Before gathering in Little Rock this afternoon for a two-day summit on improving education, educational organizations released a statement condemning the Arkansas Supreme Court's ruling in Kimbrell v. McClesky, which throws equitable education in Arkansas into doubt.
Notably, Donna Morey, president of the Arkansas Education Association, indicated that her group would be lobbying the legislature to follow the majority's suggestion to expressly provide a mechanism for redistributing excess funds. Gov. Beebe and others have suggested that such tinkering would set a bad precedent and invite further court challenges, which might undo years of work on equity and adequacy.
“The Arkansas Education Association believes in Great Public Schools for All Students. The decision by the Arkansas Supreme Court, Nov. 29, 2012, affects public school funding significantly. The AEA believes that the decision does not reflect the intent of the Arkansas General Assembly concerning adequacy and equity for all the students in Arkansas' public schools.”
“It will be necessary for the legislature to modify the statutes to clearly define the funding structures for schools, and the AEA will be an active partner in changing the appropriate laws.”
More statements from participants in this weekend's Opportunity to Learn Campaign on the jump.
“This ruling creates a dangerous precedent,” said Rich Huddleston, executive director for Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families. “This opens the door for future Governors and Legislators to backtrack and undermine Arkansas’ commitment to education quality and equity.”
“In recent years, Arkansas has been hailed as a leader in our education reform efforts,” said Arkansas Public Policy Panel Executive Director Bill Kopsky, “but we could soon find ourselves back at the bottom unless the state quickly comes up with a new way to ensure an equitable funding structure for our schools.”
Lavina Grandon of the Rural Community Alliance said, “Rural Community Alliance supports the principle of equal and adequate funding for public education. Insofar as disparities of property wealth among communities would create an inequitable and inadequate funding system, RCA believes the Supreme Court is correct in upholding the Uniform Rate of Tax through the ad valorem property tax collected by the counties and distributed through the state back to the counties and districts on a substantially equal basis. The state legislature and the people of Arkansas must not renege on their obligation to provide an equal and adequate education to all of the state's children.”
John Jackson, President of the Schott Foundation for Public Education that supports Opportunity to Learn Campaigns across the country, said, "The Arkansas Supreme Court’s decision yesterday in Kimbrell v. McKlesky makes Arkansas, a state that has been a leader in the region, into a laggard. At a time when states and leaders across the country are working to provide additional resources to protect every student's right to an opportunity to learn, the decision pushes the state back to a time and place where separate and unequal districts and opportunities once again rule the day. This will have a devastating impact on the future educational, economic and social growth of Arkansas.”
Molly Hunter, an attorney and Director of Education Justice with the National Education Law Center said, “Arkansans have been clear that they want both higher achievement and quality education for all students. These goals require fair funding, the very thing that this opinion strikes down.”
Sherece West, President & CEO of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, said, “The Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation believes that all Arkansans fare better when no one is left behind and when everyone shares in quality education, economic progress, and general community well-being. In recent years, Arkansas has made great progress to improve educational outcomes for all children. The Arkansas Supreme Court’s decision in Kimbrell v. McKlesky challenges our ability as a state to provide our children with an equitable and adequate education. Arkansas has a responsibility to put in place policies that do right by all of our children.”