Favorite

School elections: Why now? 

Benji Hardy has written for the Arkansas Blog about the work of ForwARd Arkansas, a Walton- and Rockefeller Foundation-financed project to develop a plan to improve public education.

As Hardy noted, the final plan represented a compromise and avoided some hot-button topics (charter schools, for example) while favoring apple pie ideas like pre-K education and healthy children.

But there was this glaring sentence: "Change the timing of school board elections to coincide with state or district elections."

This has nothing to do with school excellence. It is a political stinker in the woodpile, a sign of the agenda of the Walton/Billionaire Boys Club school "reform" posse. They'll stop at nothing to achieve this long, long quest. Why? To cut their tax bill.

On Thursday, the state Board of Education voted unanimously to endorse the plan. Several days later, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette editorial page singled out the election change for praise. The page is dictated philosophically by its publisher, school "reform" advocate Walter Hussman, whose family has darkened the doors of few schools public or private in Little Rock. But he's expert enough to be sure that killing teacher unions, killing the Little Rock School District and otherwise blowing up the egalitarian public school system with privately run charter schools are the solutions to education woes. Never mind addressing the root problem — impoverished, dysfunctional families who've yet to be lifted systematically by any school yet devised, be it KIPP, eStem or a utopian Waltonia.)

The D-G wrote:

"The unions will hate such a move. They like it when their people vote, and nobody else. That way they can hand-pick the school board."

This is either dishonest or uninformed. There is but one "union" involved in education in Arkansas: the Arkansas Education Association. It has never had more than four or five affiliates that served as anything akin to a union. That number is now down to two, IF you count the Little Rock Education Association, which now works in a district without a school board and has been pretty well stripped of its power. The Little Rock and Pulaski teacher groups did enjoy some (but not universal) success in school elections now and then, but it was more due to peculiarities of district shape and demography (black voters rose up in unison against a Chamber of Commerce-orchestrated takeover in Little Rock) than anything else. In any case, neither district now has a school board. But statewide? It's about the money or, more specifically, school property taxes.

Conservatives believe general election votes — populated by huge numbers of people without a stake in the schools — will regularly kill tax votes and strangle school budgets they believe are bloated. I suspect they are onto something, which is one reason why school superintendents and school boards (management, not labor, please note) have long favored separate school elections. Despite that, tax votes often go down in flames in September. Conservatives think school budgets can be shrunk and I believe the reformers think this will set the districts up for more privatization (profitization) by the corporate charter operators yearning to grab tax dollars with scant accountability.

Separate school elections have been law for more than a half-century, though they were moved in 1987 from March to September. The legislature recently gave school districts the option to have November elections, but none has.

There's a practical reason to keep elections separate. Ask county clerks. School district boundary lines (there are more than 200 districts in Arkansas) have little relationship to other governmental boundaries. Jonesboro has five school districts overlaid on a city government elected by zones. The Little Rock School District covers only a portion of the city and, should elections return, its zones also cross many other zone boundary lines. Drawing up ballots would be a nightmare. The clerks' opposition — along with powerful school administrators — have so far foiled a forced move of school elections.

The fact that the election issue was buried, without explanation, in the ForwARd recommendations is a sign to me that the billionaires are firmly in control. They haven't retreated from their aim of charterizing districts, killing the remnants of organized teacher groups and putting the brakes on school spending by whatever means possible. They have a Republican legislature inclined to go along. But we've learned before that the school administrators — and the little industries they control across the state — are one of the state's most formidable lobbies (excepting those from despised Pulaski County).

Changing election dates is about improving schools? About taking on the evil "unions"? Don't be fooled.

Favorite

Speaking of...

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

Readers also liked…

  • Supremely discredited

    Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Rhonda Wood and her allies continue to discredit the state's highest court.
    • Jul 30, 2015
  • Hutchinson pulls Faubus move

    I don't know what if anything might arise or be planned in the future relative to Gov. Asa Hutchinson's order to end Medicaid reimbursement for medical services (not abortion) provided by Planned Parenthood in Arkansas.
    • Aug 20, 2015
  • Neighborliness, in Little Rock and beyond

    I had a parochial topic in mind this week — a surprise plan by Mayor Mark Stodola to address the Arkansas Arts Center's many needs.
    • Nov 19, 2015

Most Shared

  • World leaders set to meet in Little Rock on resource access and sustainable development

    Next week a series of meetings on the use of technology to tackle global problems will be held in Little Rock by Club de Madrid — a coalition of more than 100 former democratic former presidents and prime ministers from around the world — and the P80 Group, a coalition of large public pension and sovereign wealth funds founded by Prince Charles to combat climate change. The conference will discuss deploying existing technologies to increase access to food, water, energy, clean environment, and medical care.
  • Tomb to table: a Christmas feast offered by the residents of Mount Holly and other folk

    Plus, recipes from the Times staff.
  • Fake news

    So fed up was young Edgar Welch of Salisbury, N.C., that Hillary Clinton was getting away with running a child-sex ring that he grabbed a couple of guns last Sunday, drove 360 miles to the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington, D.C., where Clinton was supposed to be holding the kids as sex slaves, and fired his AR-15 into the floor to clear the joint of pizza cravers and conduct his own investigation of the pedophilia syndicate of the former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state.
  • Reality TV prez

    There is almost nothing real about "reality TV." All but the dullest viewers understand that the dramatic twists and turns on shows like "The Bachelor" or "Celebrity Apprentice" are scripted in advance. More or less like professional wrestling, Donald Trump's previous claim to fame.
  • Arkansas archeologist does his job, is asked to leave

    Amid Department of Arkansas Heritage project.

Latest in Max Brantley

  • Kids count, not confidentiality

    The trial for the murder of Isaiah Torres, 6, was a reminder again of a gaping hole in the law pertaining to child protective services.
    • Nov 24, 2016
  • Fixing blame: President Trump

    Did the press fail? Were liberal-leaning journalists on the coasts responsible for missing the Trump wave among middle-to-lower income white voters with lower educational attainment?
    • Nov 17, 2016
  • Can we get along?

    he Times production deadline fell before polls closed this week, so I'll look to the past and future.
    • Nov 10, 2016
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans

Event Calendar

« »

December

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Most Viewed

  • Stay the course

    I am frustrated and angry with those who claim the only chance of future success is for the Democratic Party, especially in the South and Midwest, to abandon speaking directly to women and people of color and the LGBT community and instead focus on the economy and other "more comfortable" topics in order to win back some of the center.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Reality TV prez

    • In fact, Runner, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 2.7 million and counting, just…

    • on December 10, 2016
  • Re: Reality TV prez

    • So what are you saying - that the country should be governed only by those…

    • on December 10, 2016
  • Re: Reality TV prez

    • And while we're at it, Runner, the Wisconsin recount isn't finished yet, but as of…

    • on December 9, 2016
 

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation