Favorite

Targeting teachers 

The Hutchinson administration has riled the teachers union in the Little Rock School District.

The Little Rock Education Association, which has represented teachers in bargaining for more than 50 years, called an emergency meeting last week to discuss danger signals from Education Commissioner Johnny Key. He's the former Republican state senator named to run the state Department of Education by Republican Governor Hutchinson. He serves as the Little Rock "school board" since it was taken over by the state in 2015.

Republicans, particularly the billionaires who now effectively control education policy, hate teachers unions.

Little Rock is one of the last districts in the state with a union contract. The current contract ends Oct. 31. Will Key negotiate a new one? Teachers have doubts.

The employee policy manual developed by teachers and administrators last September still hasn't been signed by Key. Also telling was the sudden push by Key to dispute the LREA's annual April filing of membership. It must represent 50 percent of employees to be recognized as a bargaining agent.

A few weeks ago, Key's office questioned the figures. Friday, the LREA submitted new, audited figures.

Against the sweep of history, the treatment of teachers is insulting. In the racial turmoil of the 1950s and 1960s, the Arkansas Education Association and Little Rock teachers stood tall against the segregationists. As a father of two graduates of the Little Rock schools, I've known many LREA members. I knew them as people who ignored time clocks, dug in their own pockets for supplies and warmly embraced children of every color and need. They've been an important check against incompetent and dishonest superintendents.

But they have enemies. Teacher resistance was a key element in the defeat of Walton-backed and Hutchinson-supported legislation in 2015 that would have allowed a state takeover of the district for parceling out to private operators. Charterization still continues, if more slowly.

The challenge of LREA membership coincidentally arose at the same time an anti-union teachers group that has enjoyed Walton funding was buying advertising in the newspaper of another union enemy, the Democrat-Gazette's Walter Hussman, to recruit teachers away from the AEA.

To add to teachers' nervousness is talk about putting a Walton-financed charter high school in Northwest Little Rock. That site is promoted by a $237,000-a-year Walton lobbyist for a high school of some sort to serve upscale, white western Little Rock (and coincidentally do harm to Central High School, its excellence long inconvenient to the Waltons' criticism of the Little Rock School District.)

But the immediate concern is the teacher contract. It was pared down substantially during Baker Kurrus' tenure as superintendent, before his firing by Key for resisting charter school proliferation. The union also took a pay cut and backed a district tax increase despite fears that it was a ploy to infuse millions in fixup money into the district in advance of privatization.

For its cooperation, the union gets Hutchinson administration resistance. The people of the district? No hint from Hutchinson that we'll ever get our school district back.

Rejection of teachers stirred popular revolts in other states. Could it happen in Little Rock? Or Arkansas? Jared Henderson, the Democrat challenging Hutchinson, has outlined a specific way to make Arkansas a great place for teachers.

It could be a hotter issue still in the mayor's race in Little Rock. On the available record, Kurrus is the strongest friend of teachers in the race.

If Little Rock is to prosper, it must have a cohesive public school district, not a crazy-quilt of private schools operating with tax money. Teachers are the bedrock. If teachers aren't valued, the schools and the community can't expect respect either.

Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • Saturday's open line, plus some political notes

    The Saturday open line, with some political odds and ends:
    • Dec 15, 2018
  • Obamacare's ruin: Where are the boastful press releases from Arkansas Republicans?

    Silence so far from Republican politicians such as Leslie Rutledge on achievement of their long-stated dream, death to the Affordable Care Act. Could that be because most people now understand what a good thing President Obama did with its passage? Update: Rutledge applauds and offers empty promise of coverage.
    • Dec 15, 2018
  • Entergy demolishes old power plant near Stamps

    Entergy, the state's largest electric utility, yesterday used explosives to destroy the major parts of its closed Couch Plant near Stamps, which dated to 1943 and was designed to burn fuel oil or gas at two generating units. Named for power company founder Harvey Couch, it's been out of commission since 2013.
    • Dec 15, 2018
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Double-talk

    A couple of instances of doublespeak cropped up in Little Rock over the weekend.
    • Jun 29, 2017
  • Along the civil rights trail

    A convergence of events in recent days signaled again how far we have come and how far we have yet to go in civil rights.
    • Jan 18, 2018
  • The Oval outhouse

    One thing all Americans finally can agree upon is that public discourse has coarsened irretrievably in the era of Donald Trump and largely at his instance.
    • Jan 18, 2018

Latest in Max Brantley

  • Hope and change LR

    While I was away, Frank Scott Jr. won a historic victory in a runoff with Baker Kurrus to succeed Mark Stodola as Little Rock mayor.
    • Dec 13, 2018
  • A real mayor

    Baker Kurrus is trying to brand himself as an agent for change as mayor of Little Rock, but labors under a handicap.
    • Nov 22, 2018
  • How red are we?

    Election results in Arkansas were discouraging for Democrats and progressive voters.
    • Nov 15, 2018
  • More »

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: No leash

    • Why would anybody trim a cat's claws? That would interfere with their ability to defend…

    • on December 15, 2018
  • Re: No leash

    • "If you're lucky enough to acquire them as little kittens..." Huh. That might even convince…

    • on December 14, 2018
  • Re: No leash

    • Contrary to popular stereotypes, cats are very social and trainable. The key to training them…

    • on December 14, 2018
 

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation