This crew of Gators from the Two Rivers School District came to the Capitol last week to oppose disinvestment in public schools and advocate for reinvestment instead.

Public education advocate Gwen Faulkenberry‘s signature sign-off, “A hug,” hit different last night when her email went out letting supporters know the Arkansas LEARNS bill just dropped, and they had all of one business day to read the 144-page document before hearings begin.

Head of the nonprofit advocacy group Arkansas Strong in Education Coalition, Faulkenberry shepherded a parade of about 100 public school educators through the Capitol last week to grab some face time with lawmakers. In both scheduled meetings and hallway stop-and-chats, the teachers let legislators know they’re upset, worried, angry and scared about the effects Gov. Sarah Sanders‘ omnibus bill will have on students and school communities.


On Monday night, Faulkenberry invited teachers back to the Capitol for another try.

Did you see? Today at 4:55pm, the LEARNS Act was filed. It’s 144 pages long, and we are poring over the bill’s details now. In the meantime, we are planning another day at the Capitol for this Wednesday. The bill will run in Senate Ed committee Wednesday at 9am in the Big Mac building, room A. We know it is hard to get off work, but if possible, please make plans to be there by 8:20 and sign up if you’d like to speak at the Senate Ed Committee meeting.

Teach Plus Arkansas, another group keyed in on issues affecting public school teachers and students, is also in go mode, planning a Wednesday evening Zoom session for teachers on how to engage lawmakers.


It all feels like a losing proposition, as most of the Republican supermajority in the Arkansas Legislature is signed on to sponsor this bill that will eventually provide vouchers for private, church or home schools to any Arkansas student who wants one. Voucher programs in other states have failed to deliver the goods on improved academic achievement, but they certainly are a nice perk for well-to-do families who get what amounts to a 50% off coupon for the private school tuitions they’re already paying without taxpayers’ help.

Arguments like this one fall on deaf ears, though, as Arkansas LEARNS supporters continue to dump on public schools and suggest children should be rescued from them.


Faulkenberry’s report from her day at the Capitol last week illuminates the divide-and-conquer strategy Sen. Bart Hester (R-Cave Springs) is going with, and the belly-up defeatism of a one-time voucher opponent who is now listed as a sponsor of Arkansas LEARNS.

In one conversation Senator Bart Hester called superintendents his enemy, and insinuated they are against teachers, as though with the help of local boards supers withhold funding intended from teachers. Teachers called his bluff on this by standing up for admin and letting him know we are all a team.


In another, Representative Bruce Cozart admitted vouchers are for the rich and the plan would be rammed through because the rich want it to happen. He said he had fought it for 8 years and he’s tired.

Faulkenberry and other opponents of the voucher plan to disinvest in Arkansas public schools are tired too, but they’re still out there working. Respect.