Favorite

Can we get along? 


The Little Rock Classroom Teachers Association has remained a constant through decades of revolving-door superintendents and School Board members. As a result, it has accrued significant clout, maybe even too much.

Now the School District is headed by a superintendent, Roy Brooks, even less given to consensus management than most of his predecessors. A majority of the School Board, too, seems inclined to limit union prerogatives in negotiations for a contract for the next school year.

Last week came another indication of a relationship nearing meltdown. Board member Tony Rose told teachers to “shut up” when they grumbled at a board meeting about some of the things Rose had said in an angry response to a statement by Grainger Ledbetter, executive director of the CTA. The CTA has declared an early impasse in contract negotiations — a wise move, I think. It asked for a federal mediator to try to work out an agreement on the administration’s desire for total control over special pay arrangements for teachers. Currently, teacher approval (by an excessive 75 percent majority) is necessary to implement “merit pay” ideas.

Rose’s outburst wasn’t the only rudeness. Deputy Superintendent Hugh Hattabaugh angrily called in security over a brief interjection from a member of the audience during a discussion of closure of Southwest Middle School. A teacher in the audience said Board member Tom Brock (completing a board term by appointment) referred to members of the CTA as “horses’ butts.” Brock tells me he “can’t remember” saying such a thing (he’s a staff member at a Baptist church), but he readily concedes he wasn’t happy with the teachers and that he may have uttered an unhappy aside during the meeting. “They were less than respectful,” he said.

Board members are peeved that teachers don’t credit them sufficiently for recent pay increases. Teachers note that the size of general pay increases and some special pay for extraordinary certification wouldn’t have happened without union representation. Plus, teachers aren’t motivated solely by money. Working conditions are important, too. They think they might have some good ideas about school operation, hard as that might be for a central office martinet to understand.

Teachers probably should work under something less than a 90-page contract. But they have reason to resist the superintendent’s autonomy over pay. The first merit pay test was financed secretly by a frequent public school critic and union enemy, Democrat-Gazette publisher Walter Hussman. Money was awarded to teachers by non-objective criteria. The experiment was labeled a huge success though the test scores suggested a failing school. Teachers have reason to be skeptical when a superintendent secretly rents out policy authority to an ideologue on account of little more than a fat wallet and a big printing press.

Both Brock and Board member Baker Kurrus assured me last week that — contrary to appearances — a decision has not yet been reached on decertification of the CTA as a bargaining agent. The CTA insists that it’s open to contract modifications and doesn’t want a strike. If you accept both sides’ representations, you can have more hope about the situation than I currently possess.

This much is clear. The school administration has the power to run the district like a plantation. But history suggests that you get little more than grudging compliance, and not a shred of respect, by abusing field hands and mules. Sometimes, you inspire a rebellion.




Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • After the storm open line

    Flooding remains after a deadly storm that left damage over much of Arkansas. An open line for Sunday evening.
    • Apr 30, 2017
  • LR City Board talks about crime and gang violence

    Police Chief Kenton Buckner talked to the Little Rock City Board this afternoon at a special meeting about violent crime and the role being played by gang activities. The police can do more — and will, he said. But police alone are not the solution for problems besetting the most crime-prone neighborhoods.
    • Apr 30, 2017
  • Opponents of Little Rock school tax say construction possible without new taxes

    Opponents of an extension of 12.4 millions in Little Rock School District property taxes at a cost of $600 million or more say critical construction needs in the district can be made without a bond issue that lines the pockets of bond firms and lawyers.
    • Apr 30, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • 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
  • Bootstraps for me, not thee

    Mean spirit, hypocrisy and misinformation abound among the rump minority threatening to wreck state government rather than allow passage of the state Medicaid appropriation if it continues to include the Obamacare-funded expansion of health insurance coverage for working poor.
    • Apr 14, 2016
  • Trump: The Obama of 2016?

    Conner Eldridge, the Democratic challenger to incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. John Boozman, launched an assault on Boozman Monday morning rich with irony and opportunity.
    • May 5, 2016

Most Shared

  • Workers stiffed

    How is it going with the great experiment to make the Republican Party the champion of the sons and daughters of toil instead of the oligarchs of wealth and business?
  • O'Reilly's fall

    Whom the gods would destroy, they first make TV stars.

Latest in Max Brantley

  • Executionpalooza

    Appearances count. I was struck by a single sentence over the weekend in a full page of coverage in The New York Times devoted to the killing spree in Arkansas, beginning with a front-page account of the recent flurry of legal filings on pending executions and continuing inside with an interview with Damien Echols, the former death row inmate.
    • Apr 20, 2017
  • The end of democracy in LR

    The state Board of Education was scheduled to talk this week about the Little Rock School District, under state control for two years because six of its 48 schools failed to meet an arbitrary pass rate on a standardized test.
    • Apr 13, 2017
  • Internet looting continues

    The 2017 legislative session concluded without passage of a bill to encourage internet merchants to collect and remit taxes on sales in Arkansas, though internet giant Amazon has begun doing so voluntarily.
    • Apr 6, 2017
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Fishing the Diamond Lakes of Arkansas

Fishing the Diamond Lakes of Arkansas

Arkansas angler and fishing expert Billy Murray shares his extensive knowledge of the Diamond Lakes of Arkansas

Event Calendar

« »

April

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  

Most Viewed

  • Intracity tourism

    The issues that tug at my heartstrings are neighborhood stigma and neighborhood segregation, which are so prevalent in Little Rock. In my opinion, the solution to those problems is "intracity tourism."

Most Recent Comments

 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation