Transcript of Cleveland and Argue Discussion

on Consolidation in Arkansas

House Education Committee Meeting

Dec 30, 03

(Senator Argue and Rep Johnson presented SB 28 to the committee.  SB 28 would require districts  to have an enrollment of  500 students.  That would close approximately 90 to 100 schools in Arkansas. Senator Argue is  Chair of  Senate Education Committee and Representative Cleveland is Speaker of the House. Senator Argue and Representative Cleveland both read the transcript.  Argue stated that it covered the major points and aspects of  the consolidation debate.)

Excerpt from Discussion Ė Entire Discussion Follows This Excerpt

CLEVELAND:    How many children are we talking about in those 99 point something districts?

ARGUE:        It is 7% of  our total student population,  but in high school it is 2%.

CLEVELAND:    So our efforts to change the quality of education in this state depends on 7% of  the students being transferred to other schools or consolidated with other schools?

ARGUE:        This bill does not require transfer or consolidation with other schools. It simply requires the districts to be larger.  You focus on the 2% deficit;  I focus on the fact that here is an opportunity to eliminate 1/3 of the administrative units through which we are trying to deliver opportunity and it only affects 2% of  the high school students.

CLEVELAND:    And how much savings will we have in that?

ARGUE:       It is hard to predict since we have done all we can to let local folks make local decisions so it is very hard to predict.

CLEVELAND:     When we talk about efficiency is that the same thing as talking about money?  Are we talking about more than that?

ARGUE:        That is a good question.  To me, efficiency  means financial efficiency as well as academic achievement.  We donít need one or the other but both.

CLEVELAND:    So when we talk about efficiency we are talking about money, when you are talking about effectiveness, then at that point you are talking about  performance?

ARGUE:       Yes

CLEVELAND:    So we need both of those in order to be able to  have a good school system, efficiency and effectiveness. Now, how many of  these 100 districts do you have in your district? [referring to districts that would be cons. Ė no, become larger  districts under SB 28]

ARGUE:        None

CLEVELAND:    Johnson, how many do you have in your district?

JOHNSON    None

CLEVELAND:    With  efficiency and effectiveness being  what we are attempting to get,   I assume, Senator Argue, the Little Rock School District is part of  your district.

ARGUE:        Yes

CLEVELAND:    And I assume Rep Johnson, the Pine Bluff District is at least part of  your district.  You have all that school district or just part of  it?

JOHNSON    Just part of  it?

CLEVELAND:    Do you have other parts of  the schools?

CLEVELAND:    If  we look at Pine Bluff, and we look at Little Rock, and we look at my district, I would like to go over a few things and just compare and see how we are going to do efficiency and effectiveness in comparing those things.  I have an Arkansas Democrat Sunday, Sept 28, 2003, which attempts to list all the schools in the state of Arkansas, the expenditure per pupil, the test scores on the benchmark and the test scores on the SAT-9.  If  I take Little Rock, it shows we are expending  $8,874.00 per student.  Would that be approximately right, Senator Argue.

ARGUE:        That sounds approximately right for total state and local spending.

CLEVELAND:    Rep Johnson, it shows for Pine Bluff approximately $5,784.00 per student.  Okay, lets go to Scranton which has like 360 to 380 students and they are spending $5,589.00 per student. Are we achieving efficiency by closing down Scranton or consolidating Scranton when they are spending less money than Pine Bluff and less than Little Rock.

 

ARGUE:        First of  all, this bill doesnít close down Scranton; and secondly it is very difficult for me to compare schools without knowing the relative student population that they serve.  For example, does Scranton have any free and reduced lunch students.

 

CLEVELAND:    Sure.  Let me look at the benchmark tests. 

 

            The benchmark test at  proficient or better for  Little Rock is 50 so that is 50% of them.

            Little Rock

            Literacy 50% proficient or above           

            Math 38% proficient or above

 

            Pine Bluff 

            Literacy is 42% proficient or above

            Math is 27 proficient or above

 

            Scranton 

            Literacy 96 proficient or above

            Math 78% proficient or above

 

So we say well  maybe the benchmark  is not a good measure.

