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Little Rock teachers union to hold 1-day strike to 'stand up' for public schools, students

The teachers' union and #OneLRSD will hold a one day strike Thursday to "stand up for the public schools our students deserve."

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Little Rock Education Association (LREA) announced Monday that the a one day strike will take place on Thursday, November 14.

LREA President Teresa Knapp Gordon announced the strike, saying the association is working with #OneLRSD, a community-based group, to hold the strike and to "prevent Governor Hutchinson and his appointed state board from segregating the city's public schools."

"The coalition also wants one locally elected city school board with full decision-making authority," the LREA said in a press release. "It is the best way to ensure that all students receive a public education that serves their interests and needs."

The state Board of Education voted last month to no longer recognize the union once the state's contract expired on Oct. 31.

The district has said it would keep schools open during a strike.

Union leaders want the state to restore full local control of the district and their bargaining power. Arkansas has run Little Rock's schools since 2015.

The LREA president said that Hutchinson and his "appointed state board of education are determined to segregate our public schools."

"When they first tried it last month, this community joined with us, and, together, we blocked their plans," Gordon said. "We must come together again to stand up for our students and our public schools."

In response the announcement, Hutchinson said he was "disappointed that the union has chosen to lead a strike that encourages teachers to walk out on their students."

"Superintendent Mike Poore has made it clear we are going to continue classes and continue education and that we will not let a strike stop the education of our students," Hutchinson said. "We all desire local control and next year's school board election is a major step approved by the State Board of Education."

Diane Zook, chair of the state board of education said, "It's unfortunate for the children academically, and the children who are depending on the meals, and the love and the care from their teachers. 

"We are supposed to follow the laws as passed by the legislature in this state. The return of immediate local control is just not an option and I can't imagine the board would be willing to consider that. We have been hearing from the everyone in local forums, looking to share ideas about reconstitution that will work for the students. But in reality instead of hearing suggestions they have been making demands that are outside the realm of possibility." 

Zook also said she's been an educator her "entire life" and is a certified substitute and would be "willing to help out [in the classroom] if I'm asked."

Education Secretary Johnny Key said in a statement that the strike, "even for just one day, sends the wrong message to Little Rock School District students, the community, and the state of Arkansas."

The state board has voted to put the district under a local board to be elected in 2020 with limited authority.

THV11 contributed to this report.

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