A crisis exists in the Pulaski County Special School District, due to severe fiscal irresponsibility on the part of past and present PCSSD administrators and school boards. The man currently at the top of the organization, Superintendent Jerry Guess, is costing taxpayers more than $261,000 -- for the current school year alone -- and 56 others in the PCSSD also cost taxpayers in excess of $100,000 per year, each.
None of these 57 people are classroom teachers, nor support staff. However, in response to "fiscal distress," the State of Arkansas has taken over the PCSSD, and Dr. Tom Kimbrell, State Commissioner of Education, has directed Dr. Guess to "fix" this crisis -- and they are trying to do it on the backs, and the bank accounts, of teachers and support staff. Their methods, so far, include (1) attempting to destroy two legally-constituted labor unions (PACT and PASS), (2) proposing cuts to employees' pay for next year, and (3) breaking the legally-binding contracts between the unions and the PCSSD. These contracts were negotiated with the assistance of federal and state mediators, and are legally binding through 2015.
No one should want to find out what will happen to the credit rating of the State of Arkansas if these contracts are broken, nor how the bond market will react, should this happen. Honoring one's word is, after all, the foundation of our economy.
It is incredible that District administrators (especially Dr. Guess, who collects bigger paychecks than do U.S. Senators) refuse to take cuts to their own exorbitant salaries, yet expect teachers to sacrifice large portions of theirs. It is also shameful that the PCSSD's legal fees for the current school year are already in excess of one-third of a million dollars -- and climbing -- simply to defend actions which were illegal and/or unethical, from the start.
No one has explained why the students of the PCSSD are having their instructional time disrupted by a labor dispute which neither they, nor their teachers, did anything to create.
The voters of the PCSSD have been completely disenfranchised, with Dr. Kimbrell acting as a one-man, unelected school board. In words made famous by the Boston Tea Party, this is "taxation without representation." Even worse, parents no longer have any voice in the education their own children receive at school.
Governor Mike Beebe should direct Dr. Kimbrell to order Dr. Guess to restore recognition to PACT and PASS, return to the negotiating table, and work with the unions to resolve the current crisis. If either, or both, refuse to cooperate, however, we, the undersigned, ask the Governor to order Dr. Kimbrell to terminate Dr. Guess's employment (if Dr. Guess refuses), or terminate Dr. Kimbrell's (if he refuses), or, if necessary, direct both men to seek employment elsewhere.
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