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Good week: Hypocrisy 

March 9-15, 2011

It was a good week for ...

HYPOCRISY. Republican legislators who profess to believe in smaller government lined up time and again behind handouts for corporate Arkansas, making government even more expensive for the little guy. See John Brummett.

GAS COMPANIES. Caterwauling legislators from the Fayetteville shale zone, mostly Republicans, led the defeat of a bill to amend the gas severance tax so that gas drillers will pay a bit more, but not all, of the cost of fixing the roads they are destroying with their drilling rigs. Instead, the small government crowd has endorsed a plan to let the rest of Arkansas pay.

It was a bad week for ...

PUBLIC SCHOOLS. Lobbying by a dedicated group of billionaires pushed legislation through a Senate committee to remove the cap on open enrollment charter schools in Arkansas. This, despite a new study showing charter schools have been no more effective at improving students' test scores than conventional public schools.

SEN. MARY ANNE SALMON. Though representing a school district already hurt and sure to be hurt more by white flight charter schools, the North Little Rock legislator provided the critical vote for the bill to lift the charter school cap.

The LITTLE ROCK SCHOOL DISTRICT. The state Board of Education approved expansion of the eStem charter school, soon to be a free-standing school district of some 1,500 in the middle of Little Rock. Funded by the same billionaires pushing charter school expansion, it will continue to draw dedicated parents and whiter and more economically advantaged students into a taxpayer-funded alternative to an increasingly disadvantaged public school district.

The STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT. In a public meeting, its recalcitrant staff demonstrated what Little Rock school lawyers have been saying all along: they simply do not want to gather and provide the information on charter school cream-skimming of better students from magnet schools and other programs the state vowed to support in ending the desegregation case. They seem to be in the pocket of the billionaires, too.

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