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SB587 Aligning School Board Elections with General Receives DO PASS from Committee, Returns to Senate with Amendment

Posted By Arkansas Learns, Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Updated: Friday, March 29, 2013

SB587, sponsored by Senator Eddie Joe Williams, aligning school elections with the general, needed 11 votes to receive a DO PASS from the House Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs. On Wednesday (3.27), it received exactly the votes it needed and was returned to the Senate with amendment.

The irony, more committee members voted (20) than did all the voters in Clay County in the last school election (13). When the measure comes before the full House, more will vote on the bill than voted in the last school elections of at least at least eight counties (Clay, Conway - 96, Madison - 22, Marion - 54, Ouachita - 58, Pike - 53, Randolph - 49, Sevier - 29).

With school election data not available through the Secretary of State's Office, we requested the most recent registered, general election and school election voter numbers from each of Arkansas's 75 counties. To date, 21 have responded, with ten coming in with school election turnout less than 1% of registered voters. By contrast, the state general turnout was 66%.

Unfortunately, the roll call vote broke along party lines, with 11 Republicans voting Yea and 2 Republicans joining all 7 Democrats in voting Nay or Not Voting.

Dan Farley, Executive Director of the Arkansas School Boards Association, and Mike Mertens of the Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators spoke against the bill.

Arkansas Learns strongly supports this bill. Members are encouraged to take action (tracking, voting, commenting, writing legislators), by clicking here and registering for Arkansas Learns' legislative action site, powered by Votility. For convenience, register using your same login and password as ArkansasLearns.org.

Parental and community involvement in public schools begins with the election of those who govern them. It's not the school board members', administrators', or teachers unions' schools, though they have long dominated these low turnout, insider elections. Public schools belong to the people - parents, property taxpayers, citizens.

It is inexplicable that those who fight Voter ID bills on the basis of voter suppression would continue to support a system which generates voter turnout 10,000% lower than the general election. Nothing suppresses votes more than holding an election NOT on Election Day.

Make no mistake, the administrators and incumbent school board members are already putting great pressure on Members of the House to vote Nay, arguing that only their "informed voters" should decide school elections. That discriminatory argument is exactly what gave rise to the poll tax and voter literacy tests. It took the Voting Rights Act to finally end the supremacists' hold on elections and open them to all voters.

Many county clerks are also vigorously opposing, saying it would be too hard on them. Even if that were true, which it isn't, when did we start making our decisions concerning our democracy based on the ease of our county clerks? They were elected to conduct elections, not stifle them.

If you, like we, believe our state's motto - Regnat Populus (The People Rule), encourage the Members of the House to vote Yea on SB587, and hold our local school board members just as accountable as every other elected official in Arkansas.

