Inside the shadowy world of the Arkansas school-“choice” movement – Part 4 – Cutting off the head of the snake

UPDATE: My report on APSRC’s relationship with the SAU Foundation will be posted tomorrow. I’m still piecing all of my documents together.

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.

Here’s a handy little instructional guide for cutting the head off the snake. Below are the bullet points.

  • Publicly shame the Southern Arkansas University Foundation for its willingness to accept and funnel Walton money into the Arkansas Public School Resource Center. Click here to read my first post that mentioned SAU.)  I’m told that the reason that the University of Central Arkansas – which had a similar arrangement from 2008-2012 – pulled out of its MOU with the Walton Family Foundation when APSRC got involved in activities that made the university uncomfortable. This also would put pressure on other state universities that might be approached by APSRC if SAU ended this odd and dysfunctional relationship. (More on this tomorrow.) 
  • Organize a protest in Hot Springs on the day of APSRC’s annual fall conference. This year, the event will be held on October 23, 2019, at the Hot Springs Convention Center. Governor Asa Hutchinson and ADE Commissioner Johnny Key are scheduled to be there. In years past, they’ve spoken during the opening session. They and other attendees will enter the Plaza Lobby and then proceed to Horner Hall. In the afternoon, there’s always a legislative panel. It’s usually composed of GOP men and a token woman. (Senator Jane English) I suggested that we invited Senator Joyce Elliott each year that I organized the conference. My request was denied every time. Smith wouldn’t even entertain the prospect of inviting Senator Linda Chesterfield. He’s scared of Elliott. He’s terrified of Chesterfield.) In my opinion, anyway. I’ll post more on the specifics of the conference Saturday evening. 
  • Protect your buildings. During the 91st General Assembly, a bill that eventually became Act 542 stipulates that open-enrollment charter schools may buy or lease buildings belonging to traditional public schools if such buildings are deemed to be unused or underutilized. Click here to read the rule promulgated by the Arkansas Department of Education. Click here to see what the Arkansas Commission for Public School Facilities and Transportation has since posted on its website. And… guess who is in bed with APSRC? I’ll offer more info and some tips on Sunday evening. 
  • Approach the many traditional public school districts that agree to be APSRC members each year out of fear. Offer support. APSRC needs those districts more than they need APSRC. I can say this after having gone through three years of membership recruiting. Remind districts that even if they live and operate in rural areas, they are not immune to the Walton endeavor to do away with public education altogether. More on this Monday evening.

Tomorrow: I will explain SAU’s relationship with APSRC. (I’ll also link to pertinent documents.) 




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