Arkansas Strong does not endorse candidates. What we do endorse is Arkansans coming together from all walks of life and solving problems. We believe we can do this despite our differences. In fact, we believe our differences make us stronger when we listen and learn from one other, and work together for the good of us all. Because whatever our politics, we share a lot of the same values, like honesty, hard work, freedom, and loving our neighbors.

This recent opinion piece in the Democrat-Gazette caught our attention, because it was written by an Independent voter, a teacher and mother of four boys, who describes herself as a conservative Christian. She writes that her values are driving her vote for governor. We thought it would be a good conversation piece for this community to discuss as we ponder our values and how those are reflected in our choices about who we want as elected leaders.

Please read and comment, respectfully, how you may agree, disagree, or have other thoughts to add. Here are a few questions to get us started:

  1. What are my 3 most important values and how do they influence my voting choices?
  2. If I could design the “perfect” candidate to lead Arkansas what would they be like?
  3. What are the 3 biggest needs facing my family and community right now and how will my chosen candidates help?
  4. What 3 things would I like to see happen to make Arkansas a better place to live?

Written by Laura Marsh and published in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette

I am a public school teacher in a virtual charter school where I teach civics. Kudos to the state of Arkansas, which requires students to take a civics class and the Arkansas Civics Exam for graduation.

I am convinced that students leave my class more educated about civics than the average U.S. citizen! I try to instill in my students pride in our nation, Constitution, and being an American. Even though our system is not perfect, it has been molded and shaped through the years by compromise, hallmarks of a democracy.

As a professional with a college degree, a master’s degree, and years of experience, I take great offense in Sarah Sanders’ attack on Arkansas teachers, insinuating that when she becomes governor, Arkansas teachers will “educate kids, not indoctrinate them.”

To truly look at civics, we must walk through the history of how our Constitution was written and how our nation has progressed through the years; we tackle issues such as the three-fifths compromise and how compromise was so important to our fragile nation that founding fathers actually wrote into the Constitution that they would not address the issue of the slave trade until the year of 1808; and we examine the expansion of the voting franchise. And of course, we examine the very real civil rights struggle, which still exists today.

Under Sanders, this is indoctrination. Arkansas social studies teachers call these topics American history. Of course, there are events in our past we wish had been different. Regardless, it is part of our story of being Americans.

Conservatives that Sarah has aligned herself with support legislation from the conservative think tank ALEC that creates legislation for states to enact to limit the teaching of facts in public schools. Model laws include allowing any American to sue a teacher for up to $10,000 for teaching certain historical facts that are deemed to be CRT (critical race theory). In Arkansas we don’t teach CRT: We teach facts, and we teach kids to think, not to react in fear to the latest news report. I don’t know many teachers who are willing to stick around and teach whitewashed history or face civil penalties for simply following state standards.

Sarah has also asserted that teachers are failing to educate our students. In addition to our curriculum, I provide individualized instruction to each student, differentiating for a variety of environmental and social needs, and implementing special program modifications as required by state law. I progress-monitor, differentiate, scaffold, and modify every week for my students. I am in class or meetings most of the day; in the evenings, I spend about two hours answering emails, grading papers, writing curriculum, filing reports reaching out to struggling students, all the while documenting my work throughout the week. Teaching the basics is so much more than the three Rs. If Sarah had spent any time talking to teachers in public schools, she would know this.

My husband constantly tells me I work too hard and too long for not enough pay and that no one cares. While all of this is pretty darn time-consuming for teachers, it is so good for kids. I make slightly more than the starting salary for a starting correctional officer in Arkansas and less than a part-time legislator. All over the state, Arkansas teachers pour themselves out for others. It is simply who we are.

With Sarah as governor, there is no intention of raising public school teachers’ salaries or elevating the profession’s status. State legislatures will extend tax credits to parents to use at either private schools or homeschool, which do not have to teach state standards, prepare kids for standardized tests, or accept or provide accommodations for kids with special needs. Additionally, Sarah is proposing to cut taxes in Arkansas by over 50 percent, causing public schools to struggle.

This is the goal: At a recent CPAC convention, conservatives declared that in the next few years they hope to take at least a third of kids out of public schools. Arkansans who value their Friday night lights will see a decrease in funding, students, and staff. Sarah will hurt the people she claims to help, rural Arkansans, who find their strength in rural communities and local schools.

I am voting for Chris Jones. He listens to Arkansas teachers, supports the elevation of the profession financially, and has concrete policy proposals to improve education for all students and teachers in Arkansas.

Mr. Jones, Arkansas teachers look forward to working with you over the next four years to serve all of Arkansas’ children. You are the obvious choice for governor.