Disclaimer: This isn’t quite a genealogy entry, but I have something to say, and this is my forum. It’s the best, easiest way to get out everything I am aching to say, and hopefully, it will be acknowledged by my representatives.
Dear Senators Tom Cotton, and John Boozman:
My name is Jillian Bogy. I was born in Stuttgart, and I have lived in Humphrey, Arkansas for all of my 32 years. I married my high school sweetheart, and we have two sons, ages 8 and 9. My husband is a volunteer firefighter and a farmer, and I am a stay-at-home-mom with a hobby I am hoping to develop into a career as a genealogist. I am a college graduate. I attended high school at the now defunct Humphrey High School, and I graduated 8th out of 28 individuals. Many of my classmates have went on to become professionals in their line of work. We are a close community, and that, I believe, is a result of the education system that was in place, prior to Gov. Huckabee’s school consolidations. Our town has only one stop light. We have one full-time police officer, and a part-time post office. There are less than 400 people living here. Our economy lies in farming and hunting, and if you don’t do either of those things, you most likely work in Stuttgart, which is the closest town to us.
When our youngest child started school, his brother was already attending school in Stuttgart as an Act 609 transfer. Sadly for us, the district we lived in during that time (Wabbaseka) was consolidated with Altheimer School District, which, in turn, was consolidated with Dollarway School District. We were 12 miles away from Stuttgart, and 38 miles away from Dollarway Elementary. First and foremost, the district was out of our way, and too far to amend our schedules around. However, all of those reasons were not enough to allow my son to attend Stuttgart with his brother. Act 560 of 2015 amended Ark. Code Ann. § 6-18-1901 et seq. states that the school districts that have conflicts with the Public School Choice Act (PSCA) of 2015 due to active desegregation orders or active court-approved desegregation plans, and therefore are not subject to PSCA laws. Dollarway is one of those 16 school districts. I neglected to mention the race issue here. My husband is white, and I am biracial, Hispanic and white. The Dollarway district was, at that time, 92.2% black, with 94% low-income students. Stuttgart was 49.4% white, with 63% low-income. This immediately favored my son to attend Dollarway. I had to fight incredibly hard – calling lawyers and the state board of education more times than I can count – to get my son released from the Dollarway district.
Now, you may ask, “What does that have to do with Betsy DeVos, since she is big in the favor of school choice?”
Well, consider this: what if that school district was 92.2% white, and a black student attempted to transfer into the district? Recall WHY the desegregation orders were made in the first place! This will, inevitably, happen throughout the country, I’m sure, but most likely in the south – your state. Central High is a dark shadow of Arkansas’ politics and a glimmer of overcoming oppression for minorities. With limited federal oversight regarding school choice, we leave the door open for school districts with strained racial tensions to become aggravated, leading to stricter, more complicated hurdles introduced for the singular goal of alienating a particular race. And then how does that work? The federal government’s newly passed laws allocating public funds for privatized schools contribute to a new wave of segregation. That will regress decades of growth for minorities and school districts that would have been long forgotten without segregation.
This brings me to my second point. My oldest son is exceptionally bright. He loves history, and science, and is physically active, playing baseball and basketball on city league teams for several years. He is, all around, well adjusted. But, although his love of knowledge grows daily, so do his struggles. In March 2015 by Amy Roller, MS, CCC-SLP, who was Stuttgart School District’s Speech Language Pathologist, evaluated and diagnosed him with the following: “Evaluation results indicate that Jon Tyler demonstrates a speech and language impairment consistent with State and Federal Guidelines in the area of expressive language.”
According to the U.S. Department of Education, IDEA 2004, a “speech or language impairment” qualifies as a disability. Regulations: Part 300, A, 300.8, c:
c: Definitions of disability terms. The terms used in this definition of a child with a disability are defined as follows:(11) Speech or language impairment means a communication disorder, such as stuttering, impaired articulation, a language impairment, or a voice impairment, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance
My son’s education was now directly died to the federal standards of IDEA. I studied this law front and back. I read Arkansas’ laws religiously. I made absolutely sure that I would know what the sections and subsections said and how they pertained to my son, to his specific situation. That March, the Initial Evaluation was considered, and it was determined that the data substantiated a diagnosis of disability. On page 2 of the documents supplied by the district, in the section “Options Considered and Reason Rejected,” it reads the following: The committee considered the option of placement in resource services. However, due to evaluation results and data collected, Jon Tyler does not qualify for resource services at this time. Jon Tyler does qualify for services in speech and language deficits which are believed to inhibit his progress in the area of written expression.”
On 14 October 2015, I received a Student Progress Report on Jon Tyler’s IEP. Mind you, this is NOT his actual IEP. The progress report updated me on how he was doing in his speech and language services, helmed by Ms. Marci Jeter, MS/CCC, SLP. The report gave 5 objectives. The Measurable Annual Goal stated that “Jon Tyler will demonstrate improved expressive language skills by demonstrating mastery on 4 related objectives at 80% accuracy.” As of the date the report was produced, only 3 out of 5 objectives had been initiated. His progress on those three was at least 50% each. The dates specified for IEP progress reports are: 14 Oct; 18 Dec; 11 March; 26 May.