Kurrus spoke truth
Just so we understand: [Arkansas Department of Education] Commissioner [Johnny] Key, who does not have a teaching certificate, replaced [Little Rock School District Superintendent] Baker [Kurrus] because he did not have a teaching certificate. If that is the reason (no teaching certificate), then why does it not apply to the commissioner as well? Oh yes; the accepting public does not hold Powerful People (PPs) to the same standards as the workers. Baker has a Harvard education in law, and the new guy has an education degree from a state school. We will pay the new guy $75,000 more than Baker, along with other expensive goodies. For that type of treatment, the new guy will make sure the right people get the best choice, and the others will get what is left. Without community support, many kids will fail in the leftovers schools. The new guy will place the blame for the failing schools everywhere except where it belongs. As always, a few students will do well in the failing schools, and their example will be expected of all. The PPs do not understand the hell of poverty. The new guy will maintain choice schools for the right people as long as he can, and will get more and more money each year for doing so. Baker's ethics requires truthfulness, so he spoke out against charter expansion. That cost him and the city big time. So the new guy will be here as long as he does what the PPs tell him to do, no matter what damage is done to Little Rock. I thought Baker was warming to the idea of school villages placed along major traffic corridors. Sadly, my dream will remain just that.
That I-30 mess
I know everyone has opinions about the Interstate 30 bridge mess. I, for one, still think the area needs a bridge from the bottom of Cantrell Hill or Chester Street across to the Pike Avenue/Pulaski Tech area.
But for me and lots of other people on the north side, an extension of Interstate 630 and/or Interstate 530 to cross the river and link up with U.S. 67/167 would be best in that it would ease the I-30 headache and redesignate the Jacksonville freeway as an interstate. But that's a financial pipedream.
The people in the Heights and Hillcrest who are fighting the bridge expansion to 10 lanes should have to work nights and have to come across the bridge at 7:30 a.m. on their way home. Better yet, let them drive from Jacksonville or Cabot for three months. We may live elsewhere, but we pay sales taxes in Little Rock and North Little Rock, too.
But the best suggestion is that the project be built as four side-by-side bridges: three or four lanes for the I-30 and I-630 southbound traffic with the exit at Sixth or Ninth streets, and a separate bridge section with a two-lane on-ramp for the [East] Broadway traffic that would exit onto Capitol Avenue or Fourth Street. The two bridges would be separate and traffic couldn't merge until across the river.
The highway department would need one of those Texas under/over ramps like they have in San Antonio on Loop 410 intersections to move traffic wanting to get on the freeway and Jacksonville traffic wanting to get off at Ninth or Sixth Street.
And it would really help if there were a way to keep part of the North Little Rock traffic from the JFK onramp separate from the I-30 southbound and I-630 bound traffic if they want off at Capitol Avenue.
Again, the main problem with the bridge is the steep, slow climb up the ramp and merging by the [East] Broadway traffic. Make that traffic separate and you solve most of the backups.
Smart to invest in pre-K
What would you do if you were given an opportunity to invest $1 in an idea that would give you a return of $8.60?
According to the U.S. Department of Education, for every $1 invested in high-quality pre-kindergarten there is a return to the taxpayer of $8.60 in the future. Taxpayers save money in the future when they invest in high quality pre-kindergarten because research shows that children who attend a high-quality pre-kindergarten program are less likely to repeat a grade while in school, are less likely to need special education services and are less likely to get arrested as adults.
Research shows that gaps in development between children of low-income families and middle-class families are apparent by as young as 18 months of age. A study by Anne Fernald, a psychologist at Stanford University, showed that children from professional families were able to identify pictures of simple words faster than children from families living in poverty. The study also followed the children's language development from 18 months to age 2. The results showed that children of professional families increased their vocabulary by 30 percent more than children living in poverty. Without some type of intervention, the gaps in development continue to increase during early childhood and children from families of low income enter kindergarten 12 to 15 months behind their peers from middle-class families in language and pre-literacy skills.
