Sanders’ school reforms don’t address the problems

Newly installed Arkansas Governor Sanders could have picked any number of other issues more critical to the welfare of Arkansas residents than CRT. Her decision to address Critical Race Theory signals her lack of insight or, more likely, her debt to her behind-the-scenes bosses who care nothing for Arkansas citizens—with the exception of manipulating them into voting Republican.

Like her predecessors in the Arkansas state house, Sanders won office with the votes of a minority of eligible voters. Over 1.79 million Arkansans are eligible, but only 50.8% of them voted, meaning that Sanders won office with the votes of only 31.9% of eligible voters. Arkansas ranks last in both voter turnout and registration and has the highest absentee ballot rejection rate in the nation. This parallels other low rankings of the state:

  • 44th in health matters. Measures contributing to Arkansas’s low overall performance include the number of adults who have lost six or more teeth, adults without dental visits, and premature deaths from treatable causes — all measures for which Arkansas is ranked last among states. Other factors include the number of children who are overweight or obese, the number of adults with any mental illness reporting unmet needs, and preventable hospitalizations for adults ages 18–64.[1]
  • 47th in education, based on factors including educational attainment, school quality and achievement gaps between genders and races[2]
  • 43rd in economic activity, economic health, and a state’s innovation potential[3]
  • 4th worst state to live in, with the breakdown as follows:
    • 35th – Homeownership Rate
    • 45th – % of Population in Poverty
    • 18th – Income Growth
    • 29th – % of Insured Population
    • 48th – % of Adults in Fair or Poor Health
    • 42nd – Average Weekly Work Hours[4]
  • 2nd unhappiest state based on employment, leisure activities, mental health, personal finance, personal relationships, physical health, and social policies[5]
  • 3rd highest in pornography use[6]
  • 2nd in teen pregnancy with 27.8 per 1,000 – Sex education is allowed but not required, and local districts largely sidestep the topic. Arkansas schools are not required to offer instruction on HIV or STIs. Further, sex education—in the rare instances it is offered—is hamstrung with multiple restrictions:
    • If sex education is offered, curriculum must stress abstinence.
    • If sex education is offered, curriculum is not required to include instruction on consent.
    • If sex education is offered, curriculum is not required to include instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity.
    • Arkansas has no standard regarding the ability of parents and guardians to remove their children from sex education instruction.
    • Arkansas has no standard regarding medically accurate sex education instruction. However, instruction on dating violence must be based on scientific research.
  • Children in foster care (2022): 4,127.  Households with grandparents responsible for grandchildren under age 18: 70,290[7]
  • 5th highest incarceration rate of all states, higher than the national rate[8]
  • Poverty rate
    • Extreme poverty 9%
    • Poverty rate 16.2%
    • Working family under 200% of poverty line 39.4%
    • Percent of jobs that are low-wage 30.1%

In a 2014 study, of the total eligible voters in the state, 46% were Republican, 38% Democrat, and 16% non-affiliated. Evangelicals comprise 61% of Republican voters, 29% of Democrat, and 11% of non-affiliated. Predictably, Republican voters are less educated, with 42% with high school or less, 34% with some college, 17% with a college degree, and 6% with post-graduate degree compared to Democratic voters with 52% high school or less, 30% some college, 9% college graduate, and 9% with post graduate degree.[9]

While Sanders states her priority is education improvement, the areas of education which she targeted in her statement are very limited. Aside from banning CRT, she has nominated Jacob Oliva to head the Department of Education. Oliva has previously served that role in Florida, where ‘Don’t Say Gay’ has been one of the guiding mantras of the DeSantis administration; the measure “contains language to prevent the ‘instruction’ or ‘discussion’ of sexual orientation and gender identity at certain grade levels and in an ‘age-appropriate’ way. The vagueness of the law has called into question how teachers could handle teaching history or questions raised in class about sexual orientation.”[10]

Undoubtedly the most destructive education measure touted by Sanders is the voucher option for parents, which Sanders vows to enact. The National Education Association explains why vouchers are not in America’s best interests:

  • No matter how you look at it, vouchers undermine strong public education and student opportunity. They take scarce funding from public schools—which serve 90 percent of students—and give it to private schools—institutions that are not accountable to taxpayers. This means public school students have less access to music instruments and science equipment, modern technology and textbooks, and after-school programs.  Moreover, there is ZERO statistical significance that voucher programs improve overall student success, and some programs have even shown to have a NEGATIVE effect for students receiving a voucher. Furthermore, vouchers have been shown to not support students with disabilities, they fail to protect the human and civil rights of students, and they exacerbate segregation.
  • Vouchers were first created after the Supreme Court banned school segregation with its ruling in Brown v Board of Education. School districts used vouchers to enable white students to attend private schools, which could (and still can) limit admission based on race. As a result, the schools that served those white students were closed, and schools that served black students remained chronically underfunded. The pattern of discrimination continues with vouchers today. Unlike public schools, private schools can (and some do) limit their admission based on race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, and any other number of factors. Furthermore, vouchers rarely cover the full tuition, so families who were promised a better education are left footing the bill.  

Many Arkansas parents are strongly evangelical and would prefer religion and prayer be included in their children’s education. But we’ve already been there.

  • The Supreme Court entered the evolution debate in 1968, when it ruled, in Epperson v. Arkansas, that Arkansas could not eliminate from the high school biology curriculum the teaching of “the theory that mankind descended from a lower order of animals.” Arkansas’ exclusion of that aspect of evolutionary theory, the court reasoned, was based on a preference for the account of creation in the book of Genesis and thus violated the state’s constitutional obligation of religious neutrality.