 

            So letís go to the SAT-9 which is a nationally normed test.

 

            Little Rock

            Reading 38 percentile (We are talking in percentile now instead of percent proficient.

            Math 30 percentile

 

            Pine Bluff

            Reading 28 percentile

            Math 33 percentile

 

            Scranton 

            Reading 70 percentile

            Math  59 percentile

 

So are we being efficient by closing down Scranton?

 

ARGUE:        This bill doesnít close down Scranton

 

CLEVELAND:    Okay,  I appreciate that.  That makes me feel a lot better about the bill.  (Loud laughter in room.

 

End of  this excerpt. 

 

Below is entire discussion between Cleveland and Argue In Order

 

CLEVELAND:    Senator Argue and Rep Johnson,  I want to express my appreciation to you as the chair people of the adequacy committee and all the work that you have done, and I want to express my appreciation to you for the interest that you have in education.  I think it has been a dialogue that has been productive in the state of  AR.  I do have several questions, and Sen. Argue, I think you have already answered one.  I had the staff provide a copy of the Lakeview decision , and it was my understanding that this bill that was presented today there was no requirement in the Lakeview case to actually present this bill or pass this bill or consolidate these schools.  Is that still correct?  I think I heard you say that a while ago.

 

ARGUE:       Yes, the Lakeview decision doesnít require consolidation.

 

CLEVELAND:    Okay

 

Argue:  It does require additional funding, greater teacher salary.  Restructuring can help us support that.

 

CLEVELAND:    Now in the adequacy study that was done, if  I understood the consultants correctly, they said if we provided these baskets of  goods to the children and to the school for the use of the children that they should be successful in having that opportunity to be productive.  Is that your understanding?

 

ARGUE:     That the resource matrix would produce student achievement.  Yes.

CLEVELAND:    In the Lakeview case and Lakeview itself, is there any concern about consolidating Lakeview without giving it the opportunity with this new  basket of  goods to exist.  Is there some concern about that?

 ARGUE:        I donít have that concern.  Let me tell you why.  I donít think the issue before us ought to be the Lakeview District.  I think the issue before us ought to be the children within that district and how we can best deliver an adequate educational opportunity to those children in an equitable way, and I just donít see that the district has standing under Lakeview

 CLEVELAND:    What defense do we have if Lakeview comes back Ė saying we pass this bill and Lakeview has to consolidate, and they come back and say we had to move some place.  We won the lawsuit, and yet we donít have the opportunity to survive and go forward to see if  this new money doesnít help get to what we need to do.

 ARGUE:       I donít think I understand the question.

 CLEVELAND:    Let me see if I can rephrase it.  It is a very serious and intellectual question to me;  and assuming that we consolidate and close  Lakeview, and Lakeview comes back and files another lawsuit.

 ARGUE:        Within that district file a lawsuit?

 CLEVELAND:    Yeah.  And they say we should have had an opportunity to take the  raises in teacher salary and the technology funding and all those things the consultants said we needed.;  we should have been given that opportunity to try to see if  we could live and survive and flourish with that new money.  How do we defend that?

 ARGUE:        You are asking  a shade tree lawyer without a license a legal question.  I can tell you legal counsel  has confirmed my understanding that school districts do not have standing;  it is people within those districts.  I certainly think there is the issue of , well let me just leave it at that.  The Constitution doesnít say the school districts  have rights.  What the Constitution says is those kids have an  absolute right to an adequate education opportunity.  I think that is the test.  The test is not whether the district is there or not.  The test is what we are doing to those students.

 CLEVELAND:    What would we do with them.  Under your bill what would happen to Lakeview students? 

 ARGUE:        I canít answer that exactly because we have left local choices to local folks so they can best decide in their communities how to do it;  they might put a high school in one campus, a middle school on another campus; by the way that is the model in Clay County between Lewisville and Stamps when the two communities, without this law, came together and put the high school at Stamps and the other school at Lewisville in two existing buildings.

 CLEVELAND:    In essence the defense we have is that we would be taking care of  the children.  That is the defense that the sponsors of  this bill would say we would use.

