Thursday, April 6, 2017


Justice Is a Verb!
©Wendell Griffen, 2017

On May 9, 2017, next month, voters in Little Rock, Arkansas will vote on whether to extend a bond millage for the Little Rock School District (LRSD).  That millage -- which is a tax on real property in the LRSD -- is how schools get the money to operate.  This week, Little Rock business leaders and LRSD Superintendent Michael Poore kicked off their campaign to persuade voters to vote for extending the present millage rate for fourteen more years.  They say that doing so will produce $160,000,000 which Poore claims will be used to make building and grounds repairs and replacements and "improve every school in Little Rock."  

I have always supported measures to fund public education until now, but I will vote AGAINST the millage measure on May 9.  I will vote AGAINST that measure with a clear conscience.  I will vote AGAINST it because I am not a fool.  I will vote AGAINST it because I am not a field hand or stooge for the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce, the Walton Family Foundation, and the state and local politicians who are pimping black, brown, and white children who attend LRSD schools.

I will vote AGAINST the May 9 measure because I remember that this is the first election that patrons of the Little Rock School District will have since September 2014.  In that election, voters elected a Little Rock School District Board of Directors that was majority-black, and that included white directors we trusted and respected.  But on January 28, 2015, barely four months later, the Arkansas Board of Education (ABOE) dissolved our School Board.  The reason publicly given for that decision was because the Arkansas Department of Education found that six (6) of the forty-eight (48) schools in the LRSD were in "academic distress."  

Mind you, that designation was made months before the September 2014 school board election.  But the Board of Education did not dissolve the LRSD Board of Directors then.  It only did so after voters elected a majority of School Board Directors who were progressive black and white leaders committed to holding former LRSD Superintendent Dexter Suggs accountable for working with teachers, staff members, students, and patrons to correct longstanding issues in the LRSD.  

Suggs did not like being held accountable.  He publicly complained to the Arkansas Board of Education and wrongly -- some would day falsely -- about his relationship with the newly elected Board, which had begun to assess areas of needed improvement and had developed a strategic plan for addressing those needs.  When the ABOE dissolved the democratically-elected School Board, Education Commissioner Johnny Key retained Suggs as "Interim Superintendent" of the LRSD.  But Suggs was forced to resign in late spring 2015 after news broke that his doctoral dissertation was plagiarized (meaning not his own work).  

Johnny Key then appointed Little Rock attorney and business leader Baker Kurrus as LRSD Superintendent.  Kurrus, who is not an educator, was chosen by Key -- who is also not an educator -- to manage the largest school district in Arkansas.  Kurrus then entered into a contract to purchase a vacant corporate headquarters building and campus in west Little Rock (the Leisure Arts business location) for conversion into a west Little Rock middle school.  (     

But in the spring of 2016 (yes, only last year), Key refused to extend the employment agreement for Kurrus, after Kurrus protested that the ABOE was approving applications for charter schools in the LRSD that would undercut LRSD efforts to stabilize enrollment and that would not produce education outcomes comparable to what students would get in LRSD schools (  Key then named Michael Poore as LRSD Superintendent, the position Poore has held since July 1, 2006.  

Since becoming Superintendent, Poore has continued the white supremacist tyranny toward the majority-black and brown Little Rock School District.  Last November, Poore announced plans to close or "re-purpose" a number of schools that serve majority black and brown communities in what he termed a move toward improved efficiency (    He decided to close the schools over strong protests by neighborhood parents.  Then he began urging local business and civic leaders to support extending the bond millage.  But Poore decided to postpone a millage election scheduled in March, only weeks after his highly unpopular decision to close the schools.

What Poore isn't saying, and won't admit, is that voters don't need to pass the millage in order to make improvements to LRSD buildings and grounds.  The LRSD already receives more than $25 million each year over the amount needed to meet its present debt obligation.  That money could be saved to make capital improvements.  Over the course of four years, that saving could produce $100 million dollars.  Over the course of eight years, it could produce $200 million dollars.  Over the course of twelve years, it could amount to $300 million dollars.  In the time Poore's fourteen year millage extension proposes to generate $160 million, we could have $350 million dollars saved without a millage extension. 

