posted by Mark Moore (Moderator) at Monday, October 10, 2005
I have often noticed that a man who sees too far ahead of his fellow men is often misunderstood. He sees farther ahead than they do, but at the time they think he is hallucinating. What makes it worse is that when events later unfold as the insightful man predicted, his fellow men often forget that the far-sighted man was right. They forget his early warnings, which they wrote off as trouble-making at the time. They forget he was right and only remember that they regard him as a trouble-maker who interferes with their "consensus".Such is the case with State Senator Jim Holt and the Lakeview case. Let's review. The courts took it upon themselves to rule that Arkansas' public schools were "inadequate" and "unconstitutional". They told the other two branches of government to fix it. The Governor and most of the Ledge assured the people of Arkansas that they had "no choice" but to comply with the state courts and raise your taxes. They joined together in using the ruling as an excuse to foist an expensive plan that gave us even more centralized control of schools. They shut down dozens of districts. They moved power and authority away from local parents and school boards and concentrated it at the capitol.Only a few men, like State Senator Jim Holt of Springdale, challenged the view that the courts and the courts alone had the power to determine what an "adequate" education was. Holt warned that to yield to the courts would violate the separation of powers that is the foundation of our government. It would turn the courts into a super-legislature.Holt proposed that the legislature specifically spell out what a suitable education was. The legislature would define what an adequate facility consisted of, what an adequate pay scale would be, and the like. Then the courts would be bound only to interpret what the legislature codified , not make it up as they went along. Holt's idea would have given them no vacuum to fill. History has shown us in Little Rock, and across America, that courts do not run schools well- they just waste money well when they try.To give his common-sense idea even more teeth, during the special session on schools in 2003 Holt proposed referring an amendment to the state constitution which said the legislature, along with parents and communities, would define what an adequate education was. Senator Dave Bisbee of Rogers like the idea so much that he proposed a very similar amendment. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette pummeled both proposals mercilessly. The ledge did not rally around either one. They instead pushed the spending and consolidation bills through in the hopes that the courts would be placated. They aren't.I know that some are trying to make political hay out of the fact that Mike Bebee told the ledge that the court would be satisfied with the $750 million that the ledge already spent on education. That is a red herring. Gov. Huckabee thought the same. The problem is not Bebee. It is not Huckabee. The problem is once a legislature cedes its authority over to the courts it becomes like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates. The people never know what they are going to get.That brings us to the present. Governor Huckabee was recently on the radio sounding like- well, like Jim Holt back in 2003. He said "I'm confident there will be a united effort in the two branches of government to say to the third that there are three equal branches of government and one does not supersede the other."Huckabee made several other comments as well about the separation of powers-points Holt was making in the 03 special session.We at Arkansas Watch are glad that the Governor has seen the light on this important issue. Still, it will be a harder fight now than it would have been in the beginning, before the other two branches assured us that they had "no choice" but to obey the courts. The court rulings were an excuse then to do what they wanted to do anyway. Now that the courts have turned on them, they are discovering that being a check and a balance to the courts is a constitutional duty. One that Holt has been preaching about for years.It will not be easy, especially with the Democrat-Gazette backing an elitist court and hurling ugly abuse at anyone who stands up to them. Should the Executive and Legislative branches find it in themselves to do their duty, we at Arkansas Watch will do what we can in our small power to honor the courageous who stand up to both the elitest press and those who dare to call themselves our "Special Masters".
