Because of the passage of Senate Bill 392, now Act 728, sponsored by Senator Ballinger and Representative Dotson, all Arkansas teachers, including those employed by the Little Rock School District (LRSD) and any future school boards choosing to enter into a collective bargaining with a teachers union, are guaranteed a minimum of 30 minutes duty free lunch and 40 minutes personal planning time. In addition to this safeguard, a duly elected representative Personnel Policy Committee (PPC) committee will ensure all employees have place to weigh in on personnel policies, review any and all policy changes, propose new personnel policies, or amend existing policies.
For the first time in over three decades the approximately 50% of certified LRSD employees who are not members of the Arkansas Education Association (AEA) will have a voice on LRSD policy and an opportunity to lead in LRSD policy. The superintendent and school board will, by statute, be required to submit any policy changes to the PPC for feedback and place a PPC representative on the board of directors’ agenda to present the PPC stance and comments on proposed policies. Until the passage of Senate Bill 392, public school districts that have chosen to enter into collective bargaining contracts could begin negotiating teacher planning time and duty free lunch at zero minutes per day, opposed to beginning at the respective 40 and 30 minutes per day required by law in other districts. The Act also removes exemptions from establishing a personnel policy committee (PPC) in a district with a collective bargaining agreement in effect and amends language to protect the freedom of all educators to join a professional association without threat of interference, restraint, or coercion.
These modifications to the law align statute with best practice as we know well, all educators, including those in a minority, deserve to be treated with respect and have rightful representation concerning district policy. Sending this message has the potential to create a more collaborative, relational, and professional culture in districts and schools.
Approximately half of LRSD teachers are reportedly union members, yet far too few have the information they need to know and understand their options and feel professionally safe to exercise their freedom to choose. The Arkansas State Teachers Association (ASTA) is a non-union educator association serving thousands of Arkansas professional educators, including a growing number of LRSD educators, for a fraction of union dues. ASTA provides benefits including professional support, liability insurance, legal services, and student-focused education advocacy. With Act 728, we implore LRSD district leadership equal access in LRSD schools, to no longer take actions that interfere with a teacher’s right to make an informed choice on joining a professional association, and to seek the necessary waivers from the Arkansas State Board of Education to ensure LRSD’s first duly elected certified educator policy committee is an election resourced, supported and executed in a manner that gives all certified staff assurance the process is fair and equitable. To this end, LRSD’s leadership will demonstrate is believes equity and fairness is a core value genuinely pursued and supported for those who serve LRSD’s children.