Research shows that high-quality early childhood education and pre-kindergarten can help narrow and prevent gaps in development between children living in poverty and their peers because the early years of a child's life are critical times for development and the brain is most malleable during this time. It is also during this time that it is the most cost-effective to do so.
Sadly, not all children have the same access to attend a high quality prekindergarten program. The current resources available to help low-income families access high-quality pre-kindergarten are not enough to fill the current need. According to the Department of Education, 60 percent of 4-year-olds are not enrolled in a public funded state preschool or Head Start. Also, the Child Development Block Grant is only able to help one out of every 10 eligible children attend a high quality early childhood education program.
The good news is that the Strong Start for America's Children Act of 2015, if enacted into law, can help increase access to high-quality pre-kindergarten for Arkansas children from families of low income. The legislation will expand access to high-quality pre-kindergarten by giving state matching funds to Arkansas Head Starts, Arkansas school districts, and local childcare centers that implement research based high-quality early childhood education standards.
Investing tax dollars into a program that yields a return of $8.60 for every $1 initially invested is a wise investment for all taxpayers. Please consider supporting the Strong Start for American's Children Act of 2015.
From the web
In response to last week's cover story, "The war on Little Rock schools":
The Waltons, with strong support from Hussman, Madison Murphy, et al., will not rest until they have destroyed the LRSD and others are to follow. Key and Hutchinson are merely the puppets put on stage to perform the dirty deeds and take the flack that follows. The previously named culprits do not have the intestinal fortitude to come out front.
It is all a part and parcel of the Koch brothers to eliminate GOVERNMENT BY THE PEOPLE! And take over this great country so the poor guys don't have to pay taxes.
Where is our government of the people, by the people, and for the people?
Why do we allow ourselves to be ruled so haughtily by the 1 percent?
Is Asa now a King, with his jester Key? Is the Chamber of Commerce the Chamber of Earls and Dukes? Is Walter Hussman now Count Hussman?
How did all this inherited wealth come to believe that they know better than the people whose sweat created that wealth?
WHY DID THE PEOPLE OF LITTLE ROCK ALLOW DEMOCRACY TO BE TAKEN FROM THEM?
Paying Top Dollar for Legislators
I am admittedly more than a little cynical about all of this, but ...
Think about all of the pieces mentioned above.
1. State board approves charter expansions. Lots of new seats to fill.
2. School report cards come out and show that LRSD middle schools are BETTER or just as good as the charters that were just expanded.
3. [Baker] Kurrus brought stability (read: trust) to the district and talked a lot about how the LRSD was going to have to "compete" with the charters, even opens a new middle school.
4. Oh, shit! How do we fill all of those new seats at the charter schools?
Get rid of the stability. The resulting shake-up will send enough parents, kids and maybe teachers, running for the exits. Seats filled. Problem solved. Oh, and by the way, we can let Baker off easy now so that this new guy can take the real fall for all of this in another year or two.
I was struck while listening to the video by [new LRSD Superintendent Michael] Poore that he stated he had been offered the job two weeks earlier. For two weeks, Key and Hutchinson had planned this change and yet they made no effort to inform the public or Baker Kurrus or any of the elected representatives of the Little Rock area. I am so angry with this usurpation of the people's right to have a voice in government. Public schools belong to us, not to the Department of Education or the appointed (not elected) Board of Education. Every citizen of the state should protest this unwarranted exercise in fascism by the very politicos who claim to be opposed to authoritarian big government. Well-meaning people can work together on issues but there must be trust. Where was trust in Commissioners Key's action?
Last week's issue of the Times incorrectly reported the title of the book from which Guy Lancaster read at the unveiling of the Readers Map of Arkansas. He read from "The Moaner's Bench" by Mars Hill, not "Mourner's Bench" by Sanderia Faye.
Lancaster notes that there is another book, "The Mourner's Bench," by Susan Dodd. He did not read from that book, either.