Demand more 

I want you to think of the three biggest challenges facing Arkansas right now. Take a second and get them in your mind. Anything you come up with is great. Got them?

Was lack of economic opportunity or systemic poverty one? Improving education? Community violence, or inequities in the criminal justice system? Maybe you thought of climate change? Or the disparities resulting from the way we treat people of color or women? Maybe it was a lack of good roads and internet access? Or lack of quality housing, or access to quality health care? I'd love to hear your ideas and why you chose them.

Now, how many of you think Arkansas is doing too much right now to solve these problems?

I doubt many of you do. One of the most frustrating things in Arkansas is that we have known what our biggest challenges are for generations. We are close to 50th in too many quality of life measures and too close to first in too many negative measures. And we know it. It's practically part of our Arkansas DNA. Thank God for Mississippi!

What's even more frustrating is we also know the solutions to most of those problems. We have endless studies, commissions and reports with recommendations gathering dust, waiting for the political courage to implement them.

Just a few years ago we had a task force on poverty that made great recommendations. Ignored. A task force on special education called for funding to solve critical failures. Again ignored. The current tax task force brought in economic experts to talk about stimulating economic growth, and there have been dozens of reports over the past 20 years on how to improve the Arkansas tax code, which already taxes poor people twice the rate that we tax the wealthy and corporations. Again lawmakers have ignored almost all of it.

It turns out that too many of us are voting for politicians who believe that we're doing too much to solve Arkansas's problems. Or they look at the proven recommendations from expert commissions but then choose to go their own way backed by the ideology of some special interest with little evidence to support them. And so we remain stuck at 49th.

Most of the time the stagnation comes down to money. A lot of the solutions our communities need, from education to economic development, require investments in research-proven solutions. We could zoom Arkansas forward tomorrow with the amount of expertise amassed on our challenges, but we lack the political will to make those investments. Instead, strings of governors and legislatures keep selling that the solutions to our challenges are cheap taxes on the powerful and weak public oversight.

So in a state full of needs we get crazy stuff. The legislature has cut unemployment benefits despite the fact that we know that traps more people in poverty. Lawmakers are looking for reasons to cancel people's access to health care. Lawmakers ignored recommendations to create quality afterschool and summer programs, or expand quality pre-k, despite overwhelming evidence of their effectiveness. Instead, they've attacked teachers, ignored the consensus solutions available and pushed private school vouchers and charter schools despite little evidence they are effective. And the disproportionately poor and minority students segregated out of access to a quality education are blamed for their lack of opportunity.

It's happening again this year. The governor and many Arkansas lawmakers are again looking at the myriad challenges and opportunities facing Arkansas, and their key proposal is again a giant tax cut for the wealthy. All of the evidence is that this won't help Arkansas. In fact, it will leave us without the resources to address the real needs of our state and it will exacerbate inequality. It's as if they are trying to jump from 49th to 50th in quality of life measures.

They are looking at the challenges facing Arkansas and saying we're already doing too much to solve them.

It's wrong at best. And it's immoral when we know better. It's time for us to remind lawmakers that we want real solutions and real investments. Show them you want living wages by supporting the minimum wage increase. Show them you're tired of voter suppression antics by rejecting the voter ID measure that solves nothing while ignoring proven solutions that would improve our elections. You already know what our challenges are. Election Day is Nov. 6. Let's do more to move Arkansas forward and stop electing lawmakers determined to move us backward.

Bill Kopsky is executive director of the Arkansas Public Policy Panel.



Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Bill Kopsky

  • Seeking a vision to thrive

    It's time for a new social contract that creates a comprehensive vision for thriving communities in both rural and urban places.
    • Nov 15, 2018
  • More »

People who saved…

Readers also liked…

  • Banned in 2018

    Here's some arcana reeking of 2017 that I'm banning from consideration, attention, even out-loud mention in 2018. I'm unfriending all this 2017-reminding shit. It's dead to me in 2018.
    • Jan 11, 2018
  • A new statue to represent Arkansas in D.C.

    Like all states, Arkansas has two statues selected by the legislature to represent our state in the U.S. Capitol. Uriah Rose, a successful and innovative lawyer, and James P. Clarke, a former governor and U.S. senator, have represented Arkansas in National Statuary Hall for approximately 100 years.
    • Oct 11, 2018
  • On school performance

    State Education Commissioner Johnny Key recently announced he intends to ask the state to grant principals the ability to fire teachers, without due process, in what the state considers failing schools. As a parent of a Little Rock School District student, I thought it would be prudent to share my analysis of the data provided by the Arkansas Department of Education
    • Nov 7, 2018

Latest in Guest Writer

  • Support ANNN

    In the past year alone, our small organization has made an impact with major stories on political corruption, health care, juvenile justice and more.
    • Dec 20, 2018
  • Slow the school waiver train

    The State Board of Education's controversial plan to waive the Teacher Fair Dismissal Act in the Little Rock School District (and now others under state takeover) has received a lot of attention in recent weeks. But few people are aware of a broader threat to educational standards, accountability and transparency for every public school in the state: waivers under Act 1240 of 2015.
    • Dec 20, 2018
  • Race, history, taxes

    Racial prejudice and discrimination have long driven Arkansas politics and public policy. Arkansas's tax policies have especially perpetuated the harm of past racism and done little to reduce the systemic barriers faced by people of color today.
    • Dec 6, 2018
  • More »

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: How to speak cat

    • Albert. Nice name. Saw a smalltown newspaper contest once looking for the best cat name…

    • on March 18, 2019
  • Re: How to speak cat

    • My main cat is an orange tabby too. I understand, man. A good orange tabby…

    • on March 16, 2019
  • Re: How to speak cat

    • My calico female expresses her love by cleaning my hand for 5 minutes before I…

    • on March 15, 2019

© 2019 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation