On School Takeover: “There is a track record and it’s lousy”

Lily GarciaLast week the Little Rock School District was taken over by the Arkansas State Board of Education. This morning I caught a clip of the National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García speaking with a television reporter.

I decided that for today’s post I’d transcribe the audio from the video (ok, actually www.rev.com would transcribe the audio for four dollars) as an attempt to further the record on this important issue. Honestly, I may still be too emotional and upset to write clearly about what happened in Little Rock last week. Tears streamed down my face when I told people from across the country about it over the weekend at a meeting in Memphis. For me, this is what I could do today to help add to the conversation today.

Here’s the video:


Here’s the transcript:

Interviewer: Last week the Arkansas Board of Education voted to take control of Little Rock schools. This less than 6 months after a federal judge granted more independence to the district and ended a quarter century of payments to boost immigration. Our next guest making a visit to our state and with that turmoil as the backdrop, she has lots to take in. She is Lily Eskelsen García, the president of the National Education Association. Lily, good morning to you. Thanks so much for being here.

Lily Garcia:  Good morning.

Interviewer: First off, let’s talk about your visit to Little Rock. We know a lot going on here, but this was planned way before this decision.

Lily Garcia:  A long time ago I was invited here by our National Education Association members here in Little Rock. They’re so proud of many of the innovative schools that are going on. I’m going to a STEM Academy today. We’re going to be looking at what happens when you have a lot of resources in your schools and even what can happen when you don’t and so this kind of fell out of the sky on this visit and I wanted to come and show my support for this school district.

Interviewer:  Let’s talk about the NEA’s official stance on the decision taken by the state to assume control of the district. How do you guys feel about that?

Lily Garcia: You know, there is a national perspective on school takeovers. They don’t happen often, but there’s a track record and it’s lousy. It’s a horrible track record. It usually ends up with people mixing things up, coming in with some expert and they never ever solve the real problems in that district. The district has problems. It does, but you have another organization here in Little Rock called Heifer and I got to visit some of the Heifer projects. One of the things Heifer says is you have to have the community make the plan. It has to belong to them. You can never bring in an expert with a magic wand that says, “We’ll make all this go away for you.” I think we should listen to that.

Interviewer:  There’s been some criticism leveled at the Little Rock Education Association for failing to work with the district to help prevent this takeover, once making clear the state might take action. How do you respond to that?

Lily Garcia:  I think that you have the educators, the parents, the students, the school board all saying, “We have to come together to solve this problem,” and now that is going to be harder to do when you don’t have a school board, but it can still be done. I think you’re still going to have parents and students and educators say “We love the kids in this building. Regardless of what happens, we’re going to come together and we’re going to find out a way to solve our problems.”

Interviewer:  You’re actually in town to speak tonight at the Clinton School of Public Service. What’s the focus of your speech tonight and will you touch on this?

Lily Garcia:  I will because I’m talking about what works. I’m talking about after 12 long years of No Child Left Untested, Congress is now talking about reauthorizing this law that has turned so many schools into testing factories and what we really need to do to humanize and personalize our schools. I think it will be a message to the Little Rock community, too, because what is working, what we’ve seen working globally, it’s exactly what we need here. You bring communities together, you give them the authority to plan, you give them the resources they need and you can be top.

Interviewer:  Lily Eskelsen García, thank you so much for being here. Your insight is very interesting. Again, you’ll be speaking tonight at the Clinton School of Public Service. Enjoy your time in Little Rock and enjoy visiting the schools that you’ll get to tour today. Coming up next, a quick check of your news headlines before you head out the door. Stay with us.