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Little Rock Teachers Set One-Day Strike Over State Control

Some 1,800 teachers in the Little Rock School District are expected to walk out of their classrooms today for a one-day strike. (fotomek/Adobe Stock)
Some 1,800 teachers in the Little Rock School District are expected to walk out of their classrooms today for a one-day strike. (fotomek/Adobe Stock)
November 14, 2019

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Teachers in the Little Rock School District are planning a one-day strike Thursday after the state Board of Education effectively moved to decertify the teachers' union.

The 23,000 student district – the state's largest – has been under state control since 2015, when eight of the district's 48 campuses received a grade of F from state regulators.

At that point, the state board voted to remove Little Rock's elected school board and take over operation of the district.

Teresa Knapp Gordon, president of the Little Rock Education Association, told a news conference that the teachers’ union called a strike to force the state to return the district to local control.

"As educators, we would rather be in a classroom with our students, not on a picket line,” she stated. “However, this community and the passionate dedicated educators of this district will do what is necessary to protect the futures of our students."

Gordon said she expects all 1,800 teachers and support staff to be on the picket line Thursday.

School officials say a combination of administrators and substitute teachers will be used to keep the classrooms open.

The strike is planned for the same time the state Board of Education will be meeting at the State Capitol. The board's agenda includes a discussion of future governance of the district.

Gordon said teachers want a say in that process.

"We would like to see at a state board meeting is a motion to return full local control to the Little Rock School District with a board that has full decision-making capability," she stated.

While Gordon said the teachers are only planning a one-day strike, she did not rule out the possibility of a longer work stoppage.

"We must ensure that as a community our vision of a quality public education moves forward and is beneficial for all students," she stated.

The state has called a November 2020 election of a nine-member Little Rock School Board, but would give the panel only limited authority.

The district's state-appointed superintendent refused to say whether striking teachers could face discipline or termination.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AR