A coalition of public school advocates lead by the Arkansas Public Policy Panel is planning to pack the state Department of Education building Thursday morning to make their case against what is being characterized as the “re-segregating” of Little Rock schools. It comes on the heels of one charter school apologizing for not sending recruitment mail to certain ZIP codes.
The display of people-power will be the latest in a string of public activities orchestrated by Little Rock denizens intent on restoring local control to the state-run district. Voices in the district have remained active since the state took it over early last year because six of its 48 schools were deemed in academic distress based on tests no longer utilized by the state. But it is the removal of Superintendent Baker Kurrus and the fear of an even greener, green light for charter school expansions that has galvanized public protests since mid April.
In an email to supporters on Wednesday the Arkansas Public Policy Panel said the fast-tracked expansion of a poorly performing charter school and a recruitment mailer campaign by LISA Academy that chose not to target low-income and minority neighborhoods are evidence of the state’s harmful administration of the district.
“This comes just after Commissioner Key granted a waiver to a failing charter school that missed the deadline to request approval to expand and relocate in Little Rock. It is also the same week that LISA Academy sent an enrollment mailer that excluded low income neighborhoods and neighborhoods with high minority populations.
They are resegregating Little Rock with a rigged process. We must #StandUp4LR! Come and voice your concerns about the future of public education in Arkansas.”
Hearing the criticism of selective recruitment, LISA Academy sent out its own release on Wednesday. It called the lack of recruitment in high poverty, minority districts “an error” that would be corrected.
“Recently it was pointed out that there was an error in marketing conducted for the new LISA Academy campus in West Little Rock, particularly in reference to where mailers were sent.
“We apologize for this error that has been pointed out, LISA Academy is immediately releasing mailer to be sent to the 72202, 72204, and 72209 ZIP Codes…”
But the statement from the charter school also simultaneously said the decision not to send nearly 70,000 mailers to certain ZIP codes but not others was based on advice from the state education officials.
“In preparing our marketing plan for the new West Little Rock campus, LISA Academy faculty and staff identified appropriate marketing strategies for each zone, specifically based on feedback from the Arkansas State Board of Education and Arkansas Department of Education Charter Authorizing Panel.”
The school also defended the original decision not to send mailers to certain neighborhoods, saying instead digital, tv, and radio marketing covered those areas.
“…marketing to lower-income ZIP Codes would be most successful as digital rather than print media.”
LISA Academy has about half as many African-American students as the LRSD.
The state Board of Education will hear a monthly progress report Thursday morning on the LRSD with Education Commissioner Johnny Key expected to be in attendance.