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In a closely divided vote, the Arkansas State Board of Education voted to take over the Little Rock School District. The same superintendent will remain in place, but he will report to the state commissioner. The elected school board will be dissolved and replaced by a citizen advisory board. The cause of the takeover was the low test scores of six schools.
Patrons of the district, including state Rep. John Walker, D-Little Rock, Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, students, teachers, and parents, addressed the board, with most urging the board to wait.
Many students told the board the schools they attended were places they considered safe havens in spite of the problems they may have, and insisting that test scores alone are a poor measure to evaluate the schools or the district.
I have yet to see an example of a state takeover that led to improved education. No one at the State Education Department–in any state–knows how to turn water into wine or make other miracles. When schools are struggling, they need help. They need smaller classes, they need librarians, social workers, nurses, and psychologists; they need additional support for the children and families. That doesn’t change whether the district or the state is in charge. New York state had a takeover many years ago of the Roosevelt School District in Long Island. By all accounts, state control cost more and produced nothing.