Following concerns of legal compliance expressed by the Arkansas State Teachers Association (ASTA), Fort Smith Public School District will cease negotiating with the local teachers union and instead dialogue with a more representative Personnel Policy Committee (PPC).
The Fort Smith Board of Education voted 7-0 this week to cease recognition of the Fort Smith Education Association (FSEA), an affiliate of the Arkansas Education Association (AEA) and National Education Association (NEA). Moving forward, a committee of educators elected by secret ballot and fairly representing each building will take over negotiating responsibilities, per Arkansas law.
Educators once excluded from participating because they were not active members of FSEA, AEA, and NEA will now be permitted to serve on the committee.
“This correction will empower more educator voices, provide more teacher input, promote healthier collaboration, and—as a result—produce better results for students,” said ASTA Executive Director Dr. Michele Linch. “This is beneficial for every Fort Smith educator, but especially those who have been marginalized under the previous arrangement.”
Fort Smith was one of two remaining Arkansas school districts negotiating terms with a local union, which is permitted under Arkansas law as long as the local union represents a majority of the teachers. ASTA’s Director of Legal Services Travis Ragland sent a letter to Fort Smith Superintendent Doug Brubaker on November 6 questioning FSEA’s majority representation status and challenging the district’s compliance with AR Code § 6-17-203, which requires full representation of educators in personnel policy. By the union’s own admission, membership has fallen below 32% of the certified teachers in the district and has probably been below the 50% requirement for many years.
“We believe all teachers should have a voice in representation in order to provide both high quality education for students and equal expression for all teachers,” reads Ragland’s November 6 letter to the board, “We can elevate all teacher voices.”
ASTA believes PPCs can more equitably elevate all teacher voices. Strong PPCs are critical for school boards, administration, and the community to understand how policy truly impacts learning, students, and work conditions. “We encourage districts to build and engage with collaborative student-focused PPCs,” says Dr. Linch. “Teachers and education staff are on the front lines serving students every day. Successful school leaders value this most critical perspective.”
Arkansas State Teachers Association serves thousands of classroom teachers, paraprofessionals, support staff, classified staff, professors, and administrators throughout the state. ASTA provides professional benefits, including liability insurance and job protection coverage, amplifies educator voices, and empowers educators to advocate for themselves and their students.
The Arkansas State Teachers Association is Arkansas’ largest non-union professional educator association and a state chapter of the Association of American Educators (AAE), the largest national, non-union, professional educator organization, advancing the profession by offering a modern approach to educator empowerment and advocacy—promoting professionalism, collaboration and excellence without a partisan agenda. AAE is committed to a teaching profession that is student-oriented, well respected, and personally fulfilling. AAE serves members in all fifty states and welcomes professionals from all education entities. Membership is $16.50 per month which includes $2 million professional liability insurance, employment rights coverage, professional resources and many other benefits. Visit aaeteachers.org and astapro.org for further information.