The guv took what he could get, but didn't really fight to get his way entirely. I agreed fully with his idea of consolidating traditionally failing schools(many of the absorbed districts were FAILURES)whose enrollment had dropped over the years. Reformers in AR consolidated a number of school districts in the 30s and 40s and rightfully so; there were 1500 districts at one point. Bisbee has the right idea on a tripartite determination of adequacy, but centralization is STILL required when you see these districts across AR and their failing school boards, administrators and teachers. Standards should be set and administered statewide. Sometimes, courts must be involved, but their success is about as good as legislative rates of success. The courts intruding in Brown v. Board of Ed of Topeka was a justified intrusion. You know that's true and I'm certain many of your readers do as well. I was against the plaintiffs of Lake View district case from the beginning because I was aware of the malfeasance(all hearsay, but from noteworthy sources) in Lake View at the time of the lawsuit as well as the principal lawyers involved like Jimmie Wilson, grade-A, number 1 race-baiter and husband of a particularly bad school board member there too. Do you trust that community to vote for the right people and maintain standards? Helena-W. Helena(also in the news for mind-boggling fraud)? Centralization is a necessity, based on the last scores I saw in the paper. Without centralized standards, enforcement, and without a faster turnaround on scores(not there yet---these scores should be immediately tallied and reported so teachers can address the failures), many of the pluses that can be achieved might be lost (Sorry Mark, ANOTHER paragraph--I stayed away a few days to give your other commentors some space).
I WANT you to comment, and do it in a way that most effectively offers up your points for discussion. It is my opinion that the use of paragraphs will make your posts easier to wade through and thus more effective.I DON'T think the latest round of consolidations was justified. It was done strictly by size. Small superior districts got swallowed up by lousy big ones nearby. Dave Bisbee may be on to something with the tripartate test. I'd like to know more details.In the days of internet meetings and sattelite learning, an increase in number of courses offered need not put a small school under.The real scandal is that most of the increase in courses were not acadmemic at all. They were trade courses. In other words Worforce Education is behind the push to close down the smaller schools. It has little or nothing to do with classical education.
Don't forget that Holt backed Bisbee in the Pro Tem race and that Bisbee was one of the leaders of the consolidation push to the point of supporting the Governors plan to consolidate anyone under 1500 students.
Not all students are academically inclined, though they still need the exposure. I wouldn't necessarily call it a scandal that workforce ed is becoming more available. Skilled workers are needed in the construction industry, the computer-related industry, and other non-academic trades. Why shovel them off for 2 more years of training---more advanced training should be received in the juco sector, not first exposure. High schools should train kids for the workforce who aren't going to college. Business skills should be part of workforce training, such as, how to create a business plan, how to budget, how to figure costs of labor and materials, how to write bids, how transactions are closed---real world stuff.The Japanese tracking model of ed has been very effective in providing highly-qualified workers to industry. Granted, they may have been priced out of jobs, but they certainly have no dearth of able workers. I believe that tracking from mere academics to trades shouldn't be forced, but some kids should be encouraged, based on scores and attitudes. Anon, definitely, Holt supported Bisbee. Some of my fellow Dems didn't particularly want Bisbee as pro-tem(I respectfully disagreed, despite the need to posture for the Guv race next year), but the coup-de-gras was all the GOP Senators who didn't like how fair-minded Bisbee was at times. I have a number of acquaintances in the education sector of all political persuasions (some GOP, some Dems, some Greens, some Buchananites)who agree that many of the small districts absorbed really had no grasp of how to properly educate students. The ones who protested the most were principals, superintendants, and those who have qualifications for superintendant jobs, but the districts they interviewed for were on the list for consolidation. Few actual teachers I asked were heartbroken over the districts whose valedictorians and salutatorians were flunking classes at the U of A or other higher ed institutions because of lack of exposure to requisite material. The dollars should be available to improve academics if the standards have the requisite funds for implementation and absorbing underfunded districts should allow more dollars to be spent on classroom instruction.I understand communities wanting to be involved in the process of education of their children, but some of those communities have no idea how to run their schools and others really don't have that much parental involvement to speak of. Lake View had a school board "meeting" at the Lady Luck casino across the bridge from Helena and rented lodging there for a weekend. Lake View is 20 minutes at most from Lula, MS(where the casino is across from Helena). Those people needed consolidation. Courts are not to blame on the school issue. I believe they