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Local 100’s mission is to organize and represent unorganized service sector workers in the middle south states of Louisiana, Arkansas, and Texas, and allow our members to create a vehicle to allow them a clear voice and real power in their workplace and their communities.  After more than 25 years as an SEIU local, in October 2009 Local 100 became independent again. Please become a fan on of Local 100 ULU on Facebook!

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Community organizers oppose ballot issue on economic development PDF Print E-mail

Copy of Article from Arkansas News.


By John Lyon / Arkansas News Bureau

LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas Community Organizations said Thursday it opposes Issue 3 on the state ballot, saying the measures would sanction unlimited “corporate welfare.”

A ballot question committee formed to support the measure said it would help Arkansas compete with neighboring states for jobs.

In a news conference across the street from an early voting location in downtown Little Rock, the grass-roots community-organizing group said it is urging Arkansans to vote against the multi-part ballot issue, which was referred to the ballot by the state Legislature in 2015 and has been endorsed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson, the state Chamber of Commerce and numerous local chambers.

Jim Lynch and Toney Orr, both of Little Rock, told reporters they believe the measure is in part a response to a Pulaski County circuit judge’s 2015 ruling that Little Rock and North Little Rock had to stop providing taxpayer dollars to local chambers of commerce because the practice violated the state constitution. Lynch and Orr were plaintiffs in the lawsuit that led to the ruling.

“So what the chamber did, they did an end run” around the judge’s ruling,” Orr said, noting that Issue 3 would amend the state constitution to allow cities and counties to appropriate funds to private entities like chambers of commerce that promote economic development.

The public funds that would go to private entities if Issue 3 is approved would be diverted from the traditional beneficiaries of public money, such as schools, the group said.

Neil Sealy of Little Rock, the group’s executive director, said there is limited transparency for such projects. He said that in August, when he requested information from the Economic Development Alliance of Jefferson County about applications it received from businesses for state-funded incentives, he was told that some of the information was exempt from the state Freedom of Information Act.

“Shouldn’t taxpayers have access to all of the records regarding a company’s plans for development using taxpayer dollars?” Sealy said in an email after the news conference.

Issue 3 also would would remove a cap on bonds the state can issue for large projects, or “super projects.” The current cap is 5 percent of the state’s general revenue from the most recent fiscal year.

Without a limit, the Legislature could “put the public treasury into poverty. It’s a bad, bad idea — nothing but corporate welfare,” Lynch said.

Jobs for Arkansas, a ballot question committee that supports Issue 3, said in a statement Thursday, “Right now, our state is at a disadvantage when competing with our neighbors for major economic development projects. Issue 3 will enable our cities and counties to fully participate in efforts to bring employers to our communities. It will also enhance the state’s ability to recruit the kind of large-scale projects we all want in our backyard — the kind that creates hundreds of good-quality, high-paying jobs for Arkansans.”

The committee said Hutchinson and dozens of other individuals, organizations and communities across the state “have endorsed Issue 3 because they know it will move our state forward and help create more and better jobs for Arkansas.”

Coverage of Legislative Hearing on Future of Little Rock Educaiton PDF Print E-mail
AR Times: Kurrus: '
And here is Arkansas Democrat Gazette story:

Baker Kurrus, who is being replaced as Little Rock School District superintendent when his contract expires June 30, said Monday that he would like to continue to work with the district in a nonpaying role -- but only if he can support the district's guiding policies.

"I am not willing to accept a role in anything unless I know where we are starting from and unless I have a clear indication of where we are headed," Kurrus said in response to a question about his future during a public forum hosted by Pulaski County legislators on the school district's leadership change.

About 150 teachers, parents, education organization leaders and displaced Little Rock School Board members attended the 4 p.m. event. City Director Kathy Webb, former Little Rock Superintendent Morris Holmes and Clay Fendley, an attorney who represented the district in a past legal battle over charter schools, were among the speakers.

Arkansas Education Commissioner Johnny Key announced last month that he is replacing Kurrus -- a Little Rock businessman and Harvard-educated attorney whom he appointed to the school district job last year -- with Bentonville School District Superintendent Michael Poore. Key made the superintendent change for the state-controlled district without prior notice to or advice from Little Rock community members, large numbers of whom have rallied to support Kurrus.