Members, House of Representatives

randy.alexander@arkansashouse.org
denny.altes@arkansashouse.org
ffa191@sbcglobal.net
earmstrong4rep@gmail.com
john.baine@arkansashouse.org
duncan.baird@arkansashouse.org
bob@bobballinger.com
scottbaltz@yahoo.com
jonathan.barnett@arkansashouse.org
nate@natebell4arkansas.com
mkbiv@cablelynx.com
kenbragg@windstream.net
davidbranscum@hotmail.com
mary@marybroadawayarkansas.com
burrisforstaterep@gmail.com
les.carnine@arkansashouse.org
davy.carter@gmail.com
john.catlett@arkansashouse.org
avclemmer@sbcglobal.net
clcollins6@cox.net
harolduiagency@yahoo.com
bruce.cozart@arkansashouse.org
redale70@yahoo.com
andy.davis@arkansashouse.org
gary.deffenbaugh@arkansashouse.org
jody.dickinson@arkansashouse.org
jim.dotson@arkansashouse.org
douglasforarkansas@yahoo.com
dan-douglas@sbcglobal.net
jcedwardslaw@aol.com
jon.eubanks@arkansashouse.org
jfarrer@suddenlink.net
deborah.ferguson@arkansashouse.org
david.fielding@arkansashouse.org
charlenefiteforstaterep@yahoo.com
jeremy@growing45.com
bill@billgossage.com
hudson.hallum@arkansashouse.org
kimdhammer@yahoo.com
justin.harris@arkansashouse.org
fondahawthorne@yahoo.com
prissy.hickerson@arkansashouse.org
dhillman@futura.net
debra.hobbs@arkansashouse.org
monte.hodges@arkansashouse.org
mike.holcomb@arkansashouse.org
karen.hopper@arkansashouse.org
housedouglas@gmail.com
john.hutchison@arkansashouse.org
l_jean@sbcglobal.net
joe.jett@arkansashouse.org
patti.julian@arkansashouse.org
allen.kerr@arkansashouse.org
david.kizzia@arkansashouse.org
sheilla.lampkin@arkansashouse.org
andrea.lea@arkansashouse.org
greg@gregleding.com
homer.lenderman@arkansashouse.org
kelley@kelleylinck.com
fjlove@att.net
markdlowery@mac.com
stephen.magie@arkansashouse.org
stephanie.malone@arkansashouse.org
andymayberry@windstream.net
ewmccrary@sbcglobal.net
mdmcelroy1@yahoo.com
georgemcgill@sbcglobal.net
vote.james.mclean@gmail.com
david.meeks@arkansashouse.org
stephen.meeks@arkansashouse.org
josh.miller@arkansashouse.org
rkm_72360@yahoo.com
micah.neal@arkansashouse.org
jim.nickels@arkansashouse.org
betty.overbey@arkansashouse.org
paytonforthepeople@yahoo.com
mperry@windstream.net
jamesratliff3468@yahoo.com
terry.rice@arkansashouse.org
chris.richey@arkansashouse.org
wsabin@wsabin.org
grandmotherscott@yahoo.com
matthew.shepherd@arkansashouse.org
mary.slinkard@arkansashouse.org
fred.smith@arkansashouse.org
nate.steel@arkansashouse.org
brent.talley@arkansashouse.org
tt4rep@att.net
jtvines13@sbcglobal.net
wes.wagner@arkansashouse.org
johnwalkeratty@aol.com
jeff@jeffwardlaw.com
bwforarkansas@hughes.net
david.whitaker@arkansashouse.org
butch.wilkins@arkansashouse.org
hank.wilkins@arkansashouse.org
dwilliams@carneywilliams.com
richard@richardwomack.com
jword@aaasea.org
wrenappraisals@centurytel.net
marshall.wright@arkansashouse.org
 
Please thank those Committee Members who voted Yea, and encourage those who voted Nay or chose not to vote to reconsider when the bill comes to the floor. And in all communications with legislators, especially those with whom you/we disagree, please be courteous and respectful in hopes of winning their support for other important issues. You may not live in their respective districts, but neither do those who worked/work to get them to vote in the self-interests of adults over the best interests of students.
 

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Urgent Call to Action: Fight School Administrators', Board Members' Lobbying to Keep School Election Turnout 10,000% Below General

Posted By Arkansas Learns, Monday, March 25, 2013
Updated: Monday, March 25, 2013

The Arkansas School Boards Association and Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators are out in force against SB587, which would align school board elections with the general.

"While voting in November might increase the voter turnout, that's not the same thing as informed voters." - Ron Harder, Arkansas School Boards Association

By reason, those who elected the very representatives who will decide this issue, are not, according to Mr. Harder and his incumbent school board members, "informed." That goes for 66% of the Arkansas electorate which elected every other elected official in the state except school board members.

By contrast, the turnout for the last school elections? .66% 100 times less turnout than the general.

The irony? I've noticed that a couple of superintendents have retweeted Mr. Harder's quote from Arkansas Learns as if it were a good thing. That's how detached they are from the people they are hired and elected to serve.

Imagine if a measure were before the legislature which would move school elections from the general election to a date in early September and immediately reduce voter turnout by 10,000%. Who would/could support that?

Well, that's that's what we've got. And the superintendents and incumbent school board members are working overtime to make sure the people stay as far away as possible from the governance of their public schools.

Every reasonable person acknowledges that the key to success in our public schools is parental and community involvement. We believe that involvement begins with the election of those who govern our schools.

And yet, the administrators and incumbent school board members are self-interested protectionists of a system which empowers their members and employees (i.e. "informed voters") to dominate low turnout elections.

"...if you believe that losing control of your local school is a bad thing, you need to contact your legislator and have your teachers, board members, and other employees (his emphasis) contact their legislator." - Dr. Richard Abernathy, Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators

While this quote wasn't directed to SB587, it clearly illustrates who the administrators believe should control the schools. Hint: It's not parents, citizens or taxpayers.

