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Senate Education Committee Shenanigans

By October 18, 2022No Comments

Sen. Missy Irvin pulls a fast one on Senate Dems

A couple of weeks ago, Joint Education met to make recommendations for the 2022 Adequacy Report. But because nothing is easy in the Arkansas Senate, GOP members decided to leave out their Democratic colleagues, despite saying they wanted their committee to collaborate. Republican Senators voted to pass their version of a “collaborative” recommendation without talking to Democrats.

On Oct 3, House members went to committee with a colleague-approved recommendation; the Senate did not. Sen. Missy Irvin, committee chair, was embarrassed and made a public production out of needing more time to collaborate. In a sign of support from chamber colleagues, Senate members did not approve the House’s recommendations. Behind the scenes, Irvin expressed frustration that the Senate looked ill-prepared; she agreed with Senate colleagues that the Senate should draft their own recommendation report.

However Senate Republicans never reached out to Democrats to produce a joint recommendation. Sen. Irvin and other GOP education members met on their own to draft a recommendation for the adequacy study instead. Sen. Irvin then scheduled a Sen. Education Committee meeting for this morning at 8:30 a.m. without notifying Democratic colleagues. Procedure requires members are notified 24 hours before a meeting, but typically Senate staff give members plenty of headway over email.

Not for this morning’s education committee, though. The meeting was posted 24 hours in advance on the website, which usually serves as communication to the public, not members. Additionally, the meeting was at 8:30 a.m., just thirty minutes prior to a Joint Budget Committee meeting. Thirty minutes is not really ample time to conduct “collaborative” legislative business. GOP members already had their draft and already knew they would pass it.

Democratic members were notified early this morning about the meeting, but by the time they arrived, Republican Senators were well into their proposed adequacy study recommendations. Sen. Chesterfield, a Democrat, arrived with only 9 minutes left of committee. “Thanks to Senator Sturch for alerting me to the meeting. I’m sure it was on a calendar somewhere, but I missed it,” she said pointedly to Irvin. Democratic members had not even seen the proposal. Moreover, Senators Jonathan Dismang and Bart Hester, neither of whom is a member of the Education Committee, were present for the recommendation’s passage.

Arkansas’s education adequacy study report, which the state requires, evaluates our public education system to determine whether students receive equal educational opportunity. Sen. Missy Irvin was adamant the Senate needed ample time to draft report recommendations that its committee believed in, yet she did the opposite when she removed Democratic colleagues from the process. Senator Irvin’s behavior is contemptuous and unbecoming of the chair of the Senate Education Committee. If you agree, be sure to let her know:

You can view the Senate GOP adequacy proposal below.