Favorite

Hold your applause 

Nominal progressives cheered Gov. Mike Huckabee for coming to the dance for proposed Amendment 1, which alters the state's school finance scheme.

No standing ovation is required. Huckabee had the confidence-building company of solid Republicans as well as the reactionary Ron Russell, head of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce. Business favors this cheap solution. It pre-empts any talk of the vast inequities in our taxing system, particularly the ridiculously low property taxes paid by farmers and timber companies.

The school situation is, at its core, quite simple. The state has more than 300 school districts of vastly different property wealth and varying degrees of enthusiasm for taxation. Per pupil spending, though augmented by the state, varied dramatically.

A judge ruled the system unconstitutional and gave the state two years to craft a solution. Such court-ordered crisis management happened once before. In 1983, the result was a revolution in Arkansas education, powered by Bill Clinton's sales tax increase.

Neither the legislature nor then-Governor Jim Guy Tucker were so bold in 1995. They had three simple choices, the first two worthy, but unacceptably progressive: 1) pump in more money to bring the poor school districts up; 2) reduce the number of school districts by consolidation.

Politicians chose Door No. 3--tinker with the existing formula. Thus was born proposed Amendment 1, a resource-pooling idea that Robin Hood would admire. Under it, all districts must contribute proceeds from a 25-mill property tax to the state, which will redistribute the local money along with state dollars. The potential problems:

•Sponsors promise the money will be distributed equally on a per capita basis, but the amendment doesn't require it. The legislature will decide how the money is split.

•The amendment doesn't define the minimum tax millage. Would it count only proceeds from a 25-mill tax levied solely for maintenance and operations or would the definition count, as it does under current statutes, debt service and construction millages and state subsidies? The amendment doesn't say. The wrong answer from a court could require more local tax increases than the handful now expected under the amendment.

•The amendment not only doesn't guarantee equity, it provides constitutional protection for inequity. The amendment allows "funding variations" among districts in the name of enhanced education. In other words, districts that invoke educational aims would seem to be able to spend more money per student than their neighbors. The amendment gives the legislature power to curb excessive spending, but it's not a constitutional requirement.

Some educators have quietly raised these and other concerns. They are reluctant to speak out, mainly for lack of viable alternatives. And the governor has articulated a powerful populist argument: Would voters rather the legislature or the courts run the schools?

The amendment may deserve approval, but not on account of Huckabee's argument. Any student of government in Arkansas knows equity in education has come only after the coercive thump of a judicial gavel. Left to its parochial whims, the General Assembly invariably creates inequities rather than cures them.

Print headline: "Hold your applause" September 27, 1996.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Speaking of...

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

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

  • The two cities of Little Rock

    The Little Rock City Board illustrated the capital city's division again last week.
    • Mar 30, 2017
  • Don't cry for Robert E. Lee

    Congratulations are in order for Governor Hutchinson. He decided this year to devote the weight of his office to end the state's embarrassing dual holiday for slavery defender Robert E. Lee and civil rights hero Martin Luther King Jr.
    • Mar 23, 2017
  • 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
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Brant Collins named Group Travel Manager for Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

Brant Collins named Group Travel Manager for Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

Collins to work toward increasing visitation to Arkansas by groups and promoting the state's appeal

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 Viewed

  • The two cities of Little Rock

    The Little Rock City Board illustrated the capital city's division again last week.
  • Never his fault

    Unlike his personal hero Vladimir Putin, President Trump can't have his political opponents thrown into prison, shot dead in the street or flung off fourth-floor balconies.
  • Hope for Gray

    The Arkansas Democratic Party recently elected House Minority Leader Michael John Gray (D-Augusta), a Woodruff County farmer, over Denise Garner, a retired oncology nurse practitioner and founder of Feed Communities of Fayetteville, to replace outgoing chair Vince Insalaco of Little Rock.
  • Repeal charade

    The debacle of the repeal-Obamacare movement left the president and the Republican Congress ruminating about the terrible lessons they had learned from the defeat — mainly that neither ever had a health plan or even a clue about how to frame one.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: More on pits

    • "investigator of both sides": If I give you the last word will you shut the…

    • on March 29, 2017
  • Re: More on pits

    • " ... people are laughing," oh thank you ever so - I do want people…

    • on March 29, 2017
  • Re: More on pits

    • "investigator of both sides": I prize a good dog over a smart-mouthed fool any day…

    • on March 29, 2017
 

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