AEA
ARKANSAS EDUCATION ASSOCIATION

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New poll shows favorability for Arkansas LEARNS Act as education association calls foul

Dec 12, 2023

A new statewide poll on education in Arkansas shows a majority of parents polled are in support of key elements of the LEARNS Act but some in educational leadership roles are calling foul.

Robert Coon, managing partner at Impact Management Group, a public affairs and public research firm in Little Rock, said ExcelinEd, a nonprofit organization out of Florida asked his group to conduct the survey.

The poll, conducted between Aug. 24 and Sept. 8, surveyed 800 registered voters who have children in K-12 grades.

“We tested a couple of different components of the LEARNS Act,” Coon said. “One dealt with Education Freedom Accounts (EFA’s), one dealt with teacher salaries, but we wanted to make sure that we were looking at what are the viewpoints of folks in various demographics.”

Read the entire KATV article here.


Gov. Lee looks at Arkansas program to create Tennessee’s private school voucher proposal

Dec 11, 2023

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) – Gov. Bill Lee was joined by Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders as Tennessee proposed a statewide school voucher program in Tennessee.

Arkansas families were already using tax dollars for private schooling.

“The voucher program is something we’ve been fighting for a long, long time,” Arkansas Education Association president April Reisma said.

Reisma was against the program in Arkansas and Tennessee. She said she wants to keep this money for public schools.

“Taking that money away from public education and taking it away from students; don’t do it. It’s a horrible, horrible hole going down,” Reisma said.

Read the entire WVLT article here.


AEA President Carol B. Fleming Statement on House Passage of Unvetted Voucher Bill Lawmakers continue to ignore calls to slow down extreme bill or answer questions about potential negative impacts on children

Mar 2, 2023
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Liz Picone, Arkansas Education Association
501-375-4611, lzpicone@aeanea.org

 

Little Rock, ARKANSAS — Today the House passed SB294, the sweeping voucher reform bill introduced by Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders little more than two weeks ago.

Despite calls from educators, parents, disability advocates and others to slow down and answer questions about the bill’s negative impact on students, public schools, educators and families, the legislators continue to move the bill towards passage at breakneck speed.

Speech-language pathologist, twin mom, and Arkansas Education Association President Carol B. Fleming released the following statement in response:

“The voices of hundreds of educators, parents, disability advocates and others have been ignored by those who represent us. Despite pleas to our legislators to slow down and answer questions about the negative impact this bill could have on our children, it continues its sprint through the capital.

“The best decisions for our students are made with teachers and parents at the table. Educators have spent countless hours combing through the bill’s 144 pages and each time we come away with more questions than answers. At every turn, our requests to meet with the governor or the bill’s authors have been ignored or deflected.  

“If supporters of the bill are so confident about it, why are they trying to push it through so quickly without meaningful discussions? What are they afraid of and what’s in there that they don’t want us to know?”


Educators: There are higher priorities for improving public schools than voucher schemes

Feb 9, 2023
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Liz Picone, Arkansas Education Association
501-375-4611, lzpicone@aeanea.org

Vouchers take scarce funding from public schools and give it to unaccountable private schools

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R-Arkansas) introduced her omnibus education reform package Wednesday, called the Arkansas LEARNS plan, that would increase teachers’ salaries in exchange for implementing unpopular and destructive voucher schemes.

The following statement can be attributed to Arkansas Education Association President Carol B. Fleming:

“Every student deserves a well-rounded curriculum that will nurture imagination and a desire to learn. This mission is what Arkansas educators wake up every day working for. Spending money on voucher programs means denying students the opportunities they deserve in their neighborhood public schools. When our leaders choose to fund voucher programs, they pick and choose which children can pursue their dreams. Educators, parents, guardians, and students should be very concerned about the proposal’s impact.

“Vouchers take scarce funding away from public schools and give it to private schools that are unaccountable to the public. Arkansas needs to focus on investing in our public schools — where 90 percent of our children go — instead of diverting money from them to give to the 10 percent who attend private schools. By taking funding away for public schools, vouchers will harm rural communities, where public schools are popular and remain the only option for most students.

