JOHNNY KEY Sorry. Not buying your hurt feelings about criticism of your desire to be able to summarily fire teachers in 22 Little Rock schools. Brian Chilson

State Education Commission Johnny Key isn’t happy about criticism that has arisen since he rejected a teacher contract agreement in the Little Rock School District for which he serves as school board so that teachers could be summarily fired at 22 schools,


He issued the following statement:

“The union is spreading misinformation that the number of ‘failing schools’ has increased from six to 22 during the time of state control. The truth is, and it was well documented publicly and thoroughly discussed by the State Board of Education prior to their January 2015 vote to exercise authority over the district, that six schools were classified in Academic Distress, and at the same time 21 schools were designated as being in Focus or Priority status under No Child Left Behind. Many of these same schools now have D or F school ratings, affirming what I stated last week that while there has been improvement, it has not been consistent and sustainable.

“In addition, LREA is spreading misinformation about teacher contracts. Teacher contracts this school year will remain in effect with no impact to compensation or benefits. The pending deadline applies only to the recognition of LREA as the bargaining unit and to the terms of the professional negotiated agreement. Any information contrary to this cannot be further from the truth.

“Finally, the union also is sowing seeds of fear by claiming that a waiver of Teacher Fair Dismissal will eliminate due process. They know this is false as well because under Arkansas Code 6-17-208, every school district is required to have a grievance procedure that allows due process for any concern including terms or conditions of employment. This law provides multiple steps, which include an appeal to the superintendent and a hearing before a panel, for a school employee to seek redress. The Little Rock School District has this procedure clearly outlined in its district policies.”

1) Key has adopted talking points of Gary Newton, the $237,000-a-year lobbyist for the Walton Family Foundation’s school agenda. That is that there were other schools in need of assistance besides the six judged as a reason for the takeover four years ago. True, though we’ve been through multiple changes in tests and grading systems since then. There were no D and F grades then equivalent to today. And the fact is that, by his own desire to fire teachers in 22 schools, he as essentially declared them failures after four years under the watch of his Education Department. The previous School Board was removed on account of six schools being judged fatally flawed. Why not Key? Nice try, Johnny, no cigar.


2) Oh, about his insistence it would be a small thing if no new contract is approved. If he doesn’t approve a contract, the Little Rock Education Association, a force for good in the district for decades, is dead. That’s what Key wants. That’s what the Waltons want.  Teachers wouldn’t take a pay cut (he says) but they’d lose bedrock employment protection.

3) A grievance process that remains if the contract dies would NOT amount to due process equivalent to a professional evaluation process, a substantiated record by a supervisor and failure of efforts to correct problems, Nice try, Johnny, no cigar.


Still lacking from Key’s poormouthing is why out of the 200 D and F schools in the state he’s identified 22 — for which HE is responsible — as in need of the drastic step of throwing away a state personnel law.

Still lacking from Key’s whining is the direct correlation between poverty and low school grades for which Little Rock, and no others, are to be punished. Why not the 14 majority black charter schools with D and F scores? Why no action on them?

Still lacking is a justification for giving out millions in bonus money to majority-white, majority higher-income schools while blaming teachers for the difficult cases (some not speaking English) that they are delivered in unloved schools that he wants to paint as “failing” based on high-stakes standardized test scores.

This is ugly stuff and now he’s whining about it. Like Trump, he expects an authoritarian state, where the master isn’t questioned. It’s in keeping with the style of his masters, the Waltons. Happily, for now, some are still able to speak in opposition.


Please, Mr. Key, get back to us when you have something to say about your letter from Michael Mills, who has actual training in education, unlike yourself. I’d ask myself, but he doesn’t take my questions are allow me to attend invitation-only sessions with select reporters.

UPDATE: I sought a comment from Teresa Knapp Gordon, leader of the LREA, or the “union” as Key loves to call it.

I am honoring the agreement with Mr. Poore to not issue any public statements while negotiations are happening.