SB587, sponsored by Senator Eddie Joe Williams, aligning school elections with the general, passed the Senate last week with bipartisan support (26 Yea, 8 Nay, 1 Not Voting). On Wednesday, March 27th, at 9:00 am in Room 151, the measure will come before the House Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs.

Please immediately contact the committee members (email addresses below) and courteously, respectfully and passionately urge them to vote DO PASS and allow the entire House the opportunity to enfranchise all voters in the governance of their public schools.

If you, like we, believe our state's motto - Regnat Populus (The People Rule), then our local school board members should be just as accountable as every other elected official in Arkansas.

Members House Committee on State Agencies & Governmental Affairs

denny.altes@arkansashouse.org

duncan.baird@arkansashouse.org

nate.bell@arkansashouse.org

john.catlett@arkansashouse.org

avclemmer@sbcglobal.net

jim.dotson@arkansashouse.org

prissy.hickerson@arkansashouse.org

debra.hobbs@arkansashouse.org

karen.hopper@arkansashouse.org

john.hutchison@arkansashouse.org

allen.kerr@arkansashouse.org

andrea.lea@arkansashouse.org

josh.miller@arkansashouse.org

jim.nickels@arkansashouse.org

betty.overby@arkansashouse.org

chris.richey@arkansashouse.org

wes.wagner@arkansashouse.org

johnwalkeratty@aol.com

bwforarkansas@hughes.net

butch.wilkins@arkansashouse.org

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'The Iron Triangle' of Arkansas Education

Posted By Arkansas Learns, Thursday, March 21, 2013
Updated: Thursday, March 21, 2013

"From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent." - Winston Churchill, March 5, 1946, Westminster College, Fulton, Missouri

"Is there anyone to speak against the bill? The Iron Triangle." - Senator/Chairman Johnny Key, March 13, 2013, Senate Committee on Education, Little Rock, Arkansas

When Senator Key asked the question, representatives of three organizations rose or raised their hands: Arkansas Association of Education Administrators (AAEA), Arkansas School Boards Association (ASBA), and Arkansas Education Association/National Education Association (AEA/NEA). That's what prompted his twinkle-in-the-eye description of the three organizations which seem to have the most to say on any proposed legislation regarding education.

The ASBA and AAEA are supported primarily by publicly funded dues from Arkansas's public school districts. The AEA is funded from the payroll deducted dues of its members, collected by school districts, and handed over to the union.

Arkansas Learns is privately funded by the investment of its members (contribute/invest here).

While the leaders of ASBA, AAEA and AEA/NEA frequently testify before the Senate and House Committees on Education, rarely do committee members hear from parents, employers and citizens regarding local and state governance of our public schools. That's why Arkansas Learns was organized in August, to give individual and collective voice to those truly championing the best interests of students.

As of this writing, ASBA is watching and/or taking positions on 56 bills. AEA/NEA is watching and/or taking positions on 167 bills. And AAEA is watching and/or taking positions on 291 bills.

By contrast, Arkansas Learns is watching and/or taking positions on 17 bills. Of those supported, nearly all are opposed by ASBA, AEA/NEA and/or AAEA.

Understand, no matter how they may position themselves as champions of education, the ASBA's first priority is its member public school boards, the AAEA's - its member public administrators, and the AEA/NEA's - not all teachers, but its public union teachers. In fact, the vast majority of teachers in Arkansas, public and private, are not members of the AEA/NEA.

While the AAEA is homegrown, the ASBA and AEA are affiliates of national organizations. The parent of the latter ranked 10th in the nation last year out of 20,968 organizations contributing to candidates for elective office ($18,534,543).

Frequently testifying before the committees are the public employee representatives of the Arkansas Department of Education, including the director, a gubernatorial appointee. The State Board of Education is also appointed by the Governor.

There are also a handful of public employee superintendents who regularly attend meetings and testify on occasion.

And then there are the lawyers, those suing the state of Arkansas, including the public fund-paid Little Rock School District attorney, and those from the publicly funded Attorney General's office defending, all with oppositional opinions regarding the legal exposure of the state regarding any action or inaction.