“The Arkansas Education Association has long been a leader in advocating for increasing the salaries of Arkansas’ hardworking and dedicated teachers to help us recruit and retain high-quality educators in every classroom. While we’re encouraged to see this issue of low teacher pay addressed after years of our advocacy, we urge the Arkansas state legislature to do so without harming students through voucher schemes.

“There are higher priorities for improving public schools. If we’re serious about every child’s future, let’s get serious about doing what works. And what works is resourcing our neighborhood public schools so that all students have inviting classrooms, a well-rounded curriculum, class sizes that are small enough for one-on-one attention, and support services such as health care, nutrition, and after-school programs for students who need them.”


Three Things To Know

Nov 17, 2022

 

Across the country, there are 3+ million education support professionals (ESPs) in our schools. The work they do is integral in ensuring our school communities are safe and nurturing learning spaces, so our students are provided the education they deserve to prepare them to succeed in a diverse and interdependent world. Annually,

Education Support Professionals Day is celebrated during American Education Week which is in November.  Our ESPs are the first and last educators who see our children beginning with our professional school bus drivers who get our students to & from school safely. Support professionals maintain our school facilities; prepare healthy meals;  manage the school finances and services; provide education support; and so much more. 

 

Attendees from the AEA Professional Development conference will be receiving emails from Angela Jones in the following weeks. These emails will ask participants to complete a survey/evaluation to receive credit for the sessions attended. Please be patient as it takes weeks to generate, collate, and submit the certificates to our attendees. If your district has any questions, please feel to reach out to the office and we will be glad to assist in explaining the process and timeline.

 

As a reminder, AEA is seeking nominations for Board Seats, Elected Officers, AEA-Retired Sec/Treasurer, AEA-Retired Delegates to the 2023 AEA Representative Assembly, and delegates to the NEA 2023 Representative Assembly. The deadline to submit a nomination is Friday, December 2, 2022. More information can be found here.

 

United. Together – A Stronger Voice

Carol


#payAReducators sit-in at ALC

Jul 25, 2022

Grassroots parents, educators and public-school advocates attended the July 21st meeting of the Arkansas Legislative Council and called on lawmakers to prioritize educator pay increases during the upcoming Special Session. 

AEA helped to support the grassroots led event, where attendees wore #RedforED and welcomed lawmakers as they arrived for the meeting. They then gathered on the Capitol steps to explain the urgent need to increase pay so Arkansas’s students have qualified educators in their schools. AEA President Carol Fleming called on the Governor to include educator pay raises on the call for the special session, and for lawmakers to prioritize Arkansas’s students when considering how to invest the state’s record surplus.

 

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: Fleming said while longterm funding for increased pay could be addressed during the adequacy process, it’s unconscionable to prioritize tax cuts while the state has the lowest-paid teachers in the region and is second-to-last in the nation.

“With a more than $1.6 billion surplus, we have an opportunity to take immediate action to address the shortage of qualified educators in our state,” she said. “The way we spend our money reflects our values.

“What could be more important than making sure that our students have the state’s top talent running our classrooms? Our students deserve to have highly qualified and highly paid educators in our classrooms.” READ THE FULL STORY

 

40/29 News: The minimum salary for teachers in Arkansas is $36,000 a year. That puts Arkansas last in the region and second-to-last in the country, according to Carol Fleming, Arkansas Education Association president.

“It is about being able to put food on the table,” Fleming said. “But also we have about a quarter of our educators who are considering either leaving the profession entirely or retiring.” WATCH THE FULL STORY

 

 

THV11: “Why are those legislators not willing to put money into our public schools,” Carol Fleming, Arkansas Education Association president said.

She added that she’s hopeful Governor Asa Hutchinson will add to the agenda for the special session set for August.

“Let our legislators know, those who represent us, that this is an important issue and we need to address this,” Fleming said. WATCH THE FULL STORY

 

KARK:  Kimberly Crutchfield started in the classroom 23 years ago. She says her first paycheck was $600.

“I had to drop my insurance until I go up to a step where I could afford the insurance,” said Crutchfield.

She says she began advocating for higher pay shortly after.

More than two decades later, she’s still fighting the same fight.