Poore isn't telling voters that re-financing the existing bond obligations will generate new fees for banks and investment companies that underwrite bonds.  

Poore isn't telling us that he can use the money from the millage vote to make improvements to the schools he intends to close, and then turn those schools over to charter school groups thanks to a law enacted during the just concluded session of the Arkansas legislature.  

Poore isn't telling us that the Arkansas Board of Education has no intention of returning control of the Little Rock School District to a school board elected by voters anytime in the foreseeable future.  

Poore isn't telling us any of this, and much more, because he, Key, Hutchinson, and the Arkansas Board of Education are betting they can fool voters into passing the millage by a slick advertising campaign that pimps the photos of black, white, and brown children to advance their tyranny.      

Poore, Key, and their white supremacist political and business sponsors in Little Rock and northwest Arkansas are betting that they can pimp black, brown, and white children to trick voters into supporting a millage Poore and Key will use without any voter oversight.  They think voters will agree to be taxed without having representatives who can oversee how their tax dollars will be spent. 

We should not buy the claim that this vote is to make capital improvements to all schools.  Key and Baker Kurrus didn't seek or obtain voter support for the decision to purchase the Leisure Arts corporate headquarters property and building (at a reported cost of approximately $11 million).  Kurrus and Poore didn't identify where the money would come from for that purchase.  We should not be so gullible as to believe that Poore won't use money from the proposed millage vote to pay for the Leisure Arts purchase.  

The schools that serve black and brown students south of Interstate 630 and east of Shackelford Road have the greatest capital improvement needs.  However, there is no reason we should trust Poore to address their greater needs, let alone do so ahead of favoring the white supremacist political and business cabal that pushed to remove the democratically-elected LRSD School Board.  
Key, Poore, and Hutchinson’s Board of Education don't want or respect LRSD voters.  They simply need voters to approve the May 9 millage so Poore and Key can continue their now more than two-year effort to destroy the LRSD and to use our tax dollars and LRSD property and equipment to create and support charter schools.  

I know our history.  I know that in 1958 Governor Orval Faubus convened the Arkansas legislature in a special session that passed laws allowing schools to be closed rather than allow for racial integration (Act 4 of 1958).  The legislators passed a bill that allowed students to transfer from any public school or district where court ordered integration was happening or was imminent to a school or district where integration was not occurring (Act 6 of 1958), and to pay the bill for that transfer from public funds.  

Governor Asa Hutchinson is the current version of Orval Faubus.  The Arkansas Board of Education is the current version of the 1958 legislature.  Johnny Key and Michael Poore are the current versions of the white supremacists that ran public education in Arkansas, who resisted desegregation at every turn, and who criticized civil rights lawyers (like Thurgood Marshall, Wiley Branton, and later John Walker) for filing and winning lawsuits because of race discrimination in public education in Arkansas.   

I urge you to vote AGAINST the May 9 millage proposal and the white supremacist tyranny that is its foundation.  Don't let white supremacists fool you into thinking this election is about the black, brown, and white children in the Little Rock School District.  This election is about fooling us into agreeing to turn over more tax money to people who have proved they disrespect us.    

So I will vote AGAINST the millage on May 9.  

I will vote AGAINST the millage because Michael Poore, Johnny Key, and the Arkansas Board of Education are not accountable to me and the other voters in the Little Rock School District.  

I will vote AGAINST the millage because Poore, Key, the Arkansas Board of Education, and Governor Hutchinson don't respect LRSD voters enough to return control of our district to people we elect rather than puppets of the Walton Family Foundation and private school lobby.  

I will vote AGAINST the millage because I would rather trust people we elect to oversee improvements to our schools for our children than believe people who don't respect us and who disrespect our voting decisions.  

I don't trust Poore and Co. no matter what kind of advertising campaign they produce. I especially don't trust them when they lie to us and pimp children to prop up their lies.

Vote AGAINST the millage.  Then demand that the Arkansas Board of Education return control of the Little Rock School District to the people we trusted to oversee it in September 2014, but who the white supremacist lobby forced out of office more than two years ago.

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