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Today hundreds of parents, teachers, students and community members are standing up for Little Rock students and public education statewide. Here is our statement, released today.
The decision to terminate Baker Kurrus as Superintendent of the Little Rock School District comes as yet another unwelcome shock to our community and undermines our children’s education.
LRSD students, staff, and families have been through a lot, and just when there was reason for hope, Commissioner Key resurrects the very type of instability some used to push for the state takeover of LRSD. It undermines all the hard work that has been done to build trust among diverse stakeholders. It threatens the tough decisions we have ahead for our children’s future. It ignores the need to make those decisions inclusively, transparently and accountably.
Today students, parents, educators, business owners and faith leaders from every zip code in our city, of every racial and ethnic background, from every income group and political persuasion come together to hold the door open for Mr. Kurrus. We deliver over 1,000 signatures calling on the Governor and Commissioner Key to:
Reinstate Baker Kurrus as Superintendent, extend his contract and grant him the independence to be free of political pressure from ADE and the Governor's office;
Place a moratorium on charter school expansions and other major policy decisions impacting the school district until a comprehensive plan is in place;
And return control of Little Rock School District to a locally elected school board.
Kurrus’s firing has statewide implications beyond LRSD. It suggests that privatization and charter schools will be the state’s predominant strategy for education. We stand united for high quality PUBLIC EDUCATION because the overwhelming consensus among education researchers is that it makes our children and communities stronger. Strategies such as increased parental involvement, improving discipline policies, quality pre-K, quality afterschool and summer programs, community schools, and services that counter or reduce poverty have much more evidence and promise than privatization and charter schools.
Our children will not be pawns in a political and ideological experiment conducted without our input or consent, especially when other proven and more reliable educational strategies are available.
Commissioner Key’s latest press release, promising to create a new advisory board, is more of the same lack of accountability dressed up as substance. It ignores the fact that a Civic Advisory Council already exists for LRSD. Commissioner Key has neither informed, consulted, or even engaged the existing council at any level.
This action ruptures the public trust and shows the state cannot deal effectively and apolitically with our schools. More than a year after the state took over LRSD they still have no plan for our district. The state needs to find new, better ways of boosting student outcomes. Takeovers erode local participation and interject ideological politics where they do not belong. The state would do well to focus more on research proven strategies to boost opportunities for children and less on structural rearrangements and privatization experiments.
We want and deserve honesty, stability, and transparency. We want research and data-driven decisions and plans that consider the impact on all children in our communities. Mr. Kurrus should be reinstated immediately and empowered to complete the job he was hired to perform. The chaos of making decisions without a plan or direction must stop. Little Rock schools should be returned to local control at the earliest opportunity. The state should stop other school district takeovers until they have a proven plan to help improve their performance.
The future of our children depends on it.
The Arkansas Public Policy Panel is a statewide organization dedicated to achieving social and economic justice by organizing citizen groups around the state, educating and supporting them to be more effective and powerful, and linking them with one another in coalitions and networks. The Panel seeks to bring balance to the public policy process in Arkansas.
1308 West Second Street | Little Rock, AR 72201 US
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