As a freshman advocate, the sausage making process that is public governance has opened my eyes to two realities: 1) the vast majority of those who testify in committee on proposed education legislation are directly, or indirectly, paid by public funds; and 2) if Arkansas Learns is for it, The Iron Triangle is generally agin it. 

Article 14, § 1 of the Arkansas Constitution reads:

"Intelligence and virtue being the safeguards of liberty and the bulwark of a free and good government, the state shall ever maintain a general, suitable and efficient system of free public schools and shall adopt all suitable means to secure to the people the advantages and opportunities of education."

Where the Iron Triangle seems myopically focused on protecting their definition of "free public schools" (i.e. not charters, not scholarships, not choice), Arkansas Learns keeps its eyes on the results - "intelligence and virtue," "safeguards of liberty, and the bulwark of a free and good government," "general, suitable and efficient system" and "all suitable means to secure to the people the advantages and opportunities of education." 

So since we began two related quotes, let's conclude with a couple.

"In the councils of government,we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist." - President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Farewell Address to Nation, January 17, 1961, Washington, DC

To borrow from President Eisenhower, who had a major role in Arkansas's education history:

"In the councils of Arkanas government,we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the $5.3 billion, 46% of all general revenue, education-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist." - Arkansas Learns, March 21, 2013, Little Rock, Arkansas

If not, the futures of many of our students will vanish, like so many ships and planes in another infamous triangle.

Tags:  AAEA  Advocacy  AEA/NEA  ASBA  Education  Iron Triangle  Legislation 

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Urgent Call to Action: SB587 Aligning School Elections with General to be Reconsidered by Senate on Monday

Posted By Arkansas Learns, Friday, March 15, 2013
Updated: Sunday, March 17, 2013

SB587, sponsored by Senator Eddie Joe Williams, aligning the school election with the general, failed by one vote in the Senate for lack of majority, 17 Yea, 13 Nay, 5 Not Voting. The vote was expunged, which enabled it to be reconsidered at a later time. We have been informed by the sponsor that it will again come before the Senate on Monday, March 18th.

Parental and community involvement in public schools begins with the election of those who govern them. It's not the school board members', administrators', or teachers unions' schools, though they have long dominated these low turnout, insider elections. Public schools belong to the people - parents, property taxpayers, citizens.

It is inexplicable that those who fight Voter ID bills on the basis of voter suppression would continue to support a system which generates 100 times less voter turnout than the general election. Nothing suppresses votes more than holding an election NOT on Election Day.

If you believe our state's motto - Regnat Populus (The People Rule) - thank/bolster those who voted Yea and ask them to do it again, strongly encourage those who voted Nay to reconsider, and ask those Not Voting to vote FOR democratizing our school elections.

We are incredulous that the vote essentially broke along party lines. While we encourage everyone to write all senators, if you are a Democrat/Progressive, please contact our Democratic senators and strongly urge them to be a true progressive on this issue. The future of our students, communities and state depends on the democratic governance of our public schools.

Make no mistake, the administrators, school boards association, and teachers' unions are putting great pressure on the senators to vote Nay, arguing that only their "informed voters" should decide school elections. That discriminatory argument is exactly what gave rise to the poll tax and voter literacy tests. It took the Voting Rights Act to finally end the supremacists' hold on elections and open them to all voters.

The county clerks are also vigorously opposing, saying it would be too hard on them. Even if that were true, which it isn't, when did we start making our decisions concerning our democracy based on the ease of our county clerks. They were elected to conduct elections, not stifle them.

We fervently believe that this single change could have the greatest positive impact on the performance of our public schools and students. Please let our senators know how you feel, and strongly encourage them to hold our local school board members just as accountable as every other elected official in Arkansas.

