Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Pirates Take Hostages

Greenland Pirates take 60 former Winslow Squirrels Hostage

This Morning News article is the latest chapter on the hostage crisis in Greenland. The legislature forced small schools like Winslow into "administrative consolidation" despite our warnings that is would lead to actual school closings and long bus rides for rural students. Winslow had a gun to its head. It had to consolidate with somebody, either Greenland or West Fork. They chose Greenland in the belief that Greenland would be less likely to close down their campus and ship the students to a single campus. They were wrong. What happened is just what we said would happen and what has happened all over the state. The larger school district absorbs the smaller one, takes whatever pile of incentive cash the state gave them for doing so, and then steam-rolls over the desires of the citizens in the smaller community and closes down their campus regardless of any agreements beforehand. That's how "administrative" consolidation really works. It was totally predictable and the legislators and Demozette were totally in denial about it.

Now 60 former Winslow students (a sizable chunk of the total) have requested a transfer to West Fork. Greenland does not want to grant the transfers. The reason? It's not the children, its the money. Greenland will lose over $300,000 in annual revenue if the agree to the parent's wishes and transfer the students. So, Greenland is taking hostages. It wants to hold those students in Greenland against their will. It was not even a matter of choosing their school by choosing where they want to live. The parents got their homes with the understanding that they would go to Winslow schools. Greenland took over, closed down that campus, and now won't let them go.

A couple of the state legislators had comments on it. One was not around when it started but is trying to minimize the damage in a tough situation, the other- well I hope he was just misquoted. Rep. Mark Martin, whose district includes many of the families involved, is trying to convince Greenland that the details of the law will get them back some extra money even if they release the hostages. So far they are not buying it. At least he is trying to undo some of the damage that the consolidation bill brought to the families of his district.

Less understandable are the comments of Senator Dave Bisbee. He is term-limited out, but his wife has expressed interest in the House Seat being vacated by Aaron Burkes. Bisbee is quoted as saying the problem was that there was not enough consolidation, that Greenland should have been consolidated into Fayetteville too. I remember the days when Republicans believed that people should be empowered with more choices, not fewer, and that authority should be pushed down to the smallest government unit possible in order to help make this happen. You don't improve education by closing down schools just because they are small, nor do you do it by alienating parents and disrespecting their wishes in the educational process.


Blogger terrymcdermott said...

Socialized education at it's best. Today's Arkansas would have blended well with the former Soviet Union.

1:22 PM, August 01, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Moore,

Pretty good report, but I think it is important to note that I was not yet in the legislature when the school consolidation took place. I am not one of those who "helped get us into this mess." In fact, I have been adamantly opposed to consolidation.

As frustrating as the Greenland situation is right now, I hope the parents, teacher, administrators, and school board members understand that when the "consolidators" come after them ...and apparently they already have... then I will be one of their strongest allies.

Again, school consolidation occured as a result of Act 60 of 2003. I did not hold office until the 2005 Session.

Thank you for reporting on this, it would be nice if you would clarify that I was not a "consolidator."

Mark Martin
State Representative
District 87

8:10 PM, August 01, 2007  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

Well that is right. I changed it- one big advantage of a blog over print.

10:33 PM, August 01, 2007  

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