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Beebe’s School Funding Plan Derailed

State Rep. Mark Lowery

Last week, we warned you about a deal that was going on behind the scenes: Governor Beebe was using the teacher insurance premium ‘crisis’ to exercise more control over school funding, so that he could then redistribute the funds to other districts. You know: from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs, that kind of thing. While a few Republican legislators seemed anxious to give the governor exactly what he wanted, others were sounding the alarm behind the scenes. One of those legislators was State Rep. Mark Lowery (R-Maumelle). 
In emails we published last week, Lowery explained the behind-the-scenes workings of Beebe’s plan:

It appears [Beebe] is going to hold hostage the legislation needed to fix the teacher insurance issue so he can beat down the Supreme Court ruling…or at least use the solution to put pressure through Superintendents on us to pass the URT bill.” 

But Lowery’s work wasn’t just behind the scenes: on Friday, he made the motion to table the bill that contained Beebe’s redistributive school-funding scheme. The motion carried and Lowery’s move led to the death of the bill after pro-Beebe lawmakers were unable to get the votes to put the bill back in play.
In a statement to The Arkansas Project about these developments, Lowery said:

I thought the special session was the wrong place to address the URT issue. There are significant conflicting viewpoints on the “taking” of the excess revenues generated by URT and all of those viewpoints should be taken into consideration. That would not have happened while we were under the gun to address the teacher insurance premium hike emergency. The Lakeview decision tasks the Legislature with defining and addressing adequacy as it relates to k – 12 education. That deserves a thorough examination on issues beyond dollars and cents in assuring adequacy in our public schools.”

As we’ve seen since the inception of the allegedly Republican majority, standing up to Governor Beebe and his Republican allies can be a difficult thing to do. Governor Beebe is used to getting what he wants; he’s not used to legislators who stand up for their own opinions. Props to Rep. Lowery and other legislators — including some Democrats — who said no to Beebe’s power grab.
Stay attentive, however: many lawmakers are warning that Beebe will not give up on this fight until he’s left the governor’s mansion.

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One thought on “Beebe’s School Funding Plan Derailed

  • What is being ignored in this rush to take the local school tax revenues are two very important issues. (1) Amendment 47 of the Arkansas Constitution states (in its entirety): “No ad-valorem tax shall be levied upon property by the State.” If the state is prohibited from levying ad valorem taxes, by what authority does it gain the power to reach in and take control of such taxes from counties and school districts? (2) Should the General Assembly pass such legislation it would be a terrible precedent, one which should scare the daylights out of every county and school district in the state. Talk about slippery slope or whichever metaphor you prefer, this can only lead to more of the same in the future. Should the Governor prevail, he will leave a legacy of litigation because taxpayers will not meekly submit to their taxes being “illegally exacted”.
    Local taxpayers in every school district in Arkansas routinely vote their approval of the total school tax levy submitted to them (as well as elect members of the Board of Education.) In their minds the voters are agreeing to support their local schools by the amount of ad valorem taxes requested by their school district. Should this encroachment by the state occur, the long term effect on school district millage elections will be a terrible Beebe legacy.
    Bob McCleskey, President of the Fountain Lake School District Board of Education


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