Gubernatorial candidate unveils new education policy, calls it 'radical'

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Curtis Coleman was in Jonesboro on Wednesday night.

Coleman was on tour to unveil a new education policy he said he hopes to propose if he's elected.

"We are introducing our education plan for Arkansas which is called, 'Arkansas at the Head of the Class'," said Coleman. "It has four simple points, let teachers teach, let parents choose, let schools survive, and let students succeed."

While explaining his proposal, Coleman told Jonesboro residents that although his proposal will help revive and restore Arkansas, some do not agree with it.

"It is going to be called radical. It is already being called radical, which I do not understand, but it is necessary," said Coleman.

One of the topics in his legislation that he introduced proposes to change how much funding goes to each institution.

"I'm not talking about an increase in education funding," said Coleman. "I am also not talking about a decrease in education funding. I am talking about an adjustment."

Coleman started his tour on Wednesday at the Northwestern Arkansas Community College. He then stopped at the State Capitol building in Little Rock.

On Thursday, Coleman said he is schedule to visit Texarkana, Magnolia and Monticello.

You can find details about his proposal below provided by the Coleman for Arkansas Campaign:



Public school teachers all over Arkansas report they spend 40-45% of the school day filling out paperwork. That's not teaching.

One teacher was asked to list all of the standards and programs with which he has to prove he's in compliance. His list included 28 different programs and standards. That's not teaching.

One public school superintendent with 31 years of administrative experience in Arkansas public schools told Curtis Coleman, "We're given a curricula that's two miles wide and ¼ inch deep.

There's no way we can do more than simply expose our students to the parts that will be on the tests." That's not teaching.

When Mr. Coleman asked him what he needed the State of Arkansas to do for him and his school, his answer was the same answer as most small business owners: "Get out of my way. Let me do my job!"

We have some of the finest teachers in the nation right here in Arkansas. They love their students and they love teaching. But we're not letting them teach! How do we let them?

Fundamentally and functionally, we must "get government out of the way" and return control of our schools to local communities, local parents and local school boards.

"Arkansas at the Head of the Class" The Coleman Education Plan 3

"Arkansas at the Head of the Class" (ACH) therefore calls for:

1. Legislation that will limit the number and kinds of programs and standards that can be

forced upon local school districts in Arkansas. This legislation will prevent the State from

forcing bad programs like Common Coreii down on our great teachers and local schools.

2. Legislation or regulation that will give school administrators and local school boards the

right to take two fundamental actions that are necessary to achieving a superior education

through their schools:

a. The right to decide which teachers in local schools are high-achieving and reward

those teachers with bonuses or merit pay.

b. The right to determine which teachers are under-performing, to determine the

time-frame in which they are given an opportunity to improve to an acceptable

level of performance and should they fail, the right to terminate their employment.

3. Legislation or regulation that will give local administrators, teachers and school boards

the power to choose the curricula used in their schools and which standardized tests,

choosing from a list of nationally-recognized tests, they administer to their students.

4. Legislation or regulation that will give local administrators, teachers and school boards

the power to choose which, if any, federal programs they want to implement in their

schools, and therefore which federal programs they want to prove compliance and for

which they will accept federal funds.

If we will take these fundamental and functional steps to restore the control and administration of Arkansas' public schools to local parents, communities and school districts, a superior education can be achieved by those who have the greatest investment in the education of their children.


No one can credibly dispute the fact that Arkansas has a poverty problem. The median

household income in Arkansas ranks 49th in the nation - just one step above the bottom. The barriers that keep too many Arkansans trapped in poverty must be removed and the doors to a brighter and more prosperous future must be unlocked. That begins with education.

Unless parents have the financial capacity to pay for their children to be in a private school or the ability to homeschool their children, their children can be trapped in a failing school which itself is trapped in a government-mandated monopoly. Every parent must have the ability and liberty to rescue their children from failing schools and enroll them in a school where they can get the very best education possible.

"School choice gives parents the freedom to choose their children's education, while encouraging healthy competition among schools to better serve families' needs."iii

"Arkansas at the Head of the Class" (ACH) calls for restoring the right of parents to choose where their children go to school, what their children are taught, and then the money follows the student to the school of the parents' choice.

"Arkansas at the Head of the Class" The Coleman Education Plan 4

Letting parents choose creates a dynamic free-market competition for our public schools; freemarket competition always produces a superior quality service or product to an inferior government-mandated monopoly.

School choice can be accomplished in a variety of ways, including vouchers, education savings accounts (ESAs), tax-credit scholarships and individual tax credits/deductions. School choice must encompass a variety of options including public schools, private schools, charter schools, homeschooling and online learning.

ACH also proposes a change in Arkansas' home school law that will allow parents to send their Notice of Intent to Home School and Waiver Forms directly to the Home School Office of the Arkansas Department of Education.


We've been closing some of the best schools in Arkansas. And destroying their communities in the process.

Since its passage in 2004, Arkansas' Act 60 requires school districts to be consolidated if their enrollment drops below 350 for two consecutive years. More than 118 different school districts have been consolidated and more than 81 schools have been closed.

Some of these schools have been the highest performing and best financially managed schools in the state like the Weiner school in Northeast Arkansas.

The Weiner school had a "smart board" in every classroom, a computer for every student, buildings less than 10 years old and $1 million in the bank and consistently produced some of the highest SAT and ACT scores in the state. But the State Board of Education closed the school for the simple reason that its enrollment dropped below 350 for two consecutive years.

