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"Hammer these Democrats into submission. Hammer these people until we tell you to stop."

--State Representative Fredrick Love

That's some order from state Representative Fredrick Love, D-Hup-Two-Three-Four, who must've been a drill sergeant in a previous life. Hammer these Democrats into submission? What is this, artillery school? Or--even louder and maybe bloodier--football practice?

Hammer these people until we tell you to stop. What has gotten under Representatives Love's skin? Why are he and some of his colleagues calling on people to call their state legislators, especially the Democratic ones who'd better do what they're told or else?

It seems there's a bill before the General Assembly that could improve public schools and public education in general in Arkansas.

Fredrick Love and others have been thrown into a tizzy by House Bill 1733, which would allow the state to create a special school district to handle all these academically distressed schools that have been making the news. The bad news.

Imagine being able to take all the failing schools in the state, no matter what county they're in, place them in their own common district so the state could focus exclusively on fixing their problems, send the right teachers and administrators to them, and improve their kids' education and test scores, and generally improve those kids' future prospects.

If House Bill 1733 becomes law, the state might even be able to call in experts who've had a measure of success running failing schools, and see what they could do to help the kids in schools that have clearly failed them. Which is what some charter-school management companies have done from Houston to Helena to Harlem.

But you'd think HB 1733 might be the end of public education altogether if you noted the vociferous protests that Fredrick Love & Co. raised at, well, a protest the other day. For example:

--If the state created a district for troubled schools, why, those schools might have the students spend more hours to catch up academically. Add longer school days. Or have longer school years. More hours for teachers, and no doubt more pay, but great for the kids that need it.

--If the state created a special district for troubled schools, why, teachers' unions might lose some of their precious prerogatives and privileges. Maybe so. But it would put the kids' education and welfare above that of the unions'.

--If the state created such a district for troubled schools, why, those schools might be exempt from collective bargaining for teachers. Those kids' interest would come first, not the teachers' unions'.

--If the state created a special district for troubled schools, why, Personnel Policy Committees might be eliminated! Honest. Under this bill, those committees could be eliminated at distressed schools.

Goodness. Those vested interests that have a stake in the status ever quo tend to get annoyed when somebody suggests change, any change, don't they?

What hasn't been mentioned much in all this hubbub is that Tennessee did much the same thing a few years back, creating a single school district for struggling students in that state. Our neighbors say first reports are promising.

As of today, some 22 schools in Arkansas are said to be Academically Distressed, which means half the kids in those schools have been doing poorly enough on tests to acquire that label. Something has to be done. Something has to change.

Something like House Bill 1733.

As an Extra Added Bonus, HB 1733 might help solve another problem. Language in the bill would seem to let the state contract with a non-profit outfit (read: charter management organizations, like KIPP, which has done an outstanding job in Helena). And if they did an exemplary job, the non-profit could run the school long-term.

Which makes sense. Why would companies with a proven record at managing non-profit charter schools, companies whose services are in demand all over the country--from New Orleans to Memphis to Detroit to New York--want to go into some failing district in Arkansas, get everything up and running properly, and improve the kids' learning and test scores, only to have the state hand the same school back to the local school board that had failed these schools?

If the charter school proves a success, let it continue to be, and open it up to any student who wants to apply for admission. Fair's fair.

HB 1733 is a badly needed legislation in Arkansas. The state needs all the tools it can get to turn around its worst schools and make them among its best.

With the Hon. Fredrick Love's permission, we'll keep on hammering that point home. Even if we don't have his permission.

Editorial on 03/12/2015

Print Headline: A most important bill


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Archived Comments

  • Nodmcm
    March 12, 2015 at 9:53 a.m.

    Why not just reduce the requirements to teach to an 8th grade education (superintendents would need to graduate the 10th grade to qualify), pay them one dollar an hour above minimum, and call it a day? This way, there would be thousands of new people qualified to teach school in Arkansas, to compete and bring down costs. Sure, the kids might not learn much, but do we really want them learning about evolution and science like global warming or economic issues like income inequality? Too much education and the next thing you know, they are voting Democrat, like the pointy-headed intellectuals in places like Massachusetts or Oregon. Best, perhaps, to offer less rather than more education. Perhaps just have a school without teachers, where Fox news is shown all day to the students, to keep their minds in the "right" place.

  • JakeTidmore
    March 12, 2015 at 10:18 a.m.

    Anyone familiar with the research on charter schools knows that the ADG editors are giving a false picture of the abilities of these schools. They don't tell you that the New Orleans charter school program, in place for 10 years, has produced the worst schools and scores in their state. This is true of many other charters.
    Former Maryland superintendent of schools and a one-time charter school advocate David Hornbeck has been on the forefront of educational challenges and has this to say about the efficacy of charters:

    "Charters do not serve students with the greatest challenges: Charters will be quick to point out they enroll high percentages of low-income students. Some do. However, the citywide charter lottery inherently skims. Every student chosen has someone (parent, pastor, friend) who encouraged and is advocating for her/him to apply and succeed. That fact by itself creates a select pool of students and a corollary depletion of those students in non-charter schools."

    It will be no surprise when a Walton-backed charter middle school in posh Chenal Valley, with a student body overwhelmingly white and financially secure, outscores the nearby Little Rock district middle school with a virtually all-minority student body from poor families. But the Waltonites and their lapdog editors here at the ADG will claim it's a result of their superior education and the many faults of the Little Rock School District.

  • arkieland
    March 12, 2015 at 2:51 p.m.

    This vitriol is demeaning to educators and misleading to the public. HB1733 turns public education over to corporate greed with no transparency or input from taxpayers. Educate yourself on this bill. Learn from New Orleans, Memphis, Philadelphia. It's a lot of husk without the kernel. Beware.

  • carpenterretired
    March 12, 2015 at 9:53 p.m.

    The important thing is what happens to the football programs.

  • WGT
    March 13, 2015 at 6:06 a.m.

    Jake nailed it.