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Sen. Linda Chesterfield reflects on 20-year legislative career

Sen. Greg Leding speaks to Sen. Linda Chesterfield prior to the start of a committee meeting on Feb. 22, 2023.
Antoinette Grajeda
Arkansas Advocate
Sen. Greg Leding speaks to Sen. Linda Chesterfield prior to the start of a committee meeting on Feb. 22, 2023.

State Senator Linda Chesterfield, D-Little Rock, won’t be seeking re-election. Chesterfield is retiring, after two decades serving in the House and Senate.

In an interview with KARK Channel 4’s Capitol View, Chesterfield, who was an educator before serving in the legislature, said one of the proudest moments in her legislative career was working with the Huckabee Administration to address education reform.

“I’m the only one left from Lakeview in the Senate. I think we did yeoman’s work there,” she said. “We were able to bring about a change in funding because we were dealing with inequity in funding. We’re still not where we need to be. But we were able to put in place funding that recognized that poverty has a strong impact on how children learn.”

In the 90s, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled that the way the state funds education is inequitable making it unconstitutional, according to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas. The state was required to change how education was funded and the Supreme Court held multiple compliance hearings to make sure the state was in compliance. The legislature’s decision to increase the amount of funding for public schools were found to be in compliance.

Chesterfield said she is also proud of the work she did to strengthen the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

“I have been very proud of the fact that I changed the Freedom of Information Act to require that when public entities go into executive session they have to say why and they have to rise and report,” she said. “As president of the Little Rock School Board we were held to a high standard because we were on TV all the time, so when we went into executive session people wanted to know. That was not true around the state.”

During her time in the Senate, she served as co-chair of ALC Policy Making and as vice-chair of Senate’s Education Committee.

While she was in the legislature, she worked with four different governors – Mike Huckabee, Mike Beebe, Asa Hutchinson and Sarah Sanders. Only Beebe, was of the same party as Chesterfield, but she said she was able to work on legislation with the other three despite being of different parties.

Chesterfield’s district includes parts of Little Rock, North Little, Jacksonville, Sherwood and Maumelle. Rep. Jamie Scott, D-North Little Rock, is running to replace Chesterfield, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Chesterfield has endorsed Scott.

Ronak Patel is a reporter for Little Rock Public Radio.