We’ve seen what can occur when religious belief usurps rational education. The Duggar family homeschooled their children in ‘devout Christian beliefs’ including oldest child Josh Duggar who, after molesting his younger sisters and their friends, is serving a twelve-year prison term for ‘receiving’ child pornography. Reports state that Jim Bob Duggar consulted ‘church elders’ who apparently did not urge him to report his son’s abuse to the authorities. Josh’s parents kept it secret until the statute of limitations had expired.

In fact, it was this nest of evangelical excess in Springdale from which sprang the Reverend Ronnie Floyd. The following is excerpted from Wikipedia’s page on Floyd:

  • A strong advocate of evangelism and discipleship, Floyd was a member of the “conservative resurgence” that retook control of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) during the 1980s. In 1989 he was a candidate to become president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, but was defeated by Mike Huckabee.  …On June 10, 2014, Dr. Floyd was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention at the SBC’s annual gathering held in Baltimore. Upon close of the meeting, he became the 61st president of the SBC, succeeding the Rev. Fred Lute. …In October, 2019, at a conference regarding care for those who have been sexually abused in Christian contexts, Rachael Denhollander referenced abusive treatment of a sexual abuse victim by Dr. Floyd and other leaders at the Executive Committee as an example of why those who are abused are reticent to report.
  • Subsequently, in May, 2021, multiple internal whistle blower reports alleged Dr. Floyd had actively sought to intimidate victims, advocates, and stall progress in the sexual abuse inquiry within the Southern Baptist Convention. …In an unprecedented move following weeks of turmoil over allegations of Floyd’s handling of the sexual abuse crisis in the Southern Baptist Convention, the delegates to the Southern Baptist Convention voted to mandate an independent third party investigation into the Executive Committee’s handling of sexual abuse cases, victims, and advocates, including an investigation into Dr. Floyd’s actions.
  • …Floyd’s leadership was marked by yet another unprecedented milestone for the Southern Baptist Convention when he and the Executive Committee trustees failed to fully comply with the directive of the Convention’s delegates when, amidst calls for his removal and a tumultuous trustee meeting, Floyd’s resistance to complete transparency and participation in the commissioned abuse task force was supported by the Executive Committee trustees.

Floyd subsequently resigned after the independent investigation revealed that Floyd’s committee members responded to sexual abuse survivors with “resistance, stonewalling and even outright hostility” to nearly two decades of allegations against clergy. According to the report, the group kept a secret, running list of accused Baptist ministers to avoid being sued – even as the committee publicly claimed it didn’t have the authority to create such a list. A LIST OF BAPTIST MINISTERS ACCUSED OF SEXUAL ABUSE!

While multiple sexual abuse scandals within churches is not the topic at hand, hardly a week passes without yet another report of sexual misdeeds by pastors, youth counselors, or other church personnel. To a disinterested bystander, it seems the frantic outrage over drag queens (who, incidentally, are rarely if ever accused of sexual misconduct) would be more appropriately directed toward religious leaders. To assume that children are ‘safer’ or more lovingly educated within the context of parochial schools is yet another example of willful ignorance. Yet Sanders, herself the child of a Baptist minister, is apparently blind to this hypocrisy.

Republicans routinely cultivate a receptive audience of voters by spotlighting hot button issues such as abortion, homosexuality, ‘woke’ culture, and religion, yet there is scant evidence that any of their radical rhetoric or legislation has any positive impact on the troubles Arkansas faces. [Based on the outraged edicts from evangelicals, a casual observer might assume that it’s drag queens abusing all these children rather than religious leaders. Strangely, no record of drag queen abuses is found.] Children still leave their school years without the ability to read or reason, without understanding of how the government works or the scientific method, without the skills necessary to negotiate life in the modern world.

Some of this results from the parents’ inadequacy in time or knowledge, a generational failing in many Arkansas households. But it can be argued that the greater failing is in Arkansas’ penchant for electing more of the same, people like Sanders, who can’t seem to grasp the actual needs of Arkansas children—not banning CRT or saying ‘gay,’ not siphoning tax dollars away from public schools, not school prayer or any of the other worthless ideas promoted by Republicans. What is needed is for government to get its foot off the neck of teachers and offer much higher pay in order to attract skilled instructors who know how to engage students in the love of learning.


[1] https://achi.net/newsroom/arkansas-ranked-44th-among-states-in-health-system-performance-scorecard/

[2] https://www.kark.com/news/state-news/arkansas-among-least-educated-states-study-says/

[3] https://www.thecentersquare.com/arkansas/report-ranks-arkansas-as-one-of-the-ten-worst-economies-in-the-u-s/article_97cf8c72-e679-11ec-8105-8753bf509325.html

[4] https://www.nwahomepage.com/news/report-arkansas-is-2022s-4th-worst-state-to-live-in/

[5] https://www.ozarksfirst.com/news/missouri-news/missouri-arkansas-rank-as-some-of-unhappiest-states-in-us/

[6] https://web.archive.org/web/20160416220848/http://www.cyberpsychology.eu:80/ view.php?cisloclanku=2015120302

[7] https://spotlightonpoverty.org/states/arkansas/

[8] https://worldpopulationreview.com/state-rankings/incarceration-rates-by-state

[9] “Party affiliation among adults in Arkansas,” Pew Research Center, https://www.pewresearch.org/religion/religious-landscape-study/state/arkansas/party-affiliation/

2 thoughts on “Sanders’ school reforms don’t address the problems

  1. Amen sister!
    Note that everything Sanders and other Neoliberal Fascists are FOR costs zero. Everything they’re against costs. Imagine that!

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