SB587, sponsored by Senator Eddie Joe Williams, aligning school elections with the general, passed the Senate today (Monday, March 18th), 26 Yea, 8 Nay, and 1 Not Voting. The measure, which enfranchises all voters – parents, citizens, taxpayers – in the governance of their public schools, was immediately transmitted to the House and assigned to the House Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs.
Arkansas Learns strongly supports this bill. Members are encouraged to take action (tracking, voting, commenting, writing legislators), by clicking here and registering for Arkansas Learns’ legislative action site, powered by Votility. For convenience, register using your same login and password as ArkansasLearns.org.
On March 11th, after failing by one vote in the Senate for lack of majority, 17 Yea, 13 Nay, 5 Not Voting, the vote was expunged, which enabled it to be reconsidered today.
While the initial vote essentially broke along party lines, today’s Yea votes garnered bipartisan support, with 21 Senate Republicans being joined by five Democrats. Unfortunately, of the eight votes against democratizing school elections and the one not voting, all were Democrats.
Parental and community involvement in public schools begins with the election of those who govern them. It’s not the school board members’, administrators’, or teachers unions’ schools, though they have long dominated these low turnout, insider elections. Public schools belong to the people – parents, property taxpayers, citizens.
It is inexplicable that those who fight Voter ID bills on the basis of voter suppression would continue to support a system which generates 100 times less voter turnout than the general election. Nothing suppresses votes more than holding an election NOT on Election Day.
Make no mistake, the administrators, school boards association, and teachers’ unions are already putting great pressure on Members of the House to vote Nay, arguing that only their “informed voters” should decide school elections. That discriminatory argument is exactly what gave rise to the poll tax and voter literacy tests. It took the Voting Rights Act to finally end the supremacists’ hold on elections and open them to all voters.
The county clerks are also vigorously opposing, saying it would be too hard on them. Even if that were true, which it isn’t, when did we start making our decisions concerning our democracy based on the ease of our county clerks? They were elected to conduct elections, not stifle them.
If you, like we, believe our state’s motto – Regnat Populus (The People Rule), encourage the Members of the House Committee on State Agencies & Governmental Affairs to vote DO PASS on SB587, and hold our local school board members just as accountable as every other elected official in Arkansas
Members House Committee on State Agencies & Governmental Affairs
And if you have the time, thank those Senators who voted Yea (and remember those who voted Nay or chose not to vote). And in all communications with legislators, especially those with whom you/we disagree, please be courteous and respectful in hopes of winning their support for other important issues. You may not live in their respective districts, but neither do those who worked/work to get them to vote in the self-interests of adults over the best interests of students.
Thank Senators Voting Yea on SB587
Senators Voting Nay on SB587
Senators Not Voting on SB587