Arkansas Governor Huckabee's Educational Plan Arkansas Governor Huckabee's Educational Plan

Two Parts Included on This Page:  This first portion was taken from  "Governor Mike Huckabee's Legislative Agenda, 84th General Assembly", Janaury 14, 2003 (given to legislators at opening of 2003 Legislative Session).Emphasis added.  Second part was taken from an insert in this booklet by Governor Huckabee.

 (from the governor's legislative booklet)

(Huckabee Quotes:)

For anyone who has read the Arkansas Supreme Court’s ruling in the Lake View case, it goes without saying. But I’ll say it anyway: Things are never going to be like they were in the past.

 If we’re to follow the mandate of the high court, we can’t be satisfied with the status quo. We must make historic changes in our system of public education, and we must make those changes during this legislative session. We must make them not only because it’s the thing we’re required to do but also because it’s the right thing to do.

 In essence, local control of public schools was eliminated when the Supreme Court issued its ruling in November. It’s simply not realistic to say we can continue to exist under the current structure. There are times in the life of every institution when it has to take some serious steps in order to reinvent itself. For the institution of public education in Arkansas, this is one of those times.

 I don’t think most Arkansans fully comprehend the fundamental changes we’re facing as a state. For the first time, the state rather than local school districts is being held directly responsible for all aspects of our children’s education. I hope you’ll help me communicate to our constituents the gargantuan nature of the task ahead. The people of Arkansas returned me to office just days before the Supreme Court’s decision. They placed the mantle of leadership squarely on my shoulders for another four years. The people of your districts also voted for you. You bear the same responsibility as lawmakers. It’s incumbent upon all of us to be bold in addressing what the Supreme Court has told us to do. It’s not a matter of what we like or might want. It’s a matter of complying fully with the orders of the high court.

 We’re now responsible for how all public education funds are expended, including the money spent on facilities and supplies. I take that responsibility seriously, and I know you do as well. It’s not a simple question of just spending more money on public education. If all you do is pour more gas into the same old vehicle, you really haven’t improved your mode of transportation. You need a more modern vehicle. The Supreme Court has told us that it’s not as much about the flow of money that’s pumped into the system as it is about the results.

 I’ll admit there are things here that we probably wouldn’t have had either the political courage or the political capital to address absent the Supreme Court ruling. For example, the demands for additional rigor at the high school level will force us to make extensive structural changes that probably wouldn’t have occurred otherwise. Boundaries we’ve lived with for years will cease to exist. Powers that traditionally were given to local superintendents will now be handled at the regional and state levels. And, yes, schools will be forced to merge. What about schools whose students are achieving academic success despite small enrollment numbers? I would invite those schools to apply for charter status.

 It’s not that we’ve ignored education reform in Arkansas in recent years. In 1998, our state began a journey down the road to education reform with the Smart Start initiative. Our elementary schools strengthened their efforts and placed a stronger focus on teaching reading and math skills from kindergarten through the fourth grade.  Two years later, this intense focus on reading and math skills was expanded to grades five through eight with the Smart Step initiative. We’ve made great strides in improving our system of public education during the past five years, but we’re not willing to stop here. On Jan. 8, 2002, I unveiled the next logical step in this journey: Next Step. I then visited public schools and held meetings in all 75 counties to gather input on the initiative. I believe the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Lake View case makes the passage of the Next Step components more vital than ever.

 Next Step builds upon the successful Smart Start and Smart Step initiatives. It expands and strengthens the opportunities for student success from early childhood to adulthood. It starts with ensuring that every student is ready to begin kindergarten. Getting students off to a healthy start will have a tremendous impact on their future achievement. Next Step increases the opportunities for children to access quality early childhood education programs and basic health care.

 Next Step then aligns the school curricula from one level to the next, creating a seamless system in which a student can successfully move from elementary school to middle school to high school to college, a technical school or the workforce. Students should be able to make that transition without the need of remediation. Next Step provides additional monitoring and technical assistance to schools to create those seamless alignments.

 Next Step also requires us to measure how students are progressing toward those standards. By requiring annual tests, we can more effectively measure the progress of students from one year to the next. Intervention can occur for students who aren’t making adequate progress. Annual tests also will allow us to make changes based on actual assessment data at each grade level rather than waiting until students get to the fourth grade to determine what remediation is needed. By measuring annually, teachers can identify areas of need for their own professional growth. Measuring progress sets the stage for accountability for all stakeholders.

