Arkansas Republicans 'outwitted' by local high school students: report
A group of quick-witted teenagers managed to insert their objections to an Arkansas education bill over the repeated attempts by a Republican legislator to shut down their arguments.
The state Senate ultimately approved Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders' education bill, known as the LEARNS Act, which would implement school vouchers that opponents say would "usher in a new era of segregation" in Arkansas schools, and students from Little Rock Central High School found a way to speak out against the wishes of state Sen. Jane English, reported the Arkansas Times, which described the students' maneuvering as having successfully "outwitted" the legislator.
“I’m sorry, you just don’t get to talk on the bill," English told the students. "If you want to talk on this amendment, specifically things that are in this amendment, you’re free to do that, but you cannot speak on the bill.”
The students had missed two previous hearings on the measure that were held during school hours, and English told them the bill had already passed both chambers so they could only comment on a six-page amendment that had been sent back to the education committee for debate.
“I’d like to speak on the amendments, and how they do not go far enough to tear down and decimate this bill,” said student Ethan Walker, over repeated interruptions by English. “These petty little wording rearrangements don’t do anything to address how bad this bill actually is."
Another student, sophomore Rhone Kuta, worked around English's objections by referencing a specific line on a specific page, as the Republican chair repeatedly interrupted him.ADVERTISEMENT
"Where it deletes ‘and’ and substitutes ‘or,' the reasons I believe this amendment is bad is, this should actually say we are deleting the voucher program on section 63 because the voucher program absolutely reallocates resources from the working class Americans and Arkansans and reallocates it to the upper class," Kuta said.
He was able to work in criticism of a ban on teaching anti-racism content before English sent him back to his seat, and other students who followed managed to roll through English's objections by pointing to specific passages and calling for more sweeping amendments to the bill.
“The amendment that says page 90 line 3, delete ‘and’ and substitute ‘or,’ is insufficient because there’s nothing that amends the clause that is talking about having school choice policies that will make it so that students who are minority groups will be left in public schools while privileged students go to private schools," said senior Gryffyn May.
The adults who followed the students were given their full two minutes of public comment without much trouble from English, and Little Rock School Board member Ali Noland told the committee chair she had inadvertently given the teens a much larger platform by attempting to silence their criticism.
“By talking to them and cutting them off in this way, believe me, you are giving them much more of a platform than you would have if you had just listened to their criticism of the amendment in the first place," Noland said. "They showed up after school on their own time to tell you these amendments do not satisfy their concerns.”
\u201cPeople like State Senator Jane English (R-AR) will be the demise of the Republican party. Students from Little Rock Central HS show up to try and participate in the process only to be interrupted and shutdown by her. Must watch!\ud83d\udc47#wtpBlue #DemVoice1 #Fresh\u201d— Brian Cardone \ud83c\udff4\u200d\u2620\ufe0f\ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\udde6 (@Brian Cardone \ud83c\udff4\u200d\u2620\ufe0f\ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\udde6) 1678276733