OPINION | JOHN BRUMMETT: The Education Agenda – Arkansas Online | Team Cansler

Our new governor’s focus, they tell me, will be education, to which some of you just said, “Oh dear.”

The recent power play in the state senate to allow only two Democrats on standing committees… that, some say, was just a matter of being sure to pass education. But others say it would have been done for the pleasure of plain partisan muscle even without the education factor.

If Sarah Sanders’ campaign is to be believed, and I personally found it hard to believe, an educational focus will mean that teachers will be mandated by law to stop indoctrinating our children with propaganda from the far left.

This shouldn’t be hard to stop because it never starts.

But the bill could include penalties for teachers if a teen comes home dejected and mom asks if it’s true what they said at school about the civil war being fought against black people led by white people like us in places like are kept as slaves here.

The Oklahoma legislature, too close and similar to be comfortable, passed a law essentially stating that teachers can be fired because a child goes home pensive and burdened with thinking.

There will likely be a bill coming out of the Republican supermajority to prevent teachers from making young children gay and lesbian in the first grades, which is also not happening and is not how sexual orientation is phrased.

If there’s evidence of an 8-year-old deciding to become gay after hearing a reference to “two mommies” or “two daddies” at school, I’m not aware of it. I doubt that at this point the child knows much about these powerful instincts that are about to introduce themselves.

Aside from that sort of primitive DeSantian nonsense, which will likely happen on the basis that it’ll be introduced and Republican legislators will be afraid to vote against it, the first focus will be – I’m advised – on reading.

And, I am further advised, “reading” as an emphasis will not be euphemistically for school choice or statewide coupons, but seriously for targeted new programs to get the youngest children reading at grade level so they have a chance.

Nothing wrong with that. Democrats — all 24 of them in the 135-seat General Assembly — could join if the program doesn’t include conservative jargon or other absurdities.

If anyone tries to say that either all children can read through third grade or that the school must not offer art or music, they will be met with resistance. If someone tries to say either you read through third grade or the school shouldn’t have a ball team – well, what am I saying? That will not happen.

Now, getting down to business: The general fight will have to do with conservative Republicans’ fondness for the idea of ​​blasting the public school model for coupons that would follow a child to whatever school their parents chose and brought them to be it a private, charter, or an old reliable regular public school, maybe in another community.

Conservative Republican thought posits that these regular public schools have failed in many instances and otherwise had no incentive to improve. It states that instead of being blessed with a nearby school, poor and disadvantaged children are often cursed because they have no choice but to go to the regular public school that is failing their parents, siblings, cousins ​​​​and friends left.

This will not be a downed hand.

The irony in Arkansas is that while rural voters overwhelmingly voted for conservative Republican lawmakers who espouse ideas of coupons, choice and competition in public education, those same white rural voters tend to trust their local public school, their superintendent and hug their ball teams.

In recent years, efforts have been made in the Republican-majority legislature to regulate coupons and school choice. But all that has passed is a limited-funding bill to set up some scholarships that offer school-choice coupons to low-income children.

Left-of-center thinking abhors the idea of ​​destroying public education rather than focusing on improving it. It loathes leaving the children who cannot make the choice and stranding them in regular public schools that have been deprived of resources by lost students.

But the resistance in Arkansas that has been successful so far is primarily practical. Where are all these schools out there that a kid from rural Arkansas can get to by 8am? Second, it arose out of rural political culture. Small principals are powerful. Along with the Baptist church, the football team is the heart of the church.

There are now ideas in the legislature for performance-based payment for teachers, which mainly allow a headmaster to play favourites. But the separate idea of ​​providing additional stimulus payments from the state portion of the school-funding formula and targeting them to excellent teachers who would work in poor and underperforming counties…that might actually help us get where we started, which is learning to read.


John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers’ Hall of Fame. Email him at jbrummett@arkansasonline.com. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

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