 ARGUE:        We are providing adequate educational  opportunities in an equitable fashion.  I think that is the test.

 CLEVELAND:    Now, 

 Johnson:  May I interject Ė I think that another question that we have to ask in fairness to those districts that have been under funded all these years and that is why we are sitting around talking today.    Say, the child is now in the 9th grade or 10th grade. Is it fair to leave them out there for another two or three more years while the school is adjusting.  I think we need to do something immediately.

 CLEVELAND:    Are we not saying, donít we have to reach the conclusion  then that the consultants were absolutely wrong if we provide the funding that the consultants said we need to provide then we are superseding our judgments for the consultants in saying, ďLakeview, you know longer can exist and you have to do something better because we have a better plan for you than what you could come up with by yourself.Ē

 Johnson:  I donít agree.

 ARGUE:        I donít see this bill being compatible at all with  the ____________.  It doesnít even deal with that.  I am very supportive of  your concept of  the matrix and resources because I think that is what it is going to take for the state to ever deal with the argument in Court that we are uniformly providing adequacy.  We have got to provide resources school by school.  Your funding formula in my judgment on that is right, but we can deliver those resources that the consultants suggested in a far more efficient fashion; and those very consultants, you remember  Mr. Speaker also indicated that in their judgment high schools with less than 200 students (remember the committee adopted what we called strict pro rata (?), no teacher subsidy for small schools - and they calculated that a high school of less than 200 would not receive sufficient resources under their approach to meet the state standards; and I might add as an aside. those standards have now been increased.

 CLEVELAND:    Let me follow up on that because I think that is a good point.  When we are approaching education; and we have something like the Omnibus bill and you have told me,  I think I heard that the Omnibus bill will take care of  the larger districts. Why does the Omnibus bill not take care of  the smaller districts too.  Why is there a distinction in 500 between how that bill functions as opposed to Ė why canít the 500 and below still exist until the  Omnibus bill gets it?

 ARGUE:        They could if we were willing to pay the bill to deliver the resources.  SB 28 is not an alternative to standards based approach.  The truth is SB 28 simply restructures those districts that are just too small to make it and other districts are still going to have a chance to make it.

 CLEVELAND:    How many children are we talking about in those 99 point districts?

 ARGUE:        It is 7% of  our total student population,  but in high school it is 2%.

 CLEVELAND:    So our efforts to change the quality of education in this state depends on 7% of  the students being transferred to other schools or consolidated with other schools?

 ARGUE:        This bill does not require transfer or consolidation with other schools. It simply requires the districts to be larger.  You focus on the 2% deficit;  I focus on the fact that here is an opportunity to eliminate 1/3 of the administrative units through which we are trying to deliver opportunity and it only affects 2% of  the high school students.

 CLEVELAND:    And how much savings will we have in that?

 ARGUE:       It is hard to predict since we have done all we can to let local folks make local decisions so it is very hard to predict.

 CLEVELAND:     When we talk about efficiency is that the same thing as talking about money?  Are we talking about more than that?

 ARGUE:        That is a good question.  To me, efficiency  means financial efficiency as well as academic achievement.  We donít need one or the other but both.

 CLEVELAND:    So when we talk about efficiency we are talking about money, when you are talking about effectiveness, then at that point you are talking about  performance?

 ARGUE:       Yes

 CLEVELAND:    So we need both of those in order to be able to  have a good school system, efficiency and effectiveness. Now, how many of  these 100 districts do you have in your district? [referring to districts that would be cons. Ė no, become larger  districts under SB 28]

 ARGUE:        None

 CLEVELAND:    Johnson, how many do you have in your district?

 JOHNSON    None

 CLEVELAND:    With  efficiency and effectiveness being  what we are attempting to get,   I assume, Senator Argue, the Little Rock School District is part of  your district.

 ARGUE:        Yes

 CLEVELAND:    And I assume Rep Johnson, the Pine Bluff District is at least part of  your district.  You have all that school district or just part of  it?

 JOHNSON    Just part of  it?

 CLEVELAND:    Do you have other parts of  the schools?