The fact is that some of the very best education in our state occurs in small schools in our small communities.

"Arkansas at the Head of the Class" calls for the repeal of Act 60.

• The current 350 student minimum enrollment is an arbitrary political threshold that is

unsupported by any studies about school effectiveness.

• Act 60 required a transportation study to determine the impact on students that must take long daily bus rides to school. This required study was later dropped in a Department of Education clean-up bill after the deadline for completion of the study passed with no action. This study should be completed as originally required by statute.

• There has been no follow-up to determine if the efficiency and financial savings goals promised through consolidation have been achieved. This evaluation process needs to be conducted as soon as possible.

"Arkansas at the Head of the Class" The Coleman Education Plan 5

As Governor, Mr. Coleman will create a task force to identify and address the problems unique to small, rural schools.


Arkansas state government is pressing hard to double the number of students who graduate with a four-year college degree. Baccalaureates can be important and productive. But we are ignoring the fact that Arkansas (like the rest of the nation) has a critical skilled labor shortage.

Even during the darkest days of our recent recession, thousands of skilled, high paying jobs went unfilled because some sections of the job market could not find people with the necessary skills to maintain the desired size of the workforce. Some of our failure to attract more and better paying businesses and industry to Arkansas is because we are not producing an adequate number of skilled craftsmen in our education system. Twenty years ago our state had 23 technical schools to prepare students to successfully enjoy a variety of different vocations. Today we only have three technical schools in the state, and one has to be in prison to attend one of the three.

Mr. Coleman reports that he rarely travels to any city or town in Arkansas where some employer doesn't say, "I've got jobs if you've got someone with a skill who can do these jobs." The fact is that the preponderance of immediately available and best paying jobs are going to those with a skill or trade.

"Arkansas at the Head of the Class" (AHC) calls for rebuilding our statewide infrastructure for the delivery of technical training for students with interests in careers that may not require a baccalaureate. The plan advocates that Arkansas high schools and the state's technical schools, community colleges and other similar educational providers partner together to provide programs, such as concurrent courses, starting as early as the 10th grade to let students successfully launch the career track of their choosing.

Underlying all of this is a radical idea Mr. Coleman is proposing to the people of Arkansas: that we make the objective of every educational system in the state to be producing graduates who, upon graduation, are able to immediately find employment and begin generating wealth for themselves and financial security for their families.

To accomplish that, ACH is proposing a plan Mr. Coleman calls "K-J" (instead of K-12). "J" stands for "jobs." ACH envisions a synchronized educational system that – from kindergarten through graduation at whatever level – ends with the successful employment of its graduates.

There are Arkansas businesses begging for people who can weld, operate a machine or repair a robot. And these are great paying jobs, many far above the average pay scale in Arkansas.

While ACH encourages and supports four-year college degrees for our students, at the same time we maintain that we must stop even subtly suggesting to our high school students that they are failures if they don't get a four-year degree. By continuing to promote an "all students must go

"Arkansas at the Head of the Class" The Coleman Education Plan 6 to college" mentality, we ignore the reality of individual student interests and skill sets, the need for a diverse workforce and, by definition, we insure high levels of "student failure".

We need to do some simple things like putting "shop" (to use the generic term) back in high school. Let's let our children choose a career path starting as early as the 10th grade – and that choice may be developing a skill or trade, it may be a four-year (or more) degree or a combination of both.

Our community colleges can be invaluable partners with our high schools to help our children learn a skill or trade, but we need to bump our community colleges way up the "feeding chain" in higher education budgeting to make this possible.

It's impossible to produce graduates from our educational system who are immediately employed upon graduation if there are no jobs available. Therefore, we must put education, business and government on the same track. That means we must be producing graduates from our educational system who can immediately move into the Arkansas labor force equipped with the skills required for Arkansas' existing or prospective employers. And the State of Arkansas must adopt tax and regulatory policies that facilitate and encourage this symbiotic relationship.

Arkansas' community colleges are, by design, the most flexible in implementing the curricula required by existing and prospective employers. "Arkansas at the Head of the Class" envisions a prospective Arkansas employer being told by local community colleges, "Tell us what skills and abilities you require of your employees and we will build a curricula to produce those skills and abilities."

To enable this flexibility and capacity, Arkansas' community colleges will require a significantly more robust funding than is currently provided. For example, a member of the Board of National Park Community College has reported that, while NPCC produces ten welding graduates per year, they believe they could successfully place 100 skilled welders per year.

ACH calls for the 100% funding of Arkansas' community colleges, requiring approximately $42 million in additional annual funding. AHC proposes that 50% of this additional funding, or about $21 million, be moved from state funding allocations for Arkansas' four-year universities in the first year (representing about 5% of funding for four-year colleges). AHC proposes that four-year universities be returned to their current funding percentages in subsequent years.

AHC proposes that the remaining approximately $21 million required for 100% funding of two year community colleges be funded through reductions in administrative and oversight costs in the Department of Education budget, which cost reductions can be achieved as a result of the decrease of regulatory control exercised by the Department under the "Let Teachers Teach" recommendations of this plan.

ACH lets our children graduate from Arkansas' K-J education program leading the nation in being prepared for success in life when they graduate.

For more information on his campaign you can click here.

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