another era of segregated schools.

Instead, the board voted unanimously Thursday to return control of the entire school district to a locally elected school board under a yet-to-be-agreed-upon memorandum of understanding with the state that will include some continued monitoring of the city’s poorest performing schools.

The decision, prompted by a surprise motion to scrap the previous plan, shocked many gathered at a meeting to protest it who were expecting to face stiff opposition by the governor-appointed board.

Cathy Frye, who has been writing about her experiences inside the shadowy world of school choice in Arkansas, says that the battle is won, but the war is not. 

She says the decision was a tactical retreat by the Waltons. They won’t give up. They want the property.

She writes:

The Arkansas State Board of Education, during what appeared to be a meticulously staged meeting, voted Thursday to return the Little Rock School District to local control. 

This about-face occurred because state leaders and board members feared further public shaming and opted instead for an awkward retreat.

Stakeholders celebrated the vote, only to get a clapback from the state board when it next voted to oust the Little Rock Education Association. (As we all know, Governor Asa Hutchinson and his GOP underlings loathe unions.) 

Remember, the Waltons have invested millions in organizations that lobby specifically for the Arkansas school -“choice” movement. Despite today’s vote to reinstate local control, the Walton Family Foundation will persist in its efforts to dismantle LRSD and other districts that might appeal to charter-school leaders and the private-school crowd.

Again, they don’t just want your students and the funding that follows them. They want your facilities. (More on that below.) 

Right now, given public sentiment, the Waltons will let things quiet down. But you can bet that the various nonprofits that they fund already are stepping up their behind-the-scenes efforts to get their projects back on track. 

It is imperative that the various grassroots organizations involved in fending off the Waltons’ school grabs remain intersectional and vigorous in their efforts to protect their districts, teachers, students, and, again, their buildings. You have won a battle. Not the war.

She offers some concrete advice for the Resistance.

Max Brantley is editor of the Arkansas Times, where he courageously confronts the depredations of the powerful Walton family against the public sector.

In this post, he summarizes the Waltons’ current efforts to take over the Little Rock school district, so they can eliminate public schools and replace them with charters. Any Democrat who thinks that charter schools are “progressive” should visit Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, or any other red state where the billionaires are doing their best to destroy public education.

He begins:

I’ve collected some items today related to the 2019 Little Rock school crisis, in which the Asa Hutchinson administration is attempting to supercharge the agenda of the Billionaire Boys Club, led by the Walton Family Foundation, to end a meaningful Little Rock public school district.

The plan is to continue to build charter schools (lightly regulated private schools operated with public money); to bust the teachers union, and to create a district of haves and have-nots. Under the Hutchinson plan, prosperous neighborhoods would have a semblance, but not complete democratic self-determination in schools. Poor neighborhoods (generally heavily black) would remain under control of a state Board of Education that has failed them miserably in five years as a supervisor.

He cites a post from this blog, describing the federal study of NAEP that concluded that charter schools do NOT outperform public schools.

He notes that even the Walton-funded University of Arkansas Department of Educational Reform acknowledges that test scores are not all that important.

He writes:

You get a district with a high poverty rate and you get lower test scores. Governor Hutchinson wants to punish Little Rock for that, while holding harmless dozens of other schools and districts with similar low scores. Here, they blame the teachers.

He cites Mercedes Schneider’s expose of Oregon-based Stand for Children, which is pouring big money into the Louisiana race for state board of education, and notes that the Waltons are financing their own efforts in Arkansas to undermine the public schools of Little Rock to make it easier to take them over and end public education.

And then he turns to Brett Williamson, a member of the state school board appointed by Governor Asa Hutchinson, who seems to specialize in insulting parents and supporters of public education. Williamson is one of the current crop of Republicans who do not believe in local control, especially for districts enrolling children of color.

Like Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post and Karen Francisco of the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, Max Brantley is a national treasure who is fearless in confronting the privatization behemoths owned by billionaires.