nearly ruined the LR school district and forced MORE white flight to areas where bussing couldn't be forced, i.e., usually to another county. This happended throughout America. Some of the MOST segregated American schools are in the heavily urban states(not the South). The woeful state of education in AR wasn't caused by "judicial activism". Lake View won its case because reform these many years had only begun to scratch the surface(if at all)of facilities and equitable funding issues. I believe in economic growth in all of AR, thus, I must support more dollars and more accountability from a central source, i.e., the state educational authority(legislature, Guv, state executive agency in charge of schools). The state authority has ample criticism to answer, but standards are only maintained effectively by a central source of accountability. A commission of parents, educators, and civic leaders is a GRAND idea, but money has to spent, wisely, to achieve the results we all can be proud of. Not to attack small-town virtues, but some small towns in AR have no goal to set their minds to except having kids in their teens, according to the latest polls on marriage and sexuality nationally, released yesterday(I believe). I grew up in a town where every kid I knew in high school or jr high who were married in their teens are ALL divorced from those people they married. 100% of a number of couples I knew is an incredibly demonstrative number in my view. We must have a central mandate for achieving success in our schools. From the gist of commentors (who seriously want to disseminate knowledge and argue their ideas effectively) on this site, I believe there is agreement that the goal for AR is excellence and virtue. Our means to that end might diverge, but keep talking about solutions; no scapegoating can be part of this discussion. It's TOO important for the state we love to screw up this grand MOMENT in our history. If we achieve excellence and our graduates leave, so what? The excellence will attract folks from other states who require excellence from public education who will move here and we'll have access to their expertise for the betterment of AR.Claiming ALL educators are "liberal" is no rationale(Mr. Toast, I believe) for underfunding schools in AR. I know all sorts of folks who educate kids and they are as diverse in political and religious persuasion as any group I've encountered. No more of that straw man fallacy pleaZZZZZZZe.
Was wondering about Mark Moore's response to these statements posted elsewhere:a) One hundred school districts involved one way or another in consolidations or annexations in June of 2004 reported their administrative costs decreased by $2.4 million from fiscal 2004 to fiscal 2005b) The Division of Legislative Audit’s report found that 202 other districts that weren’t involved in these mergers reported their administrative expenses increased by $4 million from fiscal 2004 to fiscal 2005c) He said these districts’ administrative costs declined by 14 percent from $254 per student in fiscal 2004 to $221 per student in fiscal 2005
Good comments folks. I am itching to respond, but it will have to wait until tomorrow.I am booked up for now.
Obviously some other costs must have gone up, since school spending as a whole increased $380 million under the plan.The report said that the 100 districts involved in consolidation saved about $24,000 each as a result. Make that $21,000 because one of the districts incorrectly reported $300,000 tax rebates as "administrative expenses" during 2004, making their 2005 numbers look like a real bargin.For $21,000 a year 54 communities lost control of their local school. As long as these communities were willing to pay the $21K themselves I say they should have that choice. It is called freedom. This plan is about control, not about saving money. The money saved in administrative costs is really a cut in services as much as a reduction in costs, for when you have fewer superintendents over more students and teachers, logic tells us that they must be less closely superintended. Also less closley attended to will be the needs and wants of the smaller community. The more distant superintendent will be more concerned with the larger community that did the absorbing. A little community that gets absorbed by a larger one will just get steamrolled.
It is sad when the citizens of 2 cities, soon to become one are compelled to petition the Gov. for the state to take over the school district. Of course I am referring to the Helena - West Helena Schools. I live here, as so do, desperate parents, and concerned citizens who saw rape, manipulation, low test scores, janitors teaching students, and a school board lining its pockets with money most of us dream of as a way of life.Fear was tormented our school system. No child or teacher should have to be in such an atmosphere. Suddenly we rose up with boldness as WE THE PEOPLE and said ENOUGH is ENOUGH!!! Governor Huckabee please help us, help our children. We petitioned the Governor by the hundreds.We thankful that the state has honored our requests.
Then I am certainly glad that the will of the people was done. What concerns me is not the state rescuing people when they call for it but rather imposing changes on schools that are already working well, changes that the citizens do not want, in order to consolidate more and more power in Little Rock.Jefferson said the very definition of tyranny is when all power is gathered together in one place.It is also said that people who want power will always plead that their intentions are good.
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