CFC Update: Hundreds Gather at Capitol to Call for Proven Education Reforms

Dear Friend,

Thanks for joining us at the Capitol to call for
Proven Education Reforms!

Hundreds of Arkansans gathered at the State Capitol Tuesday to fight for the future of our children and call on legislators to do the same.

Members of the Arkansas Citizens First Congress packed committee rooms and spent time speaking with senators and representatives about legislation that threatens the incredible progress Arkansas’ schools have made over the past ten years.

“We have the fastest improving education system in the country because we have invested in proven solutions to boost learning,” said retired teacher and CFC member Alyce Love. “We have raised standards across the board -- raising our expectations from parents, students, teachers and schools.”  

Love called on legislators to invest in proven education reforms that will offer every student in Arkansas an equal playing field.  

“We have a rapidly improving education system, but it’s not good enough and it’s not good for everyone yet,” she says. “We have to continue expanding quality pre-k programs, afterschool and Summer programs. We must improve teacher quality and reduce the gap in pay between wealthy and low-income districts.”

Love told a crowd gathered in the Old Supreme Courtroom this legislative session is bringing unprecedented attempts to roll back our higher expectations for schools.  

“We’ve retreated from a strong curriculum,” she said. “We are retreating from quality and equitable facilities.  We are retreating from higher standards for teachers.  And we are retreating from our commitment to fund the investments necessary to build a world class education system.  We must resist the urge to retreat or forget how hard the progress we’ve made has been earned.”

Love also warned against the distractions of false promises of quick fixes. Several bills have been filed to privatize Arkansas’ public school system. For example, House Bill 1733 turns public school districts over to private charter corporations. House Bill 1593 creates a voucher program for private schools. There are many problems with these proposals, but the biggest is that they don’t work.  In study after study charter schools and voucher programs are proven to be no better than public schools at educating our children.  

“But they are less accountable, have weaker standards, often segregate our communities and are more costly over the long run,” Love said. “Why is the legislature wasting time and tax dollars on discredited and experimental education reforms when we have a whole set of proven reforms we know will improve the education of every child in our state tomorrow if only we could enact them? I just don’t understand their thinking.”

Senator Joyce Elliott followed Love, and spoke about Senate Bill 851, her bill to ensure that funds to boost learning for low income students is spent effectively. Representative Greg Leding asked the crowd to contact their legislators about his bill to improve parental involvement in schools by requiring a community forum during school district evaluations.

Earlier in the day, CFC member Shirley Renix, a mother of a special needs student testified for House Bill 1485. The bill, by Rep. Sheila Lampkin, would create a Special Education Task Force focused on improving special education in Arkansas.

"All people are special," Renix said. "We need to make sure we are doing everything we can to give these children what they need to be successful."

HB1485 passed the House Education Committee and now moves to the House floor.

“We are winning the battle to improve our schools and improve our future,” says CFC Co-Chair Mark Robertson. “But we cannot succeed without a sustained and focused commitment from Arkansas lawmakers and the voters who put them in office.  We need to never retreat from our progress on education. We need to keep investing in proven solutions and we need to avoid the traps of ideological experiments.”