Trapped no longer
Free at last, thank God almighty …
IT WAS just a note in passing. Detailed on the inside pages of the paper. Just a small matter. A real estate transaction. A government thing. You might have missed it.
But it is our pleasure to prominently note it here again. For hundreds, if not thousands, of lives depend on it. Their futures. The futures of their progeny. And maybe the direction of the state’s capital city, if not the state itself.
There is no over-hyping this. The school district in Little Rock is planning to sell another old school. This time to a company held by the Walton Family Foundation. Careful Reader might know where this is heading.
If the commissioner of education, Johnny Key, approves the sale—and why wouldn’t he?—Little Rock’s school district would sell the old Garland School to something called the KLS Leasing LLC, a company held by the Walton Family Foundation. If the sale is completed (when it’s completed?), Garland will be the fourth campus to be sold by the district this year. And it would be the second that KLS has bought from different sources. The company also bought the old Mitchell School at Battery Street and Roosevelt Road.
Garland School is also in the area. Just a block or so off Roosevelt Road and just down the street from the fairgrounds.
So why would this company held by the Walton Family Foundation want these old schools in one of the poorest areas of the city?
The better to skim the cream of the crop of students from Little Rock for its charter schools?
Few would be surprised if the Walton Family Foundation’s plans are for charters. NB: Garland School hasn’t been used as a school for 17 years. The old Mitchell School hasn’t been used as a school for 14 years. But both could be on their way to a new use and a new life.
Little Rock’s school district—like many traditional public school districts—has historically objected to charter schools in its midst. Sometimes even making a federal case out of it—literally. The main argument against charters is that they use public money. But always coming on the heels is Standard Argument No. 2: that charters skim the best and brightest kids from the district, leaving the traditional schools to educate the poor, minority, underachieving students. So how explain this case?
If it isn’t the intention of these do-gooders at the Walton Family Foundation and KLS to skim the best from the richest neighborhoods and inflate their scores with the kids from the best elementary schools and more interested parents and the most promise, then what is their intention?
Answer: The same intention they have had all along— to provide a better educational choice for low-income minority kids who cannot escape low-performing public schools. They’re trapped. Their families can’t afford private schools, their churches may not offer parochial schools, and their parents can’t afford a home near one of the better traditional schools in the school district. So these kids are falling through the cracks in a failing school environment, and their only hope is a charter school. That is, assuming there is some outfit that will build one and operate one in their part of town.
Families in the Roosevelt Road corridor—indeed, everyone in Little Rock— should be extremely thankful that the Walton family will not only invest the money to build schools there but will also use their considerable connections to try to lure someone into Little Rock to operate them successfully.
As somebody of note once said, through the difficulties of each passing day, he had a dream. It was a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. That one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. That, through faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the genuine discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. And that one day we will all be able to sing from the old spiritual, free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, we’re free at last.
The dream gets closer all the time. And it starts with better schools.