Key, who was invited but was unable to attend the Monday forum at the state Capitol, has said Poore, who will be paid $225,000 a year, is an educator with the experience necessary to raise student achievement in the district, which was put in state control in January 2015 because six of its 48 schools were state-labeled as academically distressed.

But the commissioner has also praised Kurrus, who was paid $150,000, for his work this past year in strengthening the district's organizational structure and its finances. Key said he would like Kurrus to have an ongoing role in the district -- be it formal or informal. Poore has also said he would like Kurrus to play a part in the operation of the district, which has 25,550 students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.

Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, told Kurrus that the most frequent question she is asked is whether he wishes to accept a role in the system.

Kurrus said that is a question that he continues to ask himself.

"I will say this ... I want to be part of the process to build, but I want to build from a strong foundation. What that means to me right now is I want to understand exactly how we got to where we are. Frankly, I don't quite understand that, but I hope to and I will. I have a wonderful working relationship with the commissioner. I've met Mr. Poore. He is certainly an easy guy for me to talk to."

Kurrus said he must know what the policies are that will guide or compel the district.

"If I can support those policies and we operate on a firm foundation where we know that we can build and build consistently for the long term, then I am willing to play a role. I don't think that will be a paid position. I think that is inappropriate. I don't think that would work for me right now.

"We are going to talk," he continued. "I hope to get with the commissioner this week and maybe with Mr. Poore at the end of the week to really thoughtfully consider how we can build a strong school district, but there will have to be some indication about the policies and the direction before I sign up."

He then joked: "I really feel like Mr. Poore and I have both been invited to a shotgun wedding."

Sen. Linda Chesterfield, D-Little Rock, asked Kurrus whether he would be willing to continue in the superintendent's job should Key and Gov. Asa Hutchinson "walk this back."

"You can't unring the bell," Kurrus responded. "It's hard to work for people who don't want you to work for them."

Key notified Kurrus that his contract would not be renewed after Kurrus had argued to the Arkansas Board of Education against the nearly 3,000-seat expansion of the eSTEM and LISA charter school systems within the Little Rock district's boundaries. The independently run public charter schools have historically pulled more affluent, higher-achieving students from the Little Rock district, leaving the traditional school system with a greater percentage of high-need students and fewer resources to educate them.

Key has denied that Kurrus is being replaced because of his charter school stance.

Chesterfield told Kurrus that determining Poore's position on open-enrollment charter schools is "like working with jello."

Kurrus said they have only talked twice but that Poore is not the policymaker and will operate under the same constraints as Kurrus in that he will carry out policies and even influence policymaking, but ultimately the state education commissioner is the policymaker for the district, which operates without an elected school board.

"Ultimately, the community has to decide: Do we want a strong, vigorous, traditional school system with charter schools that have a limited purpose? Or do we think it is productive to have large charter systems that essentially act as alternative systems paid for by the state?"

Rep. Charles Armstrong, D-Little Rock, asked Kurrus whether his lack of experience as an educator was a weakness.

Kurrus responded that he never pretended to be an expert in curriculum and instruction and that he doesn't know how to arrange an elementary school library or teach first-graders how to read.

"But I know very, very good people who do," he said. "I tried in my role to set up a system where they were empowered and engaged, fully authorized, given clear, articulate goals and resources. Don't micromanage the people. Micromanage the process so the people are set up to succeed. That's what I did, and I don't think I was held back by the fact that I don't understand some of the things that experienced superintendents do understand.

"If I was in a smaller district where I didn't have the resources we have in Little Rock, it certainly would be a huge impediment. But I'm surrounded by world-class educators who sometimes weren't fully empowered to do everything they knew how to do. I didn't get in their way and I didn't pretend to tell them how to do their jobs, but I did help them get organized so they could focus on the things they knew how to do."

He said the district, with its $300 million budget, 4,000 employees and 60 schools and support sites, "is not a mom-and-pop organization. The one thing I felt good about was getting on top of that organization."

