The Conway School Board is not okay. You’ve probably seen headlines about the board over the last year, and with two incumbent members up for reelection on May 9th, it’s time we really take a look at what the board has done.
From silencing the public to passing vile policies, these members seem to care more about displays of power than educating Conway kids. In fact, it’s not a stretch to say their board has led Arkansas’s local culture war game. But since when have School Boards been about hurting kids and blocking participation from parents and community members?
Let’s dive in.
An inexhaustive list of the board’s culture war work:
- Illegally meeting outside of the public’s view
- Misusing public funds (to the tune of over $10,000)
- Implementing anti-trans policies that put at risk kids in more danger
- Adjourning public meetings because they don’t want to hear criticism
- Purposely choosing small spaces for meetings in an attempt to keep the public and media out
- Being the first School Board to ban books in Arkansas
- Banning public speakers
- Attempting to dock teachers pay if they are accused of teaching certain “divisive concepts”
- Deleting emails
- Complaining about FOIA laws
Transparency? What’s that?
The above list is just the tip of the iceberg for the Conway School Board. Here’s a big theme with its members: a lack of transparency. Not exactly what we want from our elected officials, right?
Since last year, the board has disregarded its community members, isolated teachers, and yelled about FOIA laws. Members have done everything they can to keep everyday Arkansans from seeing what they’re really up to. Why would our publicly elected officials not want the public in the room where they do their business? What do they have to hide?
Elected officials have a duty to be transparent and upfront about what they’re doing because their decisions can have real, tangible consequences. And, unfortunately, those arguably the most impacted by School Boards are our kids. That’s the most concerning aspect, right? These people are making decisions on behalf of Arkansas children, but they refuse input from parents and students alike.
Isn’t the School Board’s job to ensure the best education for their students? Maybe, but not in Conway.
On top of the transparency issue, the Board members are doing their best to attack LGBTQ+ kids. In fact, Conway was the first school district to start banning books. Can you guess the topics of those books? That’s right, books depicting Trans characters were the first to be nixed. Oh, and the new anti-trans school bathroom law? That’s also thanks to the current members of the Conway School Board.
And let’s take a moment to talk about the Board’s thoughts on “divisive concepts,” otherwise referred to as Critical Race Theory (CRT). This Board not only tried to ban CRT, but they also attempted to pass policies that would dock teachers’ pay if they were accused of teaching these specific concepts. Meanwhile, the Conway school district faces teacher shortages. Not sure how y’all feel, but advertising that you’re willing, almost eager, to cut pay for teachers, doesn’t exactly sound like the best recruitment policy.
How do we save Conway schools?
Be a voter. Yes, it’s that easy. There are two incumbents up for reelection: Bill Milburn, Zone 5, and Jennifer Cunningham, At Large. While both School Board Members had a hand in the lack of transparency and abuse of power that’s been running rampant in Conway since last year, Cunningham currently sits as the Vice President of the Board. Recently, she thanked someone for calling her opponent a “mentally ill person.” Yikes. Is this the behavior we want from our elected officials?
Do you value education, government transparency, human decency, and the future of our children? Then now is the time to hold folks accountable. Do research and ask the hard question, “Do these people really have my kids’ best interest at heart?”
Looking at the Conway School Board track record, we’d say… probably not. But that’s up to you to decide. The election is May 9th, save the date and use your voice to make a difference.