The Little Rock School District (LRSD) has a venerable history of depending on lawsuits to test, implement, and enforce education-related laws. Without the 1954 US Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, the Little Rock Nine would not have had federal troops to guard them as they entered Central High School in 1954. Without Delores Clark v. The Board of Education of LRSD, the Federal Housing Act of 1949 and subsequent "redlining" might have guaranteed a resegregation of LRSD before integration ever really began. Without the desegregation cases from 1982-2014, LRSD facilities and funding might have gone unscrutinized, maintaining a harmful inequality from one school to another.
Now is the time to use the power of the court system to write the next page in history.
Just because we have laws to protect children, teachers, whistleblowers, and stakeholders in the public education system of Arkansas doesn't mean those laws are being enforced. Because of proliferating waivers of education-related laws (currently 9,997 waivers in effect) our statutes & standards have become like Swiss cheese: full of holes, and somewhat stinky. For the laws that remain, Arkansas Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) depends on self-reported data from districts to hold schools accountable. It's a weak system of accountability at best.
In LRSD's case (because of the 2015 state takeover) the DESE holds direct, operational control of the district. Education Commissioner Johnny Key could be doing direct good for the district, using his authority to inspect every classroom and every bank account for irregularities, and making daily decisions to bring LRSD into compliance with the law. However, Key has a conflict of interest that prevents him from doing this due diligence.
Johnny Key is a politician, not an educator. Governor Asa Hutchinson appointed Key to further Hutchinson's political agenda, which is largely dictated by the Walton family. "Success," to Johnny Key, means meeting the expectations of his political and financial backers -- not the expectations of Arkansas citizens and stakeholders of the LRSD.
The Walton family expect Asa Hutchinson and Johnny Key to clear the way for charter school proliferation and increased use of private school vouchers. The surest, quickest way to guarantee explosive charter school growth and a dependence on private-school vouchers in Arkansas' capital city is to force the Little Rock School District to "fail." Johnny Key -- by turning a blind eye to real problems in LRSD -- is deliberately allowing the gears of LRSD's operating mechanism to grind against each other, putting intolerable strain on the entire system.
Thus, in the absence of good-faith governance, it falls to the children, teachers, stakeholders, and lawyers of Little Rock to defend our laws and standards in court. Please support the plaintiffs who have suffered enough already. Donate to the Education Defense League today!