Rep. Michael John Gray, D-Augusta, asked Kurrus about the statewide implications of the Little Rock district's situation.

Kurrus said that 60 percent of the state's charter school students reside in Pulaski County and, of the students who left the Little Rock district for the eSTEM and LISA charter schools, 81 percent were proficient or better in reading and 77 percent were proficient or advanced in math.

"What is the state's obligation to fund an alternative education system for students who are succeeding?" he asked, then referred to constitutional language that calls for an "efficient" public education system. "If you begin to segregate students in any circumstance ... we need to look very carefully at that no matter who does that and seriously consider whether that is in the community's best interest. That is the policy issue."

Austin Bailey, the parent of two elementary pupils, was among the dozen people who took up to three minutes each to express their views about the leadership changes. Bailey called Kurrus "a genuine advocate for our students" and said the district doesn't need "a savior from the north." She asked the lawmakers for help in keeping Kurrus on the job.

"He claims us, and we claim him," she said.

Jeff Grimmett is a teacher at Little Rock's Henderson Middle School, which is one of the schools labeled by the state as academically distressed because fewer than half of students scored at proficient levels on state exams over three years. He said those schools are improving despite a lack of help from the state, and he called on the governor and Key to release the district from state control.

Grimmett also asked that charter school expansions and the re-segregation of the city's schools be stopped, that the governor replace Key -- a chemical engineer -- with an experienced educator, and that the upcoming formation of a community advisory board for the Little Rock district be transparent to the public to re-establish a sense of trust.

Fendley, who represented the Little Rock district in federal court in an unsuccessful legal battle over charter schools, said greater school stability could be achieved in Little Rock if charter schools had to offer bus transportation to students, which they're not required to do now, and if restrictions were placed on charter schools prohibiting their angry or misbehaving students from leaving their schools in mid-year to return to traditional schools.

Tracey Ann Nelson, executive director of the Arkansas Education Association, told legislators that what happens in the Little Rock district, where there are no community-driven decisions, is a bellwether for the rest of the state. "We are concerned about the chilling effect on those who speak to power," she said.

Toney Orr, a parent of students in the district and a community activist, compared the district, where he said his rights have been taken away, to "a sharecropper plantation where we are working the fields for the man in the house and the man in the house is calling all the shots."

Metro on 05/03/2016

Print Headline: Kurrus: Open to role in district; But need to know where LR schools headed, he says

Bill Kopsky

The Arkansas Public Policy Panel
Building a Better Arkansas by putting the PUBLIC back in Arkansas public policy since 1963.
Organize to win.

Watch a brief film on our 50 years of social change in Arkansas here.

1308 West Second Street
Little Rock, AR 72201
501-376-7913 x 12
fax: 374-3935

Our sister organization Arkansas Citizens First Congress at www.CitizensFirst.org orwww.facebook.com/citizensfirstcongress
Growing in Warren, Arkansas PDF Print E-mail

Local 100 welcomes our newest member in Warren, Arkansas.


Local 100 Supporting Public Schools in Little Rock PDF Print E-mail

Local 100 members represent at a town hall meeting to reclaim our schools in the Little Rock. 



Local 100 Members fight Surcharges, Driver goes back to work PDF Print E-mail

Local 100 members addressed the Board about drivers being fired because of late surcharge payments which cause their license to be suspended at the Dallas County Schools Board Meeting April 16

Aaron Hobbs met David Walker, who had told his story to the board. His license had been suspended June 2014 while he was on a leave. He had been rehired in August but he didn’t get the DPS notice that his license was suspended until March 2015. He notified his supervisor and he has not driven since. Instead of giving him a letter of termination, which would let him apply for unemployment, he had been kept on the employment rolls without pay. Hobbs agreed to look for a monitor’s position for him until he got the license back and then let him return to driving. His unemployment claim is being appealed.



David returned to work the following Monday, April 20 as a monitor and will return to driving when he gets the license reinstated.

There is no clear and easy solution to this. Dallas County puts all the blame on Drivers and ignores the real problem, which is that the DPS Contractor, who handles the DPS paperwork, does not notify the drivers that their license has been suspended in a timely or efficient way.


Local 100  214-823-2001

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