LR Chamber plans school takeover | Arkansas Blog

Friday, March 18, 2011

LR Chamber plans school takeover

Posted By on Fri, Mar 18, 2011 at 1:48 PM

When the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce sends out a message touting a bill as "fiscally responsible good government" you know it's time to watch your back and grab your wallet. You can be sure that whatever ensues won't cost the Good Suit Club anything (it typically will put some money in their pocket) and almost certainly will diminish the rights of the average workaday schlub.

So it is with a Chamber email announcing action Tuesday on two "transformative" education bills that the House Education Committee is to consider. (If the committee has been greased on these bills as well as the Walton money greased it on charter school legislation, the chamber hardly need lift a finger.)

What's interesting is that the Chamber is telling its members these bills will do things NOT CURRENTLY MENTIONED IN EITHER PIECE OF LEGISLATION. Stealth government, it's called.

The chamber says HB 1551 by Rep. Barry Hyde (another ominous endorsee) "will move school elections from the intentionally low voter turnout September election to the more inclusive Primary." As currently written, the bill provides only for recall of school board members. It doesn't mention school election dates.

School elections have been separately held to appeal to the relatively small group of people actively interested in school board matters. This probably makes it easier on occasion to mobilize people for school millages, though the record is mixed. The chamber would like a much bigger (and likely more anti-tax) electorate that a primary election day would produce. And, in Little Rock, you know they'd like to see more people voting on some of their most disfavored school board members, such as when a mad chamber effort failed to dislodge Micheal Daugherty three years ago. Funny thing. The community decided they weren't happy with Daugherty and ousted him last election.

Then there's HB 2140. The chamber tells its members it will "empower citizens in zoned districts, not incumbent school boards, to determine by election how they will be zoned (five zones, seven zones or five zones and two at-large).

"In Little Rock's case, the school board determined in 1994 that the district would be seven zones, and there the district remains, with no mechanism for the people to change it."

The bill is currently a shell bill, with little hint as to its purpose. So it's not clear about how the chamber will set up a vote to throw out zoned elections in Little Rock, but you can be sure that's the plan. They will push a plan with five zones and two at-large seats. That will mean the rich neighborhoods that control Little Rock city government through a similar representation plan can resume their rightful control of the Little Rock School District. Before long, the School District probably will soon be sending tax money to the Chamber along with the plutocrat-controlled City Board.

It is typical of the arrogance that marks the Chamber's school-control effort that they believe the end of directly representational school boards elected in grassroots campaigns "will finally return governance of the public schools to citizens and parents." No, it will return it to the same old rich white men that have always run Little Rock and who get mighty P.O.'ed when a little democracy gets in their way.

The chamber has provided contacts for Education Committee members. See them on the jump. By all means let them know whether you like or dislike these ideas. I'd tell legislators that MY idea of citizen governance doesn't include running bills that are secret as to content until the moment they're approved by legislators fattened by special interest contributions.

The chamber is trying to organize a rally at Tuesday's meeting. It encourages lobbying on a statewide, rather than strictly Little Rock/Pulaski County basis. But it's clear what and who this is about.

House Committee on Education

Cheatham, Eddie L. (D-9) - Chair (870.364.5659) Crossett
Roebuck, Johnnie J. (D-20) - Vice Chair (870.403.4382) Arkadelphia
Baird, Duncan (R-95) - Member (479.439.1717) Benton
Bradford, Toni (D-18) - Member (870.879.5270) Pine Bluff
Brown, Jerry R. (D-57) - Member (870.238.3132) Wynne
Carnine, Les "Skip" (R-94) - Member (479.636.2619) Rogers
Clemmer, Ann V. (R-29) - Member (501.316.0364) Benton
Dale, Robert E. (R-70) - Member (479.970.3503) Dover
Dickinson, Jody (D-58) - Member (870.523.8222) Newport
English, Jane (R-42) - Member (501.257.7670) Sherwood
Hobbs, Debra M. (R-96) - Member (479.636.3982) Rogers
Hopper, Karen S. (R-81) - Member (870.431.8934) Mountain Home
Hutchinson, Donna (R-98) - Member (479.283.2165) Bella Vista
McLean, James (D-72) - Member (870.613.0617) Batesville
Pierce, Bobby J. (D-19) - Member (870.942.8737) Sheridan
Steele, Tracy (D-39) - Member (501.374.8788) North Little Rock
Stewart, Randy (D-23) - Member (870.398.4630) Kirby
Summers, Tim (R-99) - Member (479.273.0773) Bentonville
Webb, Kathy (D-37) - Member (501.258.1949) Little Rock
Wren, Tommy (D-71) - Member (870.613.7585) Melbourne

Emails (Listed separately so you can cut and paste)

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