 One of the basic tenets of Next Step is accountability. Student accountability is crucial. If students aren’t held responsible for their own academic achievement, we can’t expect them to take school seriously. Next Step requires schools to establish rewards and consequences for students based on their performances.

 Accountability for teachers encompasses several aspects of teaching. It covers not only the progress made by students but also the additional duties teachers take on to enhance their teaching practices. Teachers are presented with a number of challenges each day. Teachers who enhance their teaching skills to meet those challenges should be rewarded. National certification and the Pathwise mentoring programs are two opportunities teachers may pursue and receive financial incentives for doing so.

 When teachers’ instructional methods fail to produce student achievement gains, a mentoring program and appropriate professional development should be employed to provide assistance. Termination of a teacher should be considered if, after technical assistance and support have been provided, that teacher’s instruction continues to have a negative impact on student progress.

 As instructional leaders, administrators have a place under the accountability umbrella. Research shows that instructional leadership is key to developing effective schools. Principals must be freed from some of the bureaucracy to focus more on what’s actually taking place in the classrooms at their schools. Principals should be given more control over the resources designated for the schools. Superintendents, meanwhile, ultimately will be held responsible for district progress. They’ll need to ensure tax dollars are spent in ways that lead to improved student performances.

 Next Step also includes financial accountability. It requires districts to use a standardized accounting program that reports to the public in an easily understood format exactly how their tax dollars are being spent. Parents and community leaders are more likely to become involved in their schools if they’re aware of what’s going on in all aspects of the schools, including the financial area. By using a reporting system that’s easily understood, districts can show the public how much of their budgets are allotted to such categories as classroom instruction, transportation, maintenance and operations, athletics and capital improvements.

 Parents play a vital role in the success of their children. Research has shown that when parents are involved, students have a much better chance of being successful in school. Steps must be taken to solicit parental involvement in the public schools of our state. Programs should be put in place to help parents who are unable to assist their children because of their own lack of an education. In situations where parents aren’t involved, Next Step encourages members of the community to invest their time in the schools by becoming mentors.

 Next Step also recognizes that instruction in the arts enhances student achievement. With this in mind, we’ll create a School for the Arts in conjunction with the Arkansas School for Mathematics and Sciences at Hot Springs. Because of the lack of state funds to support this endeavor, private funding sources will be sought.

 In another area of education, Arkansas has several examples of successful charter schools. A higher level of accountability is required of these schools. They must produce results or be closed. Next Step promotes more of these result-oriented schools by developing facilities funding for charter schools and by removing the limit on the number of open-enrollment charters.

 Next Step creates a comprehensive approach to education, complementing existing initiatives that have proved successful. We started on a road to reform five years ago, and we’ve made progress. Obviously, however, we’ve not yet reached our destination. In the direct, forceful language of the Lake View ruling, the court declared that Arkansas hasn’t “fulfilled its constitutional duty to provide the children of this state with a general, suitable and efficient school-funding system.”

    This second part is also directly quoted from Governor Mike Huckabee's Legislative Agenda, 84th General Assembly, January 14, 2003, given to legislators first day of 2003 Legislative Session


Gov. Mike Huckabee's

Proposed Organizational Structure for the Arkansas Public School System

(Huckabee Quotes) 




On Nov. 21, 2002, the Arkansas Supreme Court issued its opinion in the long-debated Lake View school funding case. The court declared, “The state has not fulfilled its constitutional duty to provide the children of this state with a general, suitable and efficient school-funding system.”


The court also ruled that since the state, not local school boards or administrators, is constitutionally responsible for this education, it's the state that must determine how money is spent to achieve these mandates.


District Realignment


We offer a plan today that changes the educational delivery system so we can meet the Supreme Court’s mandate. The plan transforms a system of 310 school districts -- which have unaffordable and duplicated instructional, policy, administrative and support services costs -- into a system of 107-116 districts with those same services efficiently and effectively delivered. The result will be a more centralized administrative and governance network.


This new structure, while initially preserving every existing elementary school, will require the closure of many secondary schools, primarily those serving students in grades 9-12 where the state finds the most operational and academic inefficiencies. 