Yeas

cecile.bledsoe@senate.ar.gov

ronald.caldwell@senate.ar.gov

dismang49@hotmail.com

jane.english@senate.ar.gov

jake.files@senate.ar.gov

bart.hester@senate.ar.gov

jimmy.hickey@senate.ar.gov

bruce.holland@senate.ar.gov

missy.irvin@senate.ar.gov

johnny.key@senate.ar.gov

bryan.king@senate.ar.gov

michael.lamoureux@senate.ar.gov

jason.rapert@senate.ar.gov

david.sanders@senate.ar.gov

gary.stubblefield@senate.ar.gov

eddiejoe.williams@senate.ar.gov

jon.woods@senate.ar.gov

Nays

paul.bookout@senate.ar.gov

david.burnett@senate.ar.gov

eddie.cheatham@senate.ar.gov

joyce.elliott@senate.ar.gov

stephanie.flowers@senate.ar.gov

jim.hendren@senate.ar.gov (Told he will vote Yea)

keith.ingram@senate.ar.gov

david.johnson@senate.ar.gov (Told he will vote Yea)

uvalde.lindsey@senate.ar.gov

bruce.maloch@senate.ar.gov

bobby.pierce@senate.ar.gov

robert.thompson@senate.ar.gov

david.wyatt@senate.ar.gov

Not Voting

lchesterfield@comcast.net

alan.clark@senate.ar.gov (Told he will vote Yea)

jeremy.hutchinson@senate.ar.gov (Told he will vote Yea)

bill.sample@senate.ar.gov

larry.teague@senate.ar.gov

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Surprise! Arkansas School Boards Association Opposes Democratizing School Elections

Posted By Arkansas Learns, Thursday, March 7, 2013
Updated: Friday, March 8, 2013

Nothing suppresses votes more than holding school elections NOT on election day. For that reason, Arkansas Learns strongly supports SB587, aligning school elections with the general election.

So, it's no surprise that the usual suspects are lining up to oppose democratizing school elections, long isolated in September and dominated by insiders - incumbent school board members (Arkansas School Boards Association), central administrators (Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators), and teachers' unions (Arkansas Education Association/National Education Association).

In an email to his members, Ron Harder, advocacy director for the Arkansas School Boards Association, writes:

"Senate Bill 587 is another attempt to move the school board election to the November General Election with the winning candidates taking office the first week of January. There are several problems with moving the date of school board elections.

 Yeah, like what?

"Currently, voters in school elections participate because they know the candidates and are generally well informed of the candidates' positions. While voting in November might increase the voter turnout, that's not the same thing as informed voters."

Hmmm. How about a poll tax while you're at it?! Literacy test anyone? Those aggressively opposing Voter ID proposals on the basis of voter suppression should direct their ire to this unconscionable characterization of the electorate in defense of the current system which draws 100 times less voter turnout than the general

"Non-partisan school board candidates may get lost in the maze of other general election candidates, and the cost of campaigning at that time may be substantially higher than prior to the September election. Run-off elections would be held around Thanksgiving; hardly conducive to high voter turn-out.

So, those charged with running the largest local government entities in Arkansas shouldn't be subjected to the same scrutiny as say quorum court members, city council members, mayors, county judges, prosecuting attorneys, judiciary, state legislators, constitutional officers, congressmen, senators, vice president and president? The November run-off generates approximately 100 times more turnout than the current school election runoff. In other words, exponentially conducive to high voter turn-out.

"With newly elected candidates assuming office in January, it is likely that at their first meeting they would face the task of rehiring the superintendent. Especially after the census reorganization of school boards, this could result in a majority of newly elected board members being responsible for renewing or non-renewing the superintendent's contract."

Oh, just like our legislature and constitutional officers are sworn in just before the session begins. I guess that means Mr. Harder doesn't think our freshman legislators qualified to make the laws of the State of Arkansas. After all, deciding whether or not to renew a superintendent's contract is far more complicated than anything the legislature will tackle.

"Due to statutory restrictions, school board candidates would have to be on a separate ballot which would be confusing to voters and would cause major headaches for county clerks and poll workers. Board member zones don't align with other general election candidates or with county lines, which complicates the logistics of voting ballots and the voting process during the general election.

Well then let's fix the statutory restriction. True, board member zones don't align with other general election candidates or county lines, but neither do quorum court members, city council members, prosecuting attorneys, state representatives, state senators and United States representatives.

"This bill is on the Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee agenda for Thursday, March 7th. Please contact your legislators and encourage them to vote against this bill.

