- A new law in Arkansas will have Siloam Springs School
District adding body fat content information to student report cards next
- This is one of many bills passed by the 2003 State Legislature,
which Ken Ramey, superintendent, said are ridiculous.
- Ramey, along with CFO Quintin Trammell and school board
members Paulita Brooker, Louis Thomas and Lynn Thomas, joined hundreds
of other Arkansas school leaders at the Little Rock Convention Center Wednesday
to examine 12 critical education acts affecting school personnel and students.
- While not among the crucial matters of discussion, the
"obesity act," 1220, which requires all Arkansas school districts
to include a child's body mass index on his or her report card, highlights
concerns about the relevance of recent legislative law passages.
- A conference handout said the act is meant to coordinate
statewide efforts to combat childhood obesity and related illness.
- "What they are saying is that our kids are not active
enough," Ramey said. "This is disconcerting. Parents I've talked
to don't appreciate (the act), understand it and are offended by it."
- "Certainly we as a school should teach health and
nutrition, but measuring body fat - we don't feel comfortable doing that.
We will comply with the law, but taking the time to measure body fat and
putting it on report card will not be that productive," Ramey said.
- Brooker said this act essentially opens school districts
- "We are treading on an area of privacy and confidentiality
that is not our business - the students' body fat is none of the schools'
business," Brooker said.
- The larger picture is what concerns Brooker the most.
- "Schools are having to take on more and more parenting
responsibilities of children at a younger and younger ages. You can't legislate
parenting nor can you legislate obesity away," she said.
- As part of the obesity act, access to food and beverage
vending machines will be prohibited next year at all elementary schools
in the state.
- This only affects Southside Elementary School, which
allows students to buy snack food at select times of the day.
- Southside West Elementary School principal Dan Siemens
said students are allowed to use the machines only if parents give them
permission and money.
- "Parents know the snack machines are here,"
Siemens said. I guess (the Legislature) doesn't think parents can decide
for their children what they can and can not eat. We think the kids deserve
- As with the other 100 education bills passed, the district
has no choice but to comply.
- "Our Legislature has lost all common sense. In light
of education reform in this sate, those 101 bills are mind-boggling. They
have nothing to do with the real issue of improving the state of education."
- Brooker urges residents to let their Legislative representatives
know their displeasure before it's too late.
- "Once the bills are passed, it's law. You can't
say, 'Oh, I'm not going to do that,'" she said.
- "One of my greatest fears is that when these silly,
silly things are being implemented that our constituents will think (the
district) has gone off the deep end. The board, our administrators and
our teachers are just as upset as they are, but we have no choice,"
- The Legislature was in special session this week considering
another 200 or so education bills, and may continue in a fall special session.
- Siloam Springs may already be in compliance with some
of the new laws, and will therefore not see a financial impact from each
new act. For example, Act 1768 requires districts to credit all in-state
teaching experience. Trammell said Siloam Springs already considers the
total previous teaching experience when determining a teacher's salary
- "We don't need to do anything different, so this
(new act) won't cost us anything," Trammell said.
- However, the district must form policies and procedures
for compliance with other new laws - a task Trammell and Ramey said will
take time and an undetermined amount money.
- Ramey said, "(Legislature is) going so fast passing
all these new laws, we need to look at them, understand them and figure
out a plan for implementing them. It will be a challenge."
- Adjusting the local school budget to pay for these procedures
will also be a challenge, he said.
- For example, Act 1398 requires teachers be paid separately
for non-instructional duties beyond one hour a week. This includes supervising
students before and after school, during breakfast and lunch times and
- Other unfunded mandates are acts 756 and 1752: The former
allows each pre-kindergarten-sixth grade teacher to spend up to $500 a
year on classroom supplies; the latter act provides employees working 20
or more hours a week with two paid 15-minute breaks a day.
- "There is not a lot of discretionary funds in our
budget, and every time the Legislature meets and passes laws that do not
attach money to it, this affects our budget and reduces our flexibility
(to do things like) improve curriculum or update equipment," Ramey
- This is especially frustrating considering a recent $20.9
million cut in the state's public school fund budget, he said.
- John Kunkel, associate director of finance for the Arkansas
Department of Education, Monday informed all school superintendents and
finance personnel in the state that the allotted $4,784 per student in
the state for last year retroactively dropped to $4,675. Considering the
local school system has 3,000 children, this amounts to $330,000 less funding
for Siloam Springs.
- Another frustration is the Public School Choice Act 1272,
which allows any child to join any district provided they meet certain
criteria set by an individual school system.
- "This (demonstrates) a shift in thinking. In Arkansas,
it used to be that local districts were responsible for educating children.
Now it's the state's responsibility," Ramey said.
- Ramey said that according to the November State Supreme
Court ruling on the Lake View vs. Arkansas, it is now the state's responsibility
to guarantee each child has substantially equal curriculum, facilities
- "So it has made it easier for one child to go to
a school in a district they don't live in," Ramey said.
- Based on his notes from the Little Rock convention, Ramey
said, "The criteria for acceptance (of a non-resident) must be on
the capacity of a program, class, grade level or school building."
- Supposedly, the bill's intent is not to force districts
to hire new teachers. However, Ramey said this is a possibility.
- Districts must abide by state-determined student-teacher
classroom ratios. They are also required by law to accept all resident
patrons into the school system. The number of students determines how many
teachers a school hires. If outside residents join the Siloam Springs School
District when classrooms are filled to capacity, the school system is still
obligated to hire another teacher.
- The act does allow districts to cut-off enrollment based
on pre-determined percentages. For example, a district could stop accepting
outside students if classrooms are at, say, 90 percent capacity by Aug.
1 - the date by which districts must accept outside applicants. This would
allow room for future move-ins and transfers to the district.
- From Jim
- Dear Jeff,
- I would like to respond to New AR School Laws Require
Body Fat On Report Cards By Richard Dean Prudenti, if I may:
- Reporting the amount of body fat on Report Cards? Why
not? They already analyze and meticulously record the contents of urine,
breath, blood, hair, sweat, and saliva to make sure a child doesn't take
drugs (except approved ones like Prozac), or tobacco (a known carcinogen),
or ingest too much sugar (a known cause of diabetes, depending upon how
much the sugar industry contributes to the next election).
- But is this law just intended to provide "helpful
information" that parents are shirking their responsibility by letting
kids get fat, or is the true reason another toe in the door for Big Government
to exercise more power, control, and get the money it needs to sustain
itself by the issuance of hefty fines for lawbreakers?
- Yes, it's a good idea that kids be in prime condition
(and fit for draftability to fight our nation's wars to end war), as it's
a good idea for people to wear seatbelts. But what started off as a cute
little song years ago ("buckle up for safety buckle up...") has
turned into a monstrosity of random roadblock checks where those who aren't
wearing safety restraints are dragged off to a House of Correction likely
to be molested, harassed, and sexually abused. And it's all perfectly legal
according to the same US Supreme Court that elects presidents and rescinds
Constitutional rights to protect us from foreign terrorists.
- I don't understand this overwhelming fascination with
making more laws to regulate every nook and every cranny of human existence
unless the intent is more to feed the lawyers and Big Government's machine
than simply good intentions in and of themselves.