Posted on September 26, 2019

Plan for Little Rock Schools Stokes Fears About Segregation

Andrew Demillo, AP News, September 25, 2019

A plan to only grant Little Rock partial control of its schools is stoking fears that the district may return to a racially segregated “separate but equal” system 62 years after nine black students were escorted into an all-white high school.

The state took over Little Rock’s 23,000-student district in January 2015 because of low test scores at six of the district’s 48 schools. With the five-year deadline for ending the takeover approaching, the state Board of Education last week came up with a plan to return only limited control of some schools to a local board that would be elected next year.


When the Arkansas Board of Education took over the district, it dismissed the local school board and put the district superintendent under state control. The state’s board last week approved a “framework” for the district’s future if it doesn’t meet the requirements to leave state control. Under the plan, schools that are rated at least “D″ by the state would remain under the control of the board. Schools rated “F″ would be placed under “different leadership” in partnership with the district, though it’s unclear what that means. The plan also says another category of schools that are being reconfigured “may” be run by the local board.

All but one of the eight currently F-rated schools in the district are located south of Interstate 630, which is historically viewed as the dividing line between Little Rock’s predominantly white and predominantly black neighborhoods. {snip}

“If you do this, you’re helping to perpetuate a divide that was put there deliberately,” Democratic Sen. Joyce Elliott, referring to the interstate, told the board last week. “If you do this, you will be furthering that effort to keep us divided deliberately.”

Proponents say the plan gives parents and community leaders the local control they’ve been seeking but offers the schools the state support they need to address academic problems.


Parents and educators advocating for local control say the district is being punished for the state failing to meet its own goals. They also note that there are F-rated schools in other parts Arkansas that aren’t being put under state control.


The board will take up another plan next month to no longer recognize the district’s teacher’s union, the Little Rock Education Association, as its sole bargaining agent. The proposal was tabled after it came up moments after the board passed the framework for Little Rock schools, eliciting complaints from community leaders, teachers and the district’s superintendent.