Expect a massive turnout Oct. 12 for a “pep rally” at the state Capitol over the skyrocketing health premiums that public school employees are facing at the end of the year.
Organizers of the event say that up to a couple of thousand may attend, based on the online response. And it’s all been done online — the rally is not the product of the Arkansas Education Association or any other official organization. Instead, it seems to a genuine grassroots mobilization via social media.
A single Facebook page titled “AR School Employees Health Insurance” is the source of the planning efforts and currently boasts over 9,300 members. It’s managed by an Arkansas teacher, Shelley Smith, who has previously organized a petition to address the school employee insurance problem. (The petition, which was submitted to an Education subcommittee last year, received more than 6,000 signatures.)
Meanwhile, closed door negotiations to reach a consensus on how to prevent the increase or soften the blow to pocketbooks have been continuing all week. Legislators, the governor, school administrators, and employee groups are still working towards the outline of a plan, but it’s unclear whether anything like a coherent agreement can be reached in the next few weeks.