Favorite

Special needs kids 

The budget cut for Arkansas Governor's School is old news by now, but I was reminded of it when Gov. Mike Beebe visited the school last week.

The six-week residential program for 400 rising high school seniors is 30 years old. Modeled on a school in North Carolina, it arose from the efforts of devoted believers in education for gifted and talented students. They happened to include my mother-in-law, the late Martha Bass, who was a gifted education supervisor in the state Education Department.

I had mixed feelings at the beginning. I'd attended Louisiana's Governor's Program for  Gifted Children, a three-year residential summer program that begins in the sixth grade. I had fun. But I often wondered about the wisdom of designating certain students “gifties,” as the college students we schooled among called us, and whether the extra effort was fair to other students.

My mother-in-law set me right, as she did on many things. Gifted students can be forgotten in conventional school settings. They have special needs, sometimes unmet, as much as those with learning disabilities or the athletically gifted (to name one class of students lavished with special attention and facilities).

The Arkansas Times each year sponsors an Academic All-Star Team. We require a short essay from each nominee and it's striking how often they mention Governor's School as the most significant experience of their lives. This is particularly true, I think, for kids from smaller high schools with narrower course offerings and communities with narrow outlooks. The narrow outlooks threatened Governor's School for years. Religious conservatives attacked it for the ideas it might plant in the minds of children expected to think only what their parents and preachers told them to think.

Money and changing times may yet prevail where the small-minded could not. The school will be cut from six to four weeks next year as part of a new three-year contract with Hendrix College, which has hosted the program by competitive bid since its inception. The program was slowly starved under the Huckabee administration, held to a $740,000 annual budget for a decade. Now, thanks to leadership of departed Education Director Ken James, it will be cut back next year to four weeks, rather than be further starved to cover six weeks of operation under the same budget. The budget will drop to $640,000, which is a bit more per day.

A student urged Beebe last week to get behind a fund-raising drive to prevent the reduction, which inevitably will mean less course content. The governor enthusiastically endorsed the idea, but it's a prohibitive long shot.

More than budget issues are at work. After all, in a state budget that devotes billions to education, a few thousand dollars more or less for Governor's School were inconsequential.

Summers are shorter because school years are longer. Students have competition from other attractive summer programs. Some want to work to pay for luxuries or because they simply must.  Such pressures have reduced the number and quality of Governor's School applicants. A shorter program might be good for the school. It will survive for at least three more years, unlike now-defunct counterparts in some other states.

I wish my fair-minded mother-in-law was around to counsel me on how to view all this. But I believe she'd at least regret a decrease, rather than increase, in the state's commitment to our best and brightest students.

 

Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

Readers also liked…

  • Outsourcing state government

    As a citizen, I don't get to choose not to pay taxes because I don't like what the Arkansas state government is spending state and federal money on, such as paying a Chinese company, Sun Paper, approximately $1 billion to build a paper mill in Clark County.
    • Sep 22, 2016

Most Shared

  • Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist resigns

    Bob Scoggin, 50, the Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist whose job it was to review the work of agencies, including DAH and the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, for possible impacts on historic properties, resigned from the agency on Monday. Multiple sources say Scoggin, whom they describe as an "exemplary" employee who the week before had completed an archeological project on DAH property, was told he would be fired if he did not resign.
  • Labor department director inappropriately expensed out-of-state trips, audit finds

    Jones was "Minority Outreach Coordinator" for Hutchinson's 2014 gubernatorial campaign. The governor first named him as policy director before placing him over the labor department instead in Jan. 2015, soon after taking office.
  • Lawsuit filed against ADC officials, prison chaplain convicted of sexual assault at McPherson

    A former inmate who claims she was sexually assaulted over 70 times by former McPherson Womens' Unit chaplain Kenneth Dewitt has filed a federal lawsuit against Dewitt, several staff members at the prison, and officials with the Arkansas Department of Corrections, including former director Ray Hobbs.
  • Rapert compares Bill Clinton to Orval Faubus

    Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway)  was on "Capitol View" on KARK, Channel 4, this morning, and among other things that will likely inspire you to yell at your computer screen, he said he expects someone in the legislature to file a bill to do ... something about changing the name of the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.

Latest in Letters

  • Welcome proposals

    Thank you for the amazing article by Benjamin Hardy and Kathryn Joyce about the overhaul of our [state Division of Children and Family Services] system to be inclusive of relatives after all of these years (at least nearly three decades) of frequently excluding family members as foster parents.
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • Farming medical marijuana

    With the recent passage of the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment to our state's constitution, I wanted to share my perspective as a small organic farmer at North Pulaski Farms and the former CIO of World Wide Travel Service.
    • Nov 24, 2016
  • An open letter to Governor Hutchinson

    I am writing you today regarding changes I believe need to be made to our state's gun laws. Specifically, I believe that we need programs to make it easier for women and minorities to acquire a concealed carry permit and that we need a "stand your ground" law so that people can protect themselves from the political and racial violence that is already occurring.
    • Nov 17, 2016
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Central Arkansas venues have a full week of commemorative events planned

Event Calendar

« »

December

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: Learning to love North Little Rock in Park Hill

    • My father in law built this house from WW2 materials he bought cheap. The walls…

    • on December 5, 2016
  • Re: A killing in Pocahontas

    • my name is kimberly some parts are true some are not travis was a victum…

    • on December 4, 2016
  • Re: Vive la resistance!

    • We are not asking you to place a stent in the Democrats Heart nor to…

    • on December 4, 2016
 

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation