Little Rock’s city leadership, starting with the mayor, has to be fully engaged and committed to providing a world-class education to all of our youth. The challenges faced by the Little Rock School District and the often-inadequate education provided to our children has been well-chronicled. While this is a complicated and emotional issue, I want to be clear about my position: I am a passionate advocate for public schools. As mayor, I will channel that passion and use all the tools available to me to advance the cause of delivering a high-quality education to all.
It starts with having a comprehensive plan and vision to provide a world-class education to every young person, no matter where in the city they live. In the past, the approach has consisted of temporary, ad hoc solutions like building a new school in one neighborhood. Though a benefit to a handful of well-deserving students, this scattershot approach creates understandable resentment in neighborhoods that are coping with facilities that are literally disintegrating.
As mayor, I would commit to fully engage the public to formulate an approach to public education that supports teachers and elevates all students. You don’t have to look far to find an effective model for how this can be achieved. North Little Rock convened public meetings and put the best ideas up for a vote. The result: Improved citywide consensus around education, the construction of new schools, and a model and commitment to serving its students better.
Public input is important, but so too is fundamental representative democracy. The most audacious, forward-thinking, and publicly-supported plan to improve public education will be of little use without an elected and empowered school board. I will strive to reinstate local control of our schools, and then work closely with those elected officials to innovate and greatly improve the quality of education citywide. We cannot keep saying it’s too difficult or controversial. For the good of our economy, our communities, our quality of life and our public safety, we simply must do better on education.