Favorite

Here's your local control 


We in Arkansas share something fundamental with our nation’s president and vice president. They don’t pay much attention to the U.S. Constitution. We don’t pay much attention to our state Constitution.

George W. Bush and Dick Cheney search and seize our telephone records. They do so in plain defiance of citizen protections in the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

We in Arkansas cling to notions of controlling public education at the local level. We do so in plain defiance of the state constitution and the Supreme Court, which declare without equivocation that education is the state’s responsibility.

Heeding the U.S. Constitution would prove inconvenient to the manner in which George W. and Dick want to combat terrorists. Heeding the state constitution would prove inconvenient in Arkansas to our embedded culture and custom.

Leave aside for now the Bush-Cheney abuse. I’m referring for these purposes to matters in state and local news.

There’s the little Saline County place called Paron that is trying to keep open its tiny high school though it admits it cannot teach all the courses the state requires high schools to teach.

There’s Asa Hutchinson, desperate to get competitive in the governor’s race and pandering to Paron to try to make inroads against Attorney General Mike Beebe throughout rural Arkansas.

As a constitutionally obligated legal advisor, Beebe’s office was forced to oppose special legislative dispensation for Paron. Mike Huckabee’s education officials took the same responsible position, though the Huckabee defense of Beebe has not been forthcoming.

Paron’s defenders cite long bus rides to Bryant. But state law requires equal opportunity, not equal convenience.

We all go through life making trade-offs. As a city dweller, I deal with noise and crime and traffic. I choose the lifestyle for other advantages. Rural dwellers enjoy pastoral peace and quiet. But maybe they must drive a greater distance to Wal-Mart. Maybe their high school kids must take a longer bus ride.

Paron advocates say that perhaps local high school students who want courses not offered at Paron could be transported to Bryant for those classes. But they say that transportation to Bryant would be unfair if applied to the high school student body as a whole.

In other words, this supposed unfairness should be extended only to kids uppity enough to invoke their full constitutional right to seek an educational opportunity beyond that of their schoolmates but equal to that offered elsewhere.

There remains this curious idea that a school has a right to exist and that a school’s mere existence is inherently virtuous. But there is only one inherently virtuous constitutional right in the public education equation. It belongs to the kid who wants as good an educational opportunity as the next.

But Paron’s kids have tested well, we’re told. That’s splendid. And it’s all the more reason to offer them a full curriculum.

Still, here’s a prediction, grounded in a long history of watching rural political brush fires grow out of control in Arkansas: By fall, Beebe will be compelled by political pressure to disavow his office’s position.

I would not be terribly surprised to find him and Hutchinson running over each other to see which can be first to stand in front of the opening-day bus hauling Paron’s high schoolers to Bryant.

There’s always an honest solution: Simply repeal the constitutional article about the state’s responsibility for education and replace it with one saying that public education is the responsibility of autonomous local school districts.

In exchange, the state could be spared the nearly $1.7 billion it sends annually to those school districts. Local patrons could make up the money through their property taxes.

Think what state government could do with an unencumbered $1.7 billion. It could provide for a world-class rainy day fund, eliminate the sales tax on groceries, grant generous tax rebates, establish a whale of an economic development superfund and endow the best-funded colleges in the region.

Except that legislators might spend it all on football stadiums and field houses for their locally controlled little schools.


Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by John Brummett

  • Obstruction is the preferred conservatism

    Is there greater conservative virtue in opposing federal health reform, period, or in saying it ought to be implemented locally instead of from Washington in the event we are unavoidably laden with it?
    • Oct 5, 2011
  • A fate not quite as bad as prison for Lu Hardin

    There is no crime in being overly and transparently solicitous for the purposes of aggrandizement and personal political advancement. That's simply acute neediness, a common and benign human frailty.
    • Sep 28, 2011
  • Can we talk? Can we get anywhere?

    Dialogue is good. It would be even better if someone would venture off script every once in a while.
    • Sep 21, 2011
  • More »

More by Max Brantley

  • But what about the Clintons? Last refuge of Trump, New York Times

    Trying to compare Donald Trump's reaction to the Russia investigation with Bill Clinton's dealings with Kenneth Starr should be a non-starter if the facts mattered. But these days — and to the New York Times — it ain't necessarily so.
    • Jul 23, 2017
  • Football is king, Bentonville edition

    Good analysis in the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