Senate Education chair attempts to muzzle students who oppose LEARNS. The abuse of power continues.
The last three weeks have been full of talk about the LEARNS Act, and the main theme from the legislature is silence anyone who doesn’t agree with the policy and threaten legislative members who oppose it. Today that motif was apparent yet again in the Arkansas Senate Education Committee, where members voted to concur the amendments made in the House. But before amendments were adopted, members silenced every person who signed up to speak, the majority of whom were public school students. Keep in mind these students are high school kids who did not have an opportunity to speak to the bill’s merits prior to today’s committee meeting.
Despite aberrant behavior from Jane English, LRCH students stood their ground and showed political moxie.
Senate Education Committee Chair Jane English made it a point to interrupt each student during their speech. This was quite the contrast from the LEARNS Act’s debut in Senate Education a few weeks ago. During that meeting, in which English was presumably prepared for public remarks, she presented as congenial and cooperative. That was not the English students from Little Rock Central witnessed this afternoon.
“You can only speak on the amendment, not the bill,” was the phrase English uttered at nauseam to students testifying against LEARNS. But here’s the beautiful part: most of students pivoted to speak to the amendment itself per the Chair’s direction, demonstrating their agility and contribution to substantive LEARNS opposition. But despite the students’ right to attend committee and speak against the bill, English remained committed to shutting down the public opposition. She continued to silence Arkansas students who were concerned about the future of their education.
One hero in the crowd called English out for her belligerent behavior. Ali Noland, Little Rock School Board member, used some of her time to express her disappointment in the adults in the room clearly in reference to English’s poor treatment of the high schoolers. To those who attempted to hold English accountable, thank you. Thank you for speaking up and reminding Senator English she works for the people.
At one point English said to the students, “You don’t get to [decide]… this committee gets to decide,” which is a great summary of how our elected leaders view the legislative process for LEARNS. For now, let’s applaud these Arkansas students who bravely testified at Capitol today. In the face of legislative bullying, they spoke their minds, and we know that wasn’t easy. The kids are alright, y’all.