 CLEVELAND:    If  we look at Pine Bluff, and we look at Little Rock, and we look at my district, I would like to go over a few things and just compare and see how we are going to do efficiency and effectiveness in comparing those things.  I have an Arkansas Democrat Sunday, Sept 28, 2003, which attempts to list all the schools in the state of Arkansas, the expenditure per pupil, the test scores on the benchmark and the test scores on the SAT-9.  If  I take Little Rock, it shows we are expending  $8,874.00 per student.  Would that be approximately right, Senator Argue.

 ARGUE:        That sounds approximately right for total state and local spending.

 CLEVELAND:    Rep Johnson, it shows for Pine Bluff approximately $5,784.00 per student.  Okay, lets go to Scranton which has like 360 to 380 students and they are spending $5,589.00 per student. Are we achieving efficiency by closing down Scranton or consolidating Scranton when they are spending less money than Pine Bluff and less than Little Rock.

ARGUE:        First of  all, this bill doesnít close down Scranton; and secondly it is very difficult for me to compare schools without knowing the relative student population that they serve.  For example, does Scranton have any free and reduced lunch students.

 CLEVELAND:    Sure.  Let me look at the benchmark tests. 

            The benchmark test at  proficient or better for  Little Rock is 50 so that is 50% of them.

            Little Rock

            Literacy 50% proficient or above           

            Math 38% proficient or above

 

            Pine Bluff 

            Literacy is 42% proficient or above

            Math is 27 proficient or above

 

            Scranton 

            Literacy 96 proficient or above

            Math 78% proficient or above

 So we say well  maybe the benchmark  is not a good measure.

             So letís go to the SAT-9 which is a nationally normed test.

            Little Rock

            Reading 38 percentile (We are talking in percentile now instead of percent proficient.

            Math 30 percentile

 

            Pine Bluff

            Reading 28 percentile

            Math 33 percentile

 

            Scranton 

            Reading 70 percentile

            Math  59 percentile

 So are we being efficient by closing down Scranton?

 ARGUE:        This bill doesnít close down Scranton

 CLEVELAND:    Okay,  I appreciate that.  That makes me feel a lot better about the bill.  (Loud laughter in room.  I have a list of  academically distressed schools from the Arkansas Democrat,   and I am sure it is accurate because everything you see in there is accurate.  (Laughter in room)  It shows that ________elementary is troubled academic school,  Oak Park Elementary is a troubled academic school and  34th Avenue Elementary Shools is a troubled academic school.  Would you agree with that Rep. Johnson.? (I donít think I got all these names here or spelled them right.  My apologies.

 JOHNSON    It is in Democrat Gazette, yes.  I have reason to think they are reporting correctly. Keep in mind Pine Bluff has four different districts.

 CLEVELAND:    I was  talking about the district  that says Pine Bluff, and I think they have about 6,000 students.  Little Rock has about 24,000.  Now, I am supportive of  Pine Bluff schools;  I donít want you to get the impression I am not;  I am also supportive of  Little Rock schools since about all my family is moving  down here to Little Rock.  But again, what you tell me you are trying to get at is that you are trying to get at those districts that are not performing.   Is that correct?

ARGUE:        No, what I am saying is that I am trying to make better use of limited resources.  The problem I am having with this line of questioning  is,  Imagine you have two schools; one school has 100% affluent students and  every kid has two parents at home; every kid has every advantage.  Another school has every child eligible for free and reduced lunch; those students have every disadvantage.  Now tell me what good is served to compare test scores on those two  school districts?

 CLEVELAND:    What is the percentage of  free and reduced lunch students  at Little Rock?

 ARGUE:        I am guessing 60%

 CLEVELAND:    I have got one school in my district that has 67 free and reduced lunch. Thatís Magazine. That would be more than what Little Rock system would have in it.  They spent $6,700.per student. They have a literacy  proficiency on the benchmark of  82% proficient or above.  They have a benchmark test of   85% proficient or better in Math.  They have on the SAT-9 69%. [reading]  They have on the  math SAT-9 63 percentile.  I am with you in seeking a solution to the educational problem.  Now, not all small schools are doing that.  What I would like to hear from you is that if some of these schools are efficient, you would be willing to leave them alone if  they are also effective.  Is there any possibility that youíll would consider leaving alone the schools  that are most efficient if they are also effective.  Is  there any possibility  that youíll would consider leaving alone the schools that are most efficient and effective?