“We knew we weren’t going to be millionaires, but we didn’t think we would have to go on public assistance either,” said Crutchfield. WATCH THE FULL STORY

 

KARK CAPITOL VIEW: On Capitol View this week, AEA President Carol Fleming told lawmakers the one-time bonus recommendation won’t pay next year’s bills, and called on lawmakers to use some of the state’s record surplus to immediately boost educator pay. WATCH THE FULL STORY

 


AEA Welcomes Interim Executive Director

Mar 30, 2022

Liz Picone Brings Decades of Association Experience 

The Arkansas Education Association is excited to announce Liz Picone has taken the helm of the state’s largest professional organization for educators as Interim Executive Director.  

Picone will lead the organization over the next six to eight months while the AEA Board of Directors conducts a search for a new director and plans to immediately focus on membership growth. 

“Arkansas teachers and education support professionals are at the heart of all we do and the source of AEA’s power,” Picone said. “Our members allow us to provide professional development programming, educator support and advocacy for students and educators at the local and state level.” 

Picone is now in her 28th year of association staff experience. She brings a wealth of experience as an Organizational Specialist serving National Education Association members across the country from Pre-K to Higher Ed. Picone has worked in more than 35 states assisting with membership campaigns, political campaigns, leadership development, coaching staff and serving as a thought partner for Executive Directors. 

Liz taught Orchestra in the Texas Public Schools for 13 years before she began her association career. 

“Coming from the classroom, I know the value of an organization that has your back and amplifies educator voice,” she said. “Over the last three decades, I’ve seen the incredible things educators can accomplish when we work together, and I look forward to working with Arkansas educators to spread the word about AEA’s work to improve student learning conditions and school employee working conditions.” 

The recruitment drive will begin April 1st, when educators can enroll early to receive benefits for free through the remainder of this school year.  

“Early Enrollment is a wonderful opportunity for educators to join the association and discover the many benefits of membership,” Picone said. “We also look forward to a return to more normal back to school events following years of disruption brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.”  

Picone holds degrees from the University of Kansas and Eastern Illinois University. She also holds administration and supervisor certifications from the University of Houston and Sam Houston State University. Picone is a graduate of the Harvard Trade Union program and one of a select group of Association Executives that qualify for the Certified Association Executive (CAE). The CAE credential is the marker of a committed association professional who has demonstrated the wide range of knowledge essential to manage an association in today’s challenging environment. 

She replaces former Executive Director Tracey Ann-Nelson, who left the association for another position following seven years at AEA. 


February ’22 Adequacy Update SCHOOL FUNDING TALKS CONTINUE AT CAPITOL

Feb 10, 2022

AEA’s lobby team was back at the State Capitol this week for continued legislative hearings to review and recommend school funding levels. The Monday and Tuesday meetings included a look at how schools are funded, and how districts are spending the money they receive.

Bureau of Legislative Research officials told lawmakers the bulk of school funding is provided by the state’s “foundation funding.” The amount each school receives is calculated using a matrix that assumes a school has 500 students to achieve efficiency, but the majority of Arkansas schools fall below this number.

BLR also said different spending patterns occur between different types of schools, and the size of the district is a big factor. That spending matters, especially when targeting high poverty schools and improving instruction. Successful schools seem to invest more in human capital and instruction-related resources. In school districts with waivers, spending is often less, they said.

This hearing is part of an 18 month long process where lawmakers study various aspects of public education to determine how to adequately resource public education in Arkansas. AEA attends each of these meetings and offers testimony to lawmakers to inform the final recommendations. The next meeting in this series of hearings will take place at the State Capitol on  March 7th and 8th.


OMICRON CHECK IN STUDENTS ARE SUFFERING WHILE EDUCATOR VOICES ARE IGNORED

Jan 25, 2022

Arkansas’s students are suffering from emotional distress, learning loss, and undernourishment as the state experiences a rapid surge in COVID-19 infections, according to a recent survey conducted by the Arkansas Education Association. In addition, the majority of survey respondents believe a brief virtual shift would be the best option to limit daily disruptions and keep students and educators safe. 

“We have learned the hard way it is more difficult than ever to be an educator,” said AEA President Carol Fleming. “With no option to pivot to virtual, and AMI days running out, we wanted to get a broader perspective of what our educators are experiencing and what insight they could provide into the ever-growing need for mitigating the effects of the virus on students and educators.” 