District Size


About 76 school districts, each with a minimum average daily membership of 1,500 students, will continue to exist as unified districts, serving all grade levels from kindergarten through high school with their own community schools. Only limited school closings, if any, are anticipated, and those will occur only at the discretion of the state Board of Education after discussion with local superintendents and school board members.


All remaining districts will become community school units and will be assigned to one of an estimated 25-30 regional school districts. All of these districts’ individual schools that existed on Jan. 1, 2003, and that were serving exclusively students from kindergarten through the eighth grade, will automatically become community schools. The state Board of Education will determine the status of any school created after that date and before implementation of this plan. All other individual schools, except as noted below, not designated as community schools are subject to being closed and their students given the freedom of choice to attend appropriate campuses elsewhere. 


Exceptions to secondary school closures within each regional district will be considered by the state Board of Education on the recommendation of the regional district superintendent and in consultation with the regional district’s school board. It will still be possible for selected secondary schools within a limited number of community school units to remain open, provided those schools meet the operational and instructional standards necessary for the state to fulfill its constitutional obligations. This is especially important in situations where no secondary campus exists within a reasonable commuting distance from one or more community school units.


Secondary community schools may consist of multiple campuses operated under an approved cooperative arrangement between or among regional districts, unified districts and community school units. Opportunities for students to access distance learning -- as well as the facilities and personnel from community colleges, technical colleges and four-year universities -- will be greatly expanded.


All high schools will be expected to offer, every year, a rich curriculum as defined by the state Board of Education, including a variety of vocational courses, similar to that proposed in the report of the Arkansas Blue Ribbon Commission on Public Education. Athletic and other extracurricular issues arising from the dissolution of secondary schools will be referred to the Arkansas Activities Association for resolution.


A mechanism will be created so community school units may at any time consolidate to form a unified district or may consolidate directly with an existing unified district. As these units exercise such options, the number of unified districts will grow and the average daily membership of regional districts will decline. Provisions will be made for large unified districts to petition the state Board of Education to separate into smaller districts.


Existing school districts with special circumstances such as geographical isolation or sparse population density due to geography or declining student enrollments will be designated as isolated unified school districts or as isolated community school units within a regional district. It's estimated that from six to 10 of these districts or units will exist.


Changing Roles of School Boards and Superintendents


Each of the resulting unified, regional and isolated districts will be its own taxing unit and will be governed by an elected school board, whose duties will be clearly defined by state law and state Board of Education rules and regulations. In the case of newly formed regional districts, an interim board of education may be appointed by the state Board of Education until an elected body is chosen. Members of existing school boards will be given priority consideration for such appointments. 


The state will establish salary schedules for each district, including minimum and maximum salaries. These will allow for cost-of-living adjustments by geographic region. A superintendent, who will have the authority to hire and fire principals and central office staff, will administer each district. The authority to hire and fire the superintendent will rest with the director of the state Department of Education, who will consider any such recommendation made by the local school board. 


Parent/Business Advisory Councils


The focus of instructional support becomes the community school. Each community school will be governed by a parent/business advisory council and administered by a principal who will have the authority to hire and fire teachers and support staff within the school. The advisory council’s role will be to ensure that education dollars allocated to the community school not only reflect the priorities of the state but also address, where appropriate, the concerns of parents, business leaders and other local taxpayers. It will identify, and help remove, barriers to greater participation by parents as active partners in their children’s education. It will foster the effective parental involvement necessary to improve student academic achievement and school performance, including active reviews of school programs and improvement strategies. Parents will be informed about the school’s curriculum, the academic assessments used to measure student progress and the proficiency levels of students.  


Each advisory council will participate in the annual performance evaluation of the principal and may recommend to the superintendent the hiring and firing of principals, though the authority for such actions will rest solely with the superintendent.


Students unable to function appropriately in regular classrooms will be provided rigorous curriculum and support services in alternative learning environments administered and provided by the unified, regional and isolated districts.


Parents and children will have the freedom to attend any school -- kindergarten through high school -- under conditions established by law or by the state Board of Education. 


Out of respect for and as a courtesy to the patrons and taxpayers in existing districts, preliminary identification of the new districts and community school units will occur no later than Jan. 1, 2004. Those areas designated as community school units will have an early opportunity, between then and the effective date of this reorganization (estimated to be July 1, 2004) to consolidate into unified districts or to join districts already designated as unified.


