Monday, June 13, 2011

We're No. 1 — in uneducated legislators

Posted By on Mon, Jun 13, 2011 at 7:21 AM

A new study is out on the educational level of state legislators nationwide.

We're No. 1!

Arkansas has the least formally educated Statehouse, with 25 percent of its 135 legislators not having any college experience at all, compared with 8.7 percent of lawmakers nationwide. It was followed by state legislatures in Montana (20 percent), Kansas (16 percent), South Dakota (16 percent) and Arizona (16 percent).

“I don’t think it’s imperative that you have a college degree to be effective,” said Mike Fletcher, a retired state trooper elected to the Arkansas Senate last year. “I think the most important thing is to have common sense.”

Yeah, how's that common sense working out for us?

Coincidentally, a member of the Arkansas legislature (with a bachelor's and graduate degree) has been complaining to me for months about not only lack of education attainment among those pontificating on education in legislative hallways, but about the fat salaries paid to certain state department heads and many high state officials who lack college degrees (we're talking $100,000-plus jobs). His point is: What's with all the talk about pushing more kids to college, raising millions with lottery money and all the rest when before our eyes we have state government proof of the "success" found by those without degrees. I'm not endorsing, just repeating.

UPDATE: The Chronicle of Higher Ed has opened access to its full study. It has the fuller numbers on Arkansas.

Particularly: 60.4 percent of Arkansas legislators have a college degree. That ranks us ONLY 46th, ahead of New Mexico, Maine, Delaware and New Hampshire in collegiate attainment. Nationwide, the college degree rate among legislators is about 75 percent. The details note, too, that the Arkansas legislator, though less educated than national counterparts, ranks far ahead of Arkansas citizens. Where 25 percent of legislators have no college, 53 percent of all Arkansans haven't attended college. Note: Researchers couldn't find college-going status for 9 percent of Arkansas legislators, so our percentages could be better or worse depending on how they would have answered the questions.

PS — A reader dismisses the survey because it describes Arkansas as a full-time legislature. Technically, it's not. In practice, it has a certain resemblance with annual sessions and committee meetings year-round. Just look at the expense reimbursement practices followed by such members as now Secretary of State Mark Martin who made $56,000 or so a year in a $14,000 job by piling up per diem for attending meetings in Little Rock.

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