STUDENTS ARE SUFFERING 

While educators are worn thin from trying to stay healthy and keep their families safe, they have also had the added stress of worrying about the well-being of their students. An overwhelming majority of respondents, 94.07%, reported that their students have suffered some level of emotional distress due to the pandemic72.44% reported some level of undernourishment in their students, and 96.69% have observed academic losses.  

“Our top priority is to keep our students and educators safely learning in their classrooms – and we have the tools to make that possible,” Fleming said. “Educators are always showing up for their students – but we need the support and resources to do what we love most. Whether it’s repairing broken, outdated HVAC systems or addressing the shortages of rapid tests – we’re asking for what is needed to make in-person learning safe.” 

EDUCATORS FEEL IGNORED 

“Educators are on the front lines of this pandemic and have become experts on delivering meaningful instruction during this health crisis,” Fleming said. “However, it seems most of them are not even being asked what they think.”  

Most respondents, 72.08%, disagreed with the statement “My district is listening to educator input as it relates to COVID-19″Furthermore, 63.76% disagreed with “My district is treating me in a way that makes me feel respected and valued.” To that end, only 46% of respondents feel comfortable reporting health and safety violations.  

AMI DAYS ARE RUNNING OUT 

Many schools had to close because of staffing shortages due to rising infection rates, using their 10 allotted AMI Days (Alternative methods of instruction). While the use of AMI days can help keep educators and students safe in the short term, they are currently capped at only ten (10). Once a school exhausts their days, the school calendar will be extended into the summer break. 63.10% of respondents reported that their school is using AMI days in response to the omicron spike. While the legislation states that AMI can be delivered virtually, educators reported that 62.22% are being mandated to conduct synchronous instruction.  

“Educators know how important it is to remain flexible in responding to unprecedented and rapidly changing circumstances – we have shown up every day the past two years, adapting and innovating the ways we teach and interact with our students,” Fleming said. “But right now, our districts don’t have the flexibility they need. If districts exhaust AMI days and the school calendar is extended, what does this mean for educators who are teaching virtually and then making up days at the end of the school year?” 

WHAT SHOULD BE DONE? 

We sent four hypothetical options for educators to choose what they feel schools should be doing to keep themselves, their families, and their students safe. 50.38% agree that schools should move to virtual instruction until positivity rates begin to decline and 29.50% wish to remain in-person, but with strong mitigation strategies such as mask mandates. 9.39% would like to return to a hybrid model of teaching both online and in-person, and 10.73% would like to see virtual options and mask mandates eliminated while keeping schools open.  

“We know the impacts of the pandemic can look different from community to community,” Fleming said. “Each school district across the country needs to bring together parents, educators, administrators and elected officials to collectively make local decisions that will best keep our students safe.” 

 


Educators call on school districts to follow health expert guidance during Coronavirus Surge Court ruling allows for masking requirements that limit virus cases

Jan 3, 2022

The Arkansas Education Association is unabatedly concerned with the health, safety and welfare of our state’s students and educators as we approach another semester of school under virulent conditions.    

While in-person instruction is best for our students, it must be done safely. As record numbers of new infections hit our state, we must follow health expert guidance to make sure our students and educators are as safe as possible in their learning and working environment.  

The Arkansas Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatricians is calling on schools and child care facilities to return to masking requirements for staff and students to help keep buildings open. Vaccines are also an important tool to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in any of its forms, but that does not negate the need to continue health and safety protocols including masks and social distancing. 

Circuit Judge Tim Fox’s ruling on Act 1002 as unconstitutional allows local school districts the authority to make decisions in the best interest of the community. Data shared by Dr. Jose Romero, Arkansas Secretary of Health, showed school districts where students and staff wore masks had 20% fewer cases of COVID-19 than schools with no mask requirements. It is vital that school boards consider and follow the expert medical advice of our health professionals given the situation on the ground.  

Educators are leaving their positions as a result of the impact of COVID-19 on their students, themselves, and their families. Districts cannot continue to ignore the rapidly changing learning and working conditions that must be addressed to maintain safe and healthy classrooms, buildings and school buses.

The Arkansas Education Association is a professional organization for teachers, education support professionals, students and advocates. Our fundamental objective is to work for quality and equitable public education for all of Arkansas students, the betterment of the Arkansas state education system and quality working conditions for educators.