 ARGUE:        Those schools can become a part of a larger district if they are efficient and effective.  Those schools can serve more students if they are efficient and effective.  There are other statistics, though, Mr. Speaker  that compare ACT scores for example.  If  you compare ACT scores for the lowest 20%   sized schools to the largest 20% of  the schools,  the larger the school the  better the ACT scores.  That is hard cold datARGUE:      

 CLEVELAND:    That is one of  the things I am asking you if you would consider in your bill picking out those schools that are both efficient financially  and effective production wise and remove them from the mix, are you willing to do that?

 ARGUE:        In my judgment those schools can still become part of larger districts.  If they have a great faculty in place and serve the students well, what we need to do is give more students access to that great faculty.

CLEVELAND:    As for as the efficiency is concerned,   I have the state average expenditure again according to the Democrat Gazette as  $5,867.00.  From the schools from 350 to500 we have $5,854.00.  That would be fairly close to the state average, would it not? 

 ARGUE:        I have lost track here.

 CLEVELAND:    As for as the efficiency of  the schools if  the figures I have here are correct, and I assume they are, the latest figures we have are that schools that have a student  population between  351 to 500  is that the per pupil spending is $5,854.00 and schools between 5000 and 10,000 student population spend $5,888.00.  Now those would be fairly close to efficient, would they not?

 ARGUE:        Is that state and local?

CLEVELAND:    State and local. If  you go above 10,000, the figure becomes greater.  Is there anything in your bill to deal with the inefficiency of  the schools above 10,000 population.

 ARGUE:        No there isnít, but there is in your bill.

CLEVELAND:    Thank you Senator.  Now when we go below 350, then we have some inefficiency problems in the small schools.  Would you agree with that?  We may not have effectiveness problems in larger schools or effectiveness problems in some of  the small schools.  ďWhere do we need to go to deal with the money issue and where do we need to go to deal with the effectiveness and how would your bill help us in the overall scope  of  where we are trying to get?  Thatís a softball question.

ARGUE:       I think what might be helpful to this discussion, Mr. Speaker, you canít just look at the past;  you have to look to the future.  I have looked at the districts by size.  This committee passed a bill the other day that designated 30 districts to be considered isolated.  I have looked at those 30   districts.  Twenty-nine of  the 30 districts on that list  have teacher salaries that are significantly below state average.  Second point.  I have looked at school districts by size in terms of their ability to meet standards of  curricula,  and the  smaller districts have far greater difficulty in meeting state curricula requirements  than large schools.  The reason I raised those two statistics is that Lakeview says that neither one of those statistics is acceptable for any district in the state regardless of size.  If small districts have survived in the past by cutting salary or curricula, we canít let them do it in the future and comply with Lakeview which connects the dots because it is the taxpayers across the state that have to pay the bill to assure that those teachers regardless of the size of   the district they are in - those teachers have substantially equal teacher salaries and that those students have substantially equal  curricula.    So I am talking about a big bill here.  If  we can somehow restructure the way we deliver the resources so the teacher we are making sure has substantially equal salary is serving more students we are way ahead, obviously.

 CLEVELAND:    Senator, did not the Weaver bill address the efficiency and the standards?

 ARGUE:        You will have to ask  the sponsor.  I am sure not going to explain his bill.

 CLEVELAND:    Tell me what in this bill takes care  of efficiency and effectiviness of  the other  93% of students here in the state of Arkansas?  What in this bill addresses that, the efficiency standards other than the 7% we have been talking about?

 ARGUE:        That is your bill, not this bill.

 CLEVELAND:    All right Senator Argue and Senator Johnson, thank you very much.

 Seawel:  Ladies and gentlemen, we are going to recess this committee.  It is 12:00.

 

 

 

 

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