"You also are encouraged to contact members of the Senate State Agencies & Governmental Affairs Committee. They are:

Eddie Joe Williams, Chair; EddieJoe.Williams@senate.ar.gov

Jane English, Vice Chair; Jane.English@senate.ar.gov

David Johnson; David.Johnson@senate.ar.gov

Bobby Pierce; Bobby.Pierce@senate.ar.gov

Robert Thompson; Robert.Thompson@senate.ar.gov

Jimmy Hickey; Jimmy.Hickey@senate.ar.gov

Bryan King; Bryan.King@senate.ar.gov

Gary Stubblefield; Gary.Stubblefield@senate.ar.gov

"Thank you for your assistance with this important pending legislative concern.

"Ron Harder
Advocacy Director
Arkansas School Boards Association"

Fortunately, the bill got a DO PASS out of committee, but yes, please do contact these and the rest of the senators, and ask them to finally enfranchise parents, property tax payers, and citizens in the governance of their public schools. The performance of our students (or lack thereof) are a direct result of those adult self-interests which have dominated local and state education policy for decades.

In Arkansas, the people rule, not Mr. Harder's "informed voters." Regnat Populus.

Note: Arkansas Learns members wishing to take action on this and other state and local bills (tracking, voting, commenting, writing legislators), should click here and register for Arkansas Learns' legislative action site, powered by Votility. For convenience, register using your same login and password as ArkansasLearns.org.


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Keepin' Reform REAL

Posted By Arkansas Learns, Friday, February 22, 2013
Updated: Friday, February 22, 2013

If the Internet, specifically email, has taught me anything, it's that ALL CAPS don't make anything truer; they just mean the writer is shouting, albeit virtually. That, and well, kitten videos are adorable.

So, I had to grin (via emoticon) while covering my virtual ears when I saw the recent flyer distributed by the Arkansas Opportunity to Learn Campaign, which led with, "Do you believe in REAL education reform that's based on research-proven solutions." Click here to follow at home.

Orwell would be proud. Evidently, in this bizarro world, "REAL Reform" means STAY THE COURSE, because not once in the entire flyer do the authors list anything that needs to change. And as for the "research-proven solutions," only one is cited, 2008's "Report-What Is Arkansas Doing to Close the Achievement Gap?"

2008?! That was five years ago, when we thought Hillary would be the next POTUS. Manti Te'o hadn't even attended his first virtual prom. Arkansas is a national leader in education data. How about gettin' you some fresh?

The citation has a footnote number - "2," but for the life of me, I couldn't find its corresponding "2" anywhere in the document. I should know. I failed a ninth grade research paper on that very issue.

On its Arkansas Public Policy Panel website, the Arkansas Opportunity to Learn Campaign lists as its Key Partners:

  • Arkansas Public Policy Panel
  • Arkansas Advocates for Children & Families
  • Arkansas Education Association
  • Arkansas Out-of-School Network
  • Rural Community Alliance
  • Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation
  • Charles A. Frueauff Foundation
  • Arkansas Citizens First Congress
  • Concerned Citizens of Prescott
  • Arkansas Interfaith Alliance
  • Arkansas Commission on Closing the Achievement Gap
  • Concerned Citizens of Monticello
  • Gould Citizens Advisory Council
  • South Arkansas Education Coalition
  • Strong Community Leadership Alliance
  • Desha Grassroots Coalition
  • Arkansas Coalition for DREAM
  • University of Arkansas – Pine Bluff & Little Rock Deans of Education 

I would think the final two have some splainin' to do, either to those who misappropriated their titles/colleges/universities or to their chancellors for their participation in this decidedly partisan effort. Which reminds me: it would be interesting to see the performance/gains of K-12 students taught by graduates of the departments of education of UAPB, UALR and every other public and private college and university in Arkansas. And while you're at it, throw in Teach for America. The data exist, but I digress.

The flyer was distributed by Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators (AAEA) and Arkansas Education Association/National Education Association (AEA/NEA), among others, as an invitation to its Education Advocacy Day on Wednesday, February 20th. All of the events were either held at the AEA or at the Capitol. And supporters were asked to register and sign a petition at www.citizensfirst.org.

On page two, the group shares its "Research-Based Solutions for REAL Education Reform:"

  1. Improve development and preparation of teachers.
  2. Encourage more parent, student, community & school partnerships.
  3. Expand effective after-school and summer programs.
  4. Increase access to quality Pre-K programs.
  5. Spend funds for low-income students on proven interventions to boost learning.
  6. Improve access to higher education by passing the DREAM Act and making college affordable.
  7. More effective and fair discipline policies. 