It previously had been our position that any district, regardless of size, whose students consistently exhibited exceptional performances on state, regional or national examinations or on other related indicators of academic success wouldn't be adversely affected by a reorganization plan. It's our hope that some mechanism, compatible with the mandate of the Arkansas Supreme Court, can be found to honor that provision through the granting of charters to such existing districts. This will be a high priority for this administration and one whose resolution will be sought as part of the court-ordered adequacy study. We'll also be receptive to considering other creative options involving partnerships or organizational changes that can meet the test of substantially equal educational opportunities for students.


Department of Education Realignment


Prior to the implementation of the school reorganization plan, the state Department of Education will itself reorganize. It must maximize its role as an active senior partner with the schools rather than as an intruder or spectator. A task force of key department staff, school district representatives and other stakeholders will examine the department’s delivery system and make recommendations for realignment. All necessary personnel positions will be identified, and existing employees will be encouraged to apply for those jobs that closely match their training, experience and interests. 


The department will conduct a comprehensive review of salaries for those selected for the newly created agency with equity adjustments made to recognize differences in responsibility, performance or seniority. A high priority will be given to recruiting experts in curriculum, assessment and professional development who will be credible and enjoy the respect of local educators. Qualifications and salary levels will be comparable to those of similar employees in the school districts. To accomplish this, the department will need to be relieved from the Uniform Classification and Compensation Act and its accompanying regulations while being given broader authority to hire, fire and set the salaries of its employees.


Education Cooperative Realignment


The 15 education service cooperatives will be disbanded and reconstituted into 25-30 education service centers that function as units of the state Department of Education. The primary mission of these centers will be to assist the department in providing effective instructional and non-instructional support to the local school districts, focusing on curriculum and staff development activities. The centers also will house the administrative units for regional school districts, including the superintendent and central office personnel to coordinate and support the instructional, technological, fiscal, transportation and maintenance needs of the community school units.




This proposal should be viewed as a blueprint for further discussion and refinement, not as a final product. It should be discussed thoroughly as part of the Supreme Court’s mandated adequacy study, with the adoption of the final parameters, including the number and size of school districts and the structure of salary schedules, awaiting the conclusion of that study.





Summary of Proposed Structure



Arkansas Department of Education

·            State Board of Education

·            Central administration

o            Instructional

o            Non-instructional

·            Education service centers (formerly education service cooperatives)

o            Instructional

§            Teacher center

o            Non-instructional

o            Administrative units for regional districts



School Districts

·            Unified (K-12)                                                Estimated number                  76

o            Minimum 1,500 average daily membership

o            School board

§            Recommends hiring/firing superintendent to ADE

o            Superintendent

§            Hires/fires principals and central office staff

o            Instructional services

o            Support services

o            Meet standards

o            Taxing unit


·            Regional (Any combination of grades K-12)    Estimated number 25 - 30

o            Composed of community school units

o            Administered from education service centers

§            School board

·            Recommends hiring/firing superintendent to ADE

§            Superintendent

·            Hires/fires principals and central office staff of community school units and central office staff of regional administrative unit

o            Instructional services to community school units

o            Support services to community school units

§            Technology

§            Fiscal

§            Transportation

§            Maintenance

o            Meet standards

o            Taxing unit


·            Isolated (K-12)                                                            Estimated number            6 - 10

o            Special characteristics as evidenced by

§            Geography

§            Sparse population

o            May be unified district or community school unit


Estimated Total School Districts/Taxing Units*                               107 – 116


*Totals do not include charter school districts whose number cannot be estimated at this time.



Community School Unit

·            Less than 1,500 average daily membership

·            Composed of community schools

·            Meet standards



Community School (Instructional Center)

·            Focus of instructional activity

·            Large degree of autonomy over instructional issues

·            Located in unified, regional and isolated districts

·            Parent/business advisory council

o            Recommends hiring/firing principal to superintendent

o            Helps ensure education dollars properly spent

·            Principal

o            Hires/fires teachers and support staff

o            Reports to superintendent




·            Freedom of choice


This second part is also taken directly from Governor Mike Huckabee's Legislative Agenda, 84th General Assembly, January 14, 2003, given to legislators first day of 2003 Legislative Session




legislative issues


Numerous Consolidation Studies Indicating Small School Better







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