It isn't perfect. Nothing ever is. There is heartache. There are loopholes. If some education reformers had a magic wand, things would be different.
But hand the Board of Education this much: Its framework for Little Rock's schools is the best that could have been put together in this environment.
The new framework for moving Little Rock's schools back to local control can't be described as the best of both worlds. Instead, call it the OK of both worlds. But it's doubtful the plan could have been improved as of late September 2019, A.D.
Dispatches say the new framework for Arkansas' largest school district will be "fleshed out" at coming meetings, starting next month. But it appears as though Little Rock will get a local school board by next year. Word around the campfire is that it will be responsible for non-failing schools in the district. And even have certain inputs into the failing ones.
According to Cynthia Howell's story in Saturday's paper:
"Category 3 schools would be those with a 2019 F letter grade. Those schools will be operated under 'different leadership than the remaining schools in the district but in partnership with the district.' "
For example, the state might handle curriculum and personnel in the failing schools, but allow the local school board to be involved in other decisions. The state will still handle its duty to provide for all students, including those stuck in the worst schools.
The Education Board's vote on the framework was unanimous. The governor applauded the decision. Education reformers bounced emails around the state Friday afternoon praising the plan. So naturally, there was angry opposition from the teachers' union.
"You are not putting students first," the president of the Little Rock Education Association told the Education Board. Translation: You are not putting teachers' unions first. Any time teachers might be held accountable, as they might in this framework, and only at failing schools at that, you can count on the union to oppose. After all, bad teachers pay union dues, too.
Which is why at its Oct. 10 meeting, the Board of Education should end the decades-old recognition of the Little Rock Education Association as the bargaining agent for district employees. That is, put students first, as somebody recently said.
Why continue to deal with a union that opposes every change? Does anybody really think the Board of Education could have chosen any responsible path and somehow received the union's support?
This could be the beginning of recovery for the Little Rock School District. It's going to take some guts and a heckuva lot more work, but the healing could be near. If our betters would take but a few more steps.
The state's Board of Education took another smart step when it decided to hold elections for this new school board on Election Day. That might sound like common sense, but when it comes to education (and so much else), sense isn't all that common.
The unions enjoy holding elections for school boards in off-months. That way, they can get their people to the polls when few are paying attention and elect a favorable slate. Then negotiate with the people they put on the local school board! Neat trick. It amounts to negotiating with yourself for things like, oh, salary and benefits.
Instead, the state board decided to hold the next election in Little Rock's school district in November 2020. That is, when folks plan to go to the polls. And turnout should be high. After all, a presidential election will be in the works. Not to mention several folks running for Congress and, in Arkansas, the United States Senate.
Anticipate the unions being opposed to this part of the plan, too. They'll argue that mere voters aren't smart enough to make school board decisions when presidents and senators are on the ballot. Which says a lot about their opinions of the electorate.
All in all, the decisions made by the state Board of Education could do much good for the local district in the long run. That is, for the students in the district.
And isn't that the point?
Or shouldn't it be?
Editorial on 09/24/2019