Apparently, adding "research-based solutions" to anything makes it seem more credible. You know, kind of like when they put "fat free" on Twizzlers. Or glasses on a defendant.

The flyer reserves its boldness for page three, where it attacks the alleged attackers.

"Your Public Schools are Under Attack!

"A group of wealthy business interests and outsiders want to abandon the progress (their emphasis) we've made and gamble with our kids (sic) future by allowing for-profit charter companies with dubious track records to take over our public schools.

"Their agenda could result in elimination of local school boards, creation of more segregated schools and huge gaps in accountability.

"Their plan has little evidence to support it. (their emphasis) It will expand government bureaucracy, costing the state tens of millions of dollars and benefitting for-profit education companies at the expense of traditional schools." 

As I shared in a previous post, I counted at least twelve lies in these three paragraphs alone. By the way, I love it when the AEA/NEA references these mysterious "outsiders." You might ask their executive director, Rich Nagel, who exactly they mean by writing him at ar-rnagel@NEA.org.

Actually, there were many statements in the flyer with which we agree:

  • "Do you believe in REAL education reform that's based on research-proven solutions." Check.
  • "Do you believe our public schools are valuable assets to our communities?" Check.
  • "Do you believe ALL Arkansas students deserve the opportunity to learn in a school system that's both effective and fair?" Check.
  • "Every child deserves access to the education solutions that are proven to work." Check, and Checkmate!

Our difference. A goal without a plan is a wish. A plan without a goal is a program. And another smokescreen.

Let's keep it REAL. Those adult self interests which have dominated Arkansas's $5.3 Billion Educational Industrial Complex are lashing out at those who think it unconscionable that all of our students don't have access to an excellent education.

And if they're reading this, you've got a misspelled word in the first sentence of page 3. I know, but what can I say? I had a teacher who made me care about such things. Just sayin'.

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Public Charters Compared to Traditional Schools

Posted By Arkansas Learns, Thursday, February 21, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, July 10, 2013
The Arkansas Education Association/National Education Association (AEA/NEA) is certainly entitled to its own opinions. However, it is not entitled to its own facts.
 
In resisting any change in the traditional public school system, their talking-point mantra is: "Charter schools perform no better than traditional schools."
 
Easily said; impossibly supported.
 
Here's the truth on how Arkansas's open enrollment public charters compare with traditional public schools, with data straight from the Arkansas Department of Education's most recent report.

According to the NORMES website, 27 ofthe 1,071 schools in Arkansas are open enrollment public charters, accounting for 2.5% of all schools. Based upon the most recent ESEA School Accountability Reports, on November 19, 2012, the Arkansas Department of Education released a list of the state's public schools, characterized as:
  1. Exemplary Schools (also included in Achieving Schools)
  2. Achieving Schools
  3. Needs Improvement Schools
  4. Needs improvement Focus Schools - Met Year 1 Exit Criteria
  5. Needs Improvement Focus Schools
  6. Needs Improvement Priority Schools - Met Year 1 Exit Criteria
  7. Needs Improvement Priority Schools
These new categories resulted from the state's receiving a waiver from No Child Left Behind. It should be noted that some of the previously higher performing public schools in the state are now labeled "Needs Improvement," largely because they didn't achieve targeted gains (e.g. Little Rock's Forest Park Elementary, one of only three U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon Schools in Arkansas). It's harder to sustain/improve gains, when you're already performing at a very high level.
 
That noted, here's the breakdown of open enrollment public charters compared to traditional public schools in each category:
  1. Exemplary Schools (2 out of 5 - 40%)
  2. Achieving Schools (11 out of 341 - 3.2%)
  3. Needs Improvement Schools (16 out of 587 - 2.7%)
  4. Needs improvement Focus Schools - Met Year 1 Exit Criteria (0 out of 47 - 0%)
  5. Needs Improvement Focus Schools (0 out of 73 - 0%)
  6. Needs Improvement Priority Schools - Met Year 1 Exit Criteria (1 out of 11 - 9%)
  7. Needs Improvement Priority Schools (0 out of 37 - 0%)
In short, even though open enrollment public charters are only 2.5% of the public schools in Arkansas, they account for 40% of the five highest performing schools. Further, every open enrollment public charter in Arkansas except one is performing among the Arkansas Department of Education's top three Status categories, at percentages higher than their overall percentage of schools. And, only one open enrollment public charter school is among the state's lowest three Status categories (bottom 157 - 14.6% of schools).

