by Max Brantley
Asa Hutchinson News Release
May 30, 2006
Asa Hutchinson Outlines Arkansas ‘First Teachers Foundation’
Emphasizes Importance of Parents, Local Community In Education
Little Rock, Ark. –Asa Hutchinson, Arkansas' 2006 Republican candidate for Governor, said today that, as Governor, he would establish a statewide private foundation to assist parents and local communities in supporting their children’s education.
In a forum with local teachers, parents and educators at Baker Elementary in Little Rock, Hutchinson discussed his “First Teachers Foundation” as a vehicle to achieve his statewide goal of promoting, enhancing and supporting the critical involvement of parents and local communities in creating a strong and effective educational system.
“I’ve made creating more and better-paying jobs my number one policy goal, and you cannot do that without creating a strong education system that produces an educated workforce capable of competing in today’s global economy,” Hutchinson said. “That’s why education reform is an indispensable element of my GROW ARKANSAS campaign.”
Hutchinson noted that the First Teachers Foundation would be funded by private sector contributions, which would be used to launch a public awareness campaign focused on promoting the importance of education in Arkansas – not only for the success of the individual children, but for the goal of growing Arkansas’s economy and attracting the best-paying jobs to our state.
In addition, the foundation would be charged with developing programs to assist parents and guardians and local communities in their active and ongoing involvement in local education efforts. The Foundation would work with local community involvement programs in existence but work to establish programs in communities where such involvement may be lacking.
“We still have too many kids who aren’t graduating or going on to college. We still have too many who can’t read at the appropriate level,” Hutchinson said. “The First Teachers Foundation, with the Governor at the helm, will promote the message that education is the critical element to a child’s success, just as it is the critical element to our state’s overall economic success.”
Hutchinson said that recent suggestions by Legislators that the state should eliminate local school districts and remove the influence and involvement of local communities was “exactly the wrong message.”
“I’m disturbed by recent suggestions that we should eliminate local involvement by our parents and communities and instead create some kind of super-school district run out of Little Rock,” Hutchinson said. “There is no more important criteria in the success of our schools than our local parents and teachers being involved. We need to increase participation by our parents and local communities, not shut them out.”
Hutchinson was responding to comments by Legislators calling for eliminating local school districts and creating a “Unified School District Number One,” as reported by the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. (“Schools Audit Adds Fuel to Call for State Takeover,” Arkansas Democrat Gazette, 5/13/06).
“A parent’s involvement in a child’s schooling can make all the difference in that child’s capacity for learning, academic performance and prospects for the future,” Hutchinson said. “With parents working hand in hand with teachers and administrators, Arkansas can truly create a world-class system of public education. The role of the First Teachers Foundation would be to encourage that partnership between parents and schools to do right by our kids.”
Hutchinson pointed to examples of local communities in Arkansas that have created foundations to support the public education mission (such entities exist in El Dorado, North Little Rock, and Fayetteville, for example), as well as to the highly successful Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation, as models for the First Teachers Foundation.
“A quarter century ago, we created the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation to help preserve our state’s precious natural resources, state parks and wildlands,” Hutchinson said. “That was the right thing to do. If we can do that for game and fish, surely we can do as much for our children.”
Hutchinson recently unveiled a seven-point education package highlighting education reforms ranging from recruiting and rewarding the best teachers available, promoting classroom innovation, and highlighting the critical element of parental and local community involvement in education.
The First Teachers Foundation proposal is part of Hutchinson’s larger package of education reform under his GROW ARKANSAS campaign. Hutchinson unveiled his education package April 27 at his high school alma mater, Springdale High School.