Favorite

Elections for thee, not me 

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette editorial page last Saturday lamented the low turnout in school board elections.

Only 1,500 voters in the Little Rock and North Little Rock districts turned out with three contested seats.

The editorial added support to the campaign by Gary Newton to move school elections to a regular election day. Newton is employed by at least two Walton-fortune-financed groups, the pro-charter school Arkansas Learns and Arkansans for Education Reform. His work, coincidentally, earned Newton a High Profile feature in the Sunday Democrat-Gazette. Publisher Walter Hussman is a supporter — financially and otherwise — of the charter school movement. He sold his former Arkansas Gazette building to eStem Charter School and a son-in-law is employed in the legal battle to create more charter schools in Arkansas.

The argument about moving school elections is an old one. Advocates think bigger turnouts would beat more school tax increases and give special interest money a lot more clout in school board races.

But my issue isn't election timing. It's hypocrisy. Wrote the Democrat-Gazette editorialist:

"Most school boards in the state — and those who manipulate them — prefer having their elections when most of the rest of us aren't paying attention. That way, they don't have to deal with an overly enthusiastic public messing around with delicate matters like voting and the like. That should be left to a select few, i.e., themselves. Can't have the public being overly involved in the public's business. That would come dangerously close to democracy."

This from the same newspaper and same lobby groups that are trying to establish dozens of charter schools — each an independent school district operated with public money. The Billionaire Boys Club (Waltons, Stephenses, Hussman, Murphy scions) particularly thirsts to get these quasi-private schools established in Pulaski County, the better to cripple the Little Rock School District and its teachers union. Charter schools have NO elected school boards and receive precious little outside oversight except periodic reviews by the state Board of Education (its power recently diminished by the legislature at the behest of Walton lobbyists). They are often operated by profit-making private corporations, whose corporate workings are shielded from public inspection. Many only grudgingly comply with the open records law that applies to them. They operate more like private schools than public schools. Their founders call the shots. Or the control comes from private management corporations — their internal workings removed from public inspection entirely. Newton, for example, is promoting the hiring of a private Texas charter school operator to run the white-flight middle school he's trying to get approved in upscale West Little Rock. The D-G and Gary Newton would be more credible when they invoke the "public's business" and "democracy" if they also believed in a democratic process for charter school governance. They don't.

Don't be confused if a charter school defender tries to alibi that charter schools don't have local property taxes and thus should somehow be exempt from public accountability. Property ownership isn't required to vote in the U.S. Not yet, anyway. Also, the state school finance system favors charters in this respect. Every regular public school district is required to help meet the state school foundation minimum, now about $6,300 per child, with a contribution of at least 25 mills of local property tax. The state pays the rest. Charter schools get the full $6,300 reimbursement with no property tax contribution.

Given that total subsidy, maybe the entire state should vote on school boards for charter schools. They're paying for them. Doesn't that make them the public's business? And wouldn't that be democratic?

Favorite

Speaking of Billionaire Boys Club, Gary Newton

Comments (3)

Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • Arkansas Tech settles dispute with lawmakers riled by 'Sex on the Lawn'

    Legislators have dropped an effort to kill the Department of Diversity and Inclusion at Arkansas Tech in a dispute that arose over a student sex education program.
    • Mar 22, 2017
  • Another bill to stock the prisons

    The Senate today voted 20-9 to pass Sen. Bryan King's bill that says a fourth commitment to the Arkansas Department of Correction means the person sentenced must serve at least 80 percent of the sentence before parole eligibility.
    • Mar 22, 2017
  • Midweek open line

    The open line and news roundup.
    • Mar 22, 2017
  • More »

People who saved…

Readers also liked…

  • Hutchinson pulls Faubus move

    I don't know what if anything might arise or be planned in the future relative to Gov. Asa Hutchinson's order to end Medicaid reimbursement for medical services (not abortion) provided by Planned Parenthood in Arkansas.
    • Aug 20, 2015
  • Neighborliness, in Little Rock and beyond

    I had a parochial topic in mind this week — a surprise plan by Mayor Mark Stodola to address the Arkansas Arts Center's many needs.
    • Nov 19, 2015
  • Bootstraps for me, not thee

    Mean spirit, hypocrisy and misinformation abound among the rump minority threatening to wreck state government rather than allow passage of the state Medicaid appropriation if it continues to include the Obamacare-funded expansion of health insurance coverage for working poor.
    • Apr 14, 2016

Most Shared

Latest in Max Brantley

  • City Board discovers LRSD

    An article in Sunday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reminded me of John Belushi in "Animal House" exhorting frat brothers to rally against a dean's effort to put them out of business. "Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?"
    • Mar 16, 2017
  • Supremely disappointing

    The Arkansas Supreme Court last week delivered a blow to civil rights in Arkansas. It was another results-oriented decision that gives a clue to how far the justices likely will go to appease the legislature.
    • Mar 2, 2017
  • Stand up for Little Rock

    If Little Rock deteriorates because of substandard schools, there will be blame aplenty to share. But some elected leaders deserve special mention.
    • Feb 23, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

March

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 31  

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: City Board discovers LRSD

    • You reap what you sow, the seeds were planted when the Max Brantley's of LR,…

    • on March 20, 2017
  • Re: More on pits

    • Diane, as noted above, this is a *column* not a news piece. So yes, it's…

    • on March 20, 2017
  • Re: More on pits

    • It's just amazing being told by a college professor that an editorial column is, um,…

    • on March 20, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation