More school turmoil | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, January 11, 2007

More school turmoil

Posted By on Thu, Jan 11, 2007 at 11:06 AM

School division writ large is likely looming at the legislature. And it could turn, as much of the acrimony has in Little Rock, over merit pay.

House Speaker Benny Petrus has larded the Education Committee with people unfamiliar with education issues and people beholden to the Walton money bags set on busting the teacher unions, increasing charter schools and making merit pay a substitute for pay for experience and education. Noted at Beebe's inaugural gala: the Waltons' lobbyist, Luke Gordy, escorting Education director Ken James around as if he was the Good Suit Club's pet monkey.

Ah, but the Walton takeover of the legislature may not be as easy as the Walton takeover of the University of Arkansas. Consensus-builder Beebe has promised to give the AEA a seat at the table in talk of "alternative compensation," as the story we linked earlier today indicated. The Walton people have been holding back their proposasl to see what the AEA comes up with. For one thing, the AEA is willing to let test scores guide financial support for whole school districts (as opposed to individual teacher pay), a procedure already in use in Jeb Bush's Flordia.

I can't say if a willingness to hear all sides on the pay issue -- as indicated in Beebe's State of the State speech -- is the cause of the following note, but something Beebe had to say about education apparently didn't sit well with Speaker Petrus. From a very reliable source:

Two days after preaching for solidarity in the House and within an hour after Beebe completed his address to the House and Senate, Petrus directed his ill-informed chair of the House education committee, Mike Kenney, R-Siloam Springs, to call a secret meeting of approximately 10 House Education committee members.  The other members were excluded.
Petrus did not like what he heard in Beebe's speech and immediately set about to torpedo the Governor's initiatives.

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