Why do proponents of creating new Little Rock School District secondary seats fight so hard and urgently? Because in-power opponents have fought so hard and long against.
Further, parents/guardians see for their children what Little Rock’s civic leadership refuses to acknowledge as an economic development crisis: zero middle and high school capacity in Arkansas’s largest and richest public school district.
And when Central Arkansas still accounts for the largest percentage of the State’s economic output, this accelerating drag on the Little Rock regional economy is a drag on all of Arkansas.
Armed only with irrefutable data, passionate persistence, and the power of persuasion, those supporting the addition of middle and secondary seats, particularly in non-Academic Distress schools, are inexplicably characterized as on equal footing with past and present elected and appointed officials. And yet, their fight for their children is against those with a vested interest in the perpetuation of separate but equal, one race/one economic level schools, to preserve power, while the District stagnates and declines.
Consider just the past two years…
- (January 22, 2015) Then-Little Rock School Board Member (Zone 2) Joy Springer added language to motion to approve $375 facilities plan: “…construction of a southwest high school shall be the district’s first priority. Upon a successful millage, the district shall simultaneously authorize construction of a southwest Little Rock high school and a west Little Rock middle school. … If for some reason the southwest Little Rock’s school construction is delayed, the west Little Rock school construction shall also be delayed pending resolution of the reasons for delay.”
- Rebuilding a 66% capacity McClellan High School was prioritized over providing schools where none exist. Ms. Springer is now a Little Rock Legislator-appointed member of Little Rock School District Civid Advisory Board.
- Despite repeated public insistence from West Little Rock parents to consultants, administrators and elected board members, Little Rock School District leadership precluded consideration of a West Little Rock High School from the $1,000,000 Fanning Howey Facilities Study.
- Then-Little Rock School District Board President Greg Adams is now the Superintendent-appointed Co-Chairman of Little Rock School District Civic Advisory Board.
- (November 18, 2013) In advance of facilities study, in order to induce Rep. Walker to join the Desegregation Settlement Agreement, the Little Rock School Board voted 6-1 for a resolution that “placed a specific commitment to schools in southwest Little Rock” for the final year Desegregation Settlement Agreement payment dedicated to facilities.
- (November 16, 2013) “…in regard to the Proposed Desegregation Agreement, the Attorney General told the Legislative Council that he agreed to allow the attorney for the Joshua Intervenors and the Little Rock School District to negotiate on the side. The attorney had wanted a ban on construction of a West Little Rock middle school as a condition of Settlement.”
- (April 22, 2013) Then-future and now-former Little Rock School Board Member (Zone 5) Jim Ross wrote the board: “I want to continue to be on record that I am disappointed that we are rushing forward to build this West Little Rock school.”
“This will be, like Roberts Elementary, a majority white segregated school. Yes there will be a few middle class African American, Hispanic and Asian families, but the overwhelming majority will be white children whose parents are afraid to have them in schools with African American kids.”
- Email attached.
While elected, appointed and self-proclaimed leaders of the Little Rock School District have utilized the respective power of their positions to fight, not only construction of secondary schools in West Little Rock, but any mention of a new high school, cycles of parents advocating for secondary schools have come and gone.
Failure to provide accessible, adequate and equitable public education for our people is not equatable to failure to properly maintain, equip facilities in underutilized existing buildings. It’s akin to telling a person to wait for that prosthetic leg until we can also do a makeover.
And yet, the latter is happening now, while the former waits…and waits…and waits, dismissed as “a hailstorm that will blow over” and vilified as the whining of the “privileged,” whatever that means.
Where in America are taxpaying multicultural residents of a school district and city dismissed as “white flight” because they are fighting to stay in, rather than leave their resident school district and city? The same place where parents advocating for public schools for their students are likened to those who fled the District after desegregation.
When one can no longer defend the message, all that is left is to demonize the messenger.
Attached Document: Ross Email (PDF)