Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders Unveils Education Plan: Hike Teacher Pay, Wreck Public Schools

Post-Racial America
Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders Unveils Education Plan: Hike Teacher Pay, Wreck Public Schools

Fresh off her incomprehensible culture wars rant about the State of the Union Tuesday night, Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced a big new policy plan for education Wednesday, featuring a big increase in teachers' starting pay and a full-on voucher program that would radically shift taxpayer dollars from public education to private and charter schools, just like rightwing opponents have wanted for decades. But for the teachers left in the gutted public schools, the pay raise would probably help some.

Here are the basic elements of Sanders's plan to reform/dismantle schools:

  • A universal school voucher plan, phased in over three years, that would give parents public funds to use at private schools, charters, or even for homeschooling.
  • Repeal of a "Teacher Fair Dismissal Act" that offered very minimal job protections to teachers
  • Restrictions on how schools will be allowed to discuss race and gender
  • $50,000 minimum pay for teachers
  • Up to $10,000 in merit pay
  • Forgiveness of student loans for teachers who take jobs in "high need" areas
  • "Streamlined early childhood education programs," which we can't find any details on. Aerodynamic toddlers?
  • Sending 120 reading coaches to schools that need reading improvement
  • $500 in tutoring grants for K-3 students who don't meet literacy benchmarks
  • "Dual diploma" program in high schools, to encourage students who prefer entering the workforce after high school instead of college

There's actually some good stuff in that plan, as long as you ignore the toxic steaming shitwad at its core. No, we mean the voucher policy, not Sanders.

At the presser announcing the plan, Sanders said that making sure all children get a quality education is "the civil rights issue of our day, " meaning that parents should be able to use public funding to get their kids out of public education and let them learn evolution instead of Gender Indoctrination, obviously.

“The longer we wait to reform our failing schools, the more future generations we’re condemning to a lifetime of poverty,” she said. “I promised to be the education governor and I’m proud to deliver on that promise only a month into my term.”

It's the classic rightwing approach to governing: If there are problems with a government program (or if you can claim there are), the solution is to blow it up and give taxpayer dollars to private companies, which will just naturally use the money more wisely until they get caught defrauding the grant program. Then you cut the public funding and tell people who needed the service that government never fixes anything, so people should pay for mail service or education or healthcare themselves and not expect Mama Government to come and solve all their problems.

Sanders also announced that once the program is rolled out as actual legislation in a week or so, it will include new limits on how schools will be allowed to teach about race and gender, because what part of "Arkansas" did you not hear? Sanders said she wants schools to not teach children "what to think, but how to think," which clearly means how to think only about race and gender in ways the state approves of. Sanders had already issued an executive order banning the teaching of "critical race theory," but there's always the danger that some white child might read a book about Wilma Rudolph and get the impression that segregation is bad. Just another reason to spend public money on private church schools that got their start as literal "segregation academies" as part of the campaign of "massive resistance" to the Brown v. Board of Education ruling.

Fortunately, kids won't learn about that history anymore, because it's woke indoctrination.

The real mystery meat in the plan's school lunch shit sandwich will be the new "Education Freedom Accounts" that will

provide state funding for parents to enroll their children in public, private, parochial schools or homeschool, Sanders said. The program will be rolled out to “at-risk” families first and be available to all families within three years.

State Rep. Brian Evans, chair of the state's House Education Committee and who's been involved in drafting the legislation, said he thinks the full GOP caucus will eventually support the bill, even if some foolishly cling to the obsolete notion that public schools are important to their communities.

“I think there are some Republican members on both ends of the General Assembly that think about their communities back home. What are the cornerstones of those communities? In many instances, it’s the public school system,” Evans said.

“I think they’ll get over the line, but right now they’re just a little bit hesitant until they see the exact particulars of the bill just to make sure that the benefit and the gain is going to outweigh any potential risks to their communities.”

He may simply need to show some Libs of TikTok videos of teachers with purple hair to scare them, and maybe remind them that "community" has the same root as "COMMUNIST."

The Arkansas Advocate explains that the Freedom From Those People Accounts would, as Sanders describes them, amount to about 90 percent of the per-student funding that would ordinarily go to public education, or about $7,350 this school year. It would also provide funding for transportation and would "remove the caps on the number of charter schools or school choice transfers."

State Sen. Breanne Davis (R) took pains to make clear that this is the most liberty-est reallocation of public funds to private schools possible, because freedom, liberty, individualism (on the public dime), and also Luntzing It Up:

We call it a parent empowerment program because honestly when you say vouchers or school choice, that’s not really accurate because schools aren’t choosing. [...] It’s parents and families choosing a school that meets their kids’ educational needs.

We have to fault the Advocate just a teensy bit for not demanding Davis provide an example of anyone, anywhere, who thinks "school choice" involves a school making a choice, while also failing to note that charter schools and privates absolutely are doing the choosing, and do not in fact have to accept your kid's dumb ass — or your kid's disabled ass, or wrong religion ass, for that matter. Also, it's not a democracy, it's a REPUBLIC.

House Minority Leader Tippi McCullough (D) said that Democrats would oppose any "omnibus" bill that paired the private education vouchers with increased teacher pay and other funding to help kids in need of extra support, noting that cramming too many things in one bill might violate the state constitution. Plus, there's that school-wrecking elephant in the room.

“Even if there are some things that we would like to support, or could support, [we] just can’t do it because the voucher part of it’s going to be a systematic dismantling of the public school system in Arkansas,” she said.

The Advocate notes that in previous legislative sessions, a "coalition of Democrats and Republicans from mostly rural areas have blocked several voucher bills in committee," and clearly that's what McCullough is hoping can happen again if the vouchers are considered separately from the good stuff, like the pay increases. Arkansas currently has the fourth-lowest minimum teacher pay in the US, at just $36,000 per year, and raising it to Sanders's proposed $50,000 would put the state in the top five in the nation. That would be pretty good, as long as the price isn't getting rid of public education.

Also too, the Advocate notes that while Sanders didn't mention it in her presser, her proposal would repeal the "Teacher Fair Dismissal Act," which requires schools to notify teachers by May 1 each year whether their school districts plan to rehire them for the coming school year.

If teachers are dismissed, they are entitled to a written statement of the reasons why their contract is not being renewed, and they have an opportunity to appeal their termination to the school board.

Well dang, that sounds like it could slow the process of firing teachers because they were seen going into a movie theater showing Everything Everywhere All At Once or marching in a Pride parade two cities away.

[Arkansas Advocate / 40/29 News]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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