But don't take our word for it. The following is the state's ESEA School Accountability Report, followed by the reports of each of the open enrollment public charters. The NORMES site gives users the ability to compare and contrast each school and district in Arkansas.


Arkansas Public Open Enrollment Charter Schools















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A Dozen Lies and Damned Lies

Posted By Arkansas Learns, Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Arkansas Education Association/National Education Association (AEA/NEA), Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators (AAEA), Arkansas School Boards Association (ASBA) and their protectionists, under the banner Arkansas Opportunity to Learn Campaign, have circulated/are circulating a flyer, a portion of which (attached below) reads:

"Your Public Schools are Under Attack!

"A group of wealthy business interests and outsiders want to abandon the progress (their emphasis) we've made and gamble with our kids (sic) future by allowing for-profit charter companies with dubious track records to take over our public schools.

"Their agenda could result in elimination of local school boards, creation of more segregated schools and huge gaps in accountability.

"Their plan has little evidence to support it. (their emphasis) It will expand government bureaucracy, costing the state tens of millions of dollars and benefitting for-profit education companies at the expense of traditional schools."

The text is part of an invitation to an Education Advocacy Day which begins on Wednesday, February 20th with breakfast at the AEA, moves to a meeting with the Governor, then lunch with legislators back at the AEA, followed by a rally on the steps of the Capitol. Those wishing to attend are directed to register at www.citizensfirst.org, and the group has a Facebook page at www.fb.com/ArkansasOTL. Click here to read the full flyer.

If the positions and track records of these strange bedfellows are so sound, why not argue any proposed legislation on the merits instead of making up, by my count, at least twelve lies in three paragraphs?

Here's their truth, in the words of Dr. Richard Abernathy, executive director of the AAEA, in a recent email to his members:

"...if you believe that losing control of your local school is a bad thing, you need to contact your legislator and have your teachers, board members, and other employees (his emphasis) contact their legislator."

To whom is this three-headed cabal, which has long dominated state and local education governance and policy, afraid of losing control. It's you - the people - parents, employers, citizens. Until you take back your schools from this self-interested alliance, you'll continue to be fed lies and damned lies regarding the education and performance of our students.

So while they resort to fueling fear with their false "facts," let's remain focused on what should drive every decision regarding education: Is it in the best interest of our students?

Note: Just like the Arkansas PTA doesn't speak for this parent, I would hope that teachers, administrators, and school board members, who disagree with the tactics and/or positions of their respective associations, will stand up to their management and elected leaders and insist that their voices be heard as well. If not, their individual and collective leadership in putting students first will always be welcome at Arkansas Learns.


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Arkansas Learns Registers 200th Member

Posted By Arkansas Learns, Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Today, Parent Lorri Yung became the 200th member of Arkansas Learns. Our nonpartisan, nonprofit private sector alliance achieved the milestone in less than six months and in half the time it took to reach 100. Thank you and congratulations to all of our members as we partner to empower parents, employers and citizens to assert their individual and collective leadership to ensure excellent education for all students.

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Administrators, School Boards, Teachers Unions Fight 'Losing Control' of Local Schools

Posted By Arkansas Learns, Friday, January 25, 2013

This is why we do what we do.

The following is from an email by Dr. Richard Abernathy, Executive Director of the Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators, to his members urging their opposition to HB1040, which would create an independent Charter School Commission for Arkansas.

"AAEA (Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators), ASBA (Arkansas School Boards Association), Rural Education, and AEA (Arkansas Education Association) have spent many hours on this legislation due to the magnitude of the potential changes."

"...if you believe that losing control of your local school is a bad thing, you need to contact your legislator and have your teachers, board members, and other employees (his emphasis) contact their legislator."

While they do control, and have for years, it's not their local school. It's yours - parents, employers, citizens - on behalf of our students.

In order to put students first over the agendas of self-interested adults, this is a fight worth fighting.

In The Art of War, Sun Tzu wrote, "Know your enemy."

Dr. Abernathy and the AAEA certainly do. It's time we did as well.

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