Frank Scott, Jr.: "Our children hold the future of Little Rock

A few weeks ago, I had the honor of greeting students and teachers on the first day of class at McClellan Magnet High School. I thanked the teachers for their service, and shared words of encouragement with students and parents. I still remember each of their faces and continue to keep them in my prayers, because in each of those faces, I saw my own.
I don’t have to tell anyone in Little Rock that our schools are at a crossroads. Our schools are still under state control. Far too many parents have decided to either raise their families outside of Little Rock, send their children to charter schools, or pursue other costly private options because they have lost faith in Little Rock School District (LRSD).

I am a proud product of LRSD, and I have absolute faith in Superintendent Poore’s ability to lead our schools. But he needs our help. 
For that reason, the “Opportunity Agenda” – first policy agenda item introduced by our campaign – set forth a clear vision for how I will support our LRSD. The mayor does not have direct control over LRSD, but there is a clear role the next mayor has to play in advocating for our children and families.
First, I will leverage the Office of the Mayor to help regain local control of our public schools. I will do so by forming partnerships through the Department of Community Programs to support after-school and summer programs. This will include working with Superintendent Poore on targeted programs for students and parents zoned for Cloverdale Middle School, Henderson Middle School, and Hall High School – the three schools that remain on the “academic distress” list.
We know if our children can’t read by the 3rd Grade, they are more likely to be lost to the streets. So I will also establish the Mayor’s Summer Reading Academy through a partnership with LRSD, Central Arkansas Library System (CALS), and the Arkansas Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. Cities like Atlanta and Dallas have introduced similar reading programs affiliated with their respective mayors to offset summer learning loss and help get students reading at grade-level. My proposed academy will serve K-12, and will cost roughly $11 million that is already within the Little Rock’s existing budget.
In addition, I will support the increase in Pre-K programs.  It is well documented that Pre-K programs have positive long-term effects on early learners. However, the number of children that could benefit from such free programs consistently outpaces the number of available slots. We need a mayor who will lobby our state and federal delegation for grant dollars to expand the number of Pre-K slots in LRSD.
We will be intentional about decreasing truancy. This has become a serious problem in Little Rock, as truancy is a clear predictor of juvenile criminal activity. To remedy this, I will partner with LRSD and community partners to develop The Truancy Project. This comprehensive program, with automated text messages and robocalls, will notify parents of their child’s absence. We will also work with LRSD to assign attendance “coaches” who can visit families and students with chronic truancy problems in their homes and encourage them to attend class.
Lastly, we can all agree on the importance of summer employment for Little Rock youth. As a part of my transition, I will partner with LRSD leadership to conduct a full review of Little Rock’s Summer Youth Employment Program to ensure that our students are acquiring meaningful skills during the summer.
These are just a few of the items in our Opportunity Agenda for Little Rock. But the common theme in this agenda is clear – moving Little Rock forward will take an all-hands-on-deck effort. The challenges our schools face should not be left solely to the Superintendent to fix while everyone else hopes for the best – we all have a role to play. We must tackle issues with cooperation and collaboration with LRSD, aggressively pursuing state, federal, and private resources to leverage on behalf of our children.
Little Rock needs a “cradle-to-career” Mayor, and I intend to be just that. As a native of this great city, I owe who I am to the City of Little Rock and to the LRSD.  And I hope you will join us by working together to put our kids first.