The gubernatorial race open line | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The gubernatorial race open line

Posted By on Thu, Mar 21, 2013 at 4:47 PM

The line is open. Finishing up:

* GOVERNOR 2016: Talk Business passes along a poll supposedly done by a corporate entity with interest in the 2014 governor's race but supposedly unaligned with any candidate for the Democratic nomination. (I'm not sure I buy the claim of disinterest. This corporate entity will be giving money to a candidate and it would be interesting to know which one.) In any case, the polls shows the unannounced but clearly running Washington lobbyist Mike Ross with a 45-27 lead over former Lt. Gov. Bill Halter. The poll had 22 percent undecided and 7 percent for businessman John Burkhalter. Ross' favorable/unfavorable rating split 60/21 to Halter's 48/35. Halter's losing Senate race against Blanche Lincoln clearly didn't help him. Such numbers undoubtedly help explain why one of the leading liberal lights invited to a Ross meet-and-greet in Hillcrest the other day stopped me on the street Tuesday night to beg me to hear him out on why — as disgusting as Ross is — I needed to join those supporting his candidacy. I told him that principle matters. As yet, Ross has yet to make a public utterance on human rights, women's rights, the environment or health care that has been anything but dead wrong. He actually made a modest remark in favor of gun control, but I bet after the NRA steamrolling of Congress on assault weapons this week that he'll never make that mistake again. Some stenches are too strong for even pinched nostrils. Comments Halter spokesman Bud Jackson:

These numbers are just plain silly and are no where near what our internals show. Of course, our numbers were done by a legitimate pollster. This "poll" was done by a firm that doesn't even represent itself as being pollsters and it was paid for by a business that chooses to hide in the shadows.

* VOTING RIGHTS: Now that the legislature has approved a bill to make it harder to vote in Arkansas, it's a good time for reading the Encyclopedia of Arkansas's new entry on voting rights in Arkansas. It's an up-and-down story. Not all good, but not all bad either.

* DIRTY COAL: A report here on a looming issue, whether the state Public Service Commission will saddle SWEPCO ratepayers with a $500 million rate increase so the electric utility can retrofit the aging coal-burning Flint Creek power plant to meet new federal pollution rules. Does it make sense to keep burning coal at an old plant or to look for alternatives? The Sierra Club argues that there are cheaper and healthier alternatives.

* ARKANSAS ON THE CUTTING EDGE: Another article in a national outlet, the New York Times, on the "private option" expansion of Medicaid through private insurance coverage financed with federal dollars. Reviews are generally good, but the potential for a higher charge on the federal treasury and somewhat diminished coverage for the insured against regular Medicaid are mentioned.

* SCHOOL CHOICE: DON'T TELL IT TO FINLAND: The Billionaire Boys Club probably would prefer that you not read this interesting article about Finland, a perennial leader in education for good scores across the spectrum by its students. In addition to having no private schools and to paying teachers well and revering them, The Atlantic article notes:

And while Americans love to talk about competition, Sahlberg points out that nothing makes Finns more uncomfortable. In his book Sahlberg quotes a line from Finnish writer named Samuli Paronen: "Real winners do not compete." It's hard to think of a more un-American idea, but when it comes to education, Finland's success shows that the Finnish attitude might have merits. There are no lists of best schools or teachers in Finland. The main driver of education policy is not competition between teachers and between schools, but cooperation.

Finally, in Finland, school choice is noticeably not a priority, nor is engaging the private sector at all. Which brings us back to the silence after Sahlberg's comment at the [the elite, private] Dwight School that schools like Dwight don't exist in Finland.

"Here in America," Sahlberg said at the Teachers College, "parents can choose to take their kids to private schools. It's the same idea of a marketplace that applies to, say, shops. Schools are a shop and parents can buy what ever they want. In Finland parents can also choose. But the options are all the same."

Herein lay the real shocker. As Sahlberg continued, his core message emerged, whether or not anyone in his American audience heard it.

Decades ago, when the Finnish school system was badly in need of reform, the goal of the program that Finland instituted, resulting in so much success today, was never excellence. It was equity.

Imagine. Make all schools the same. The billionaires prefer a system of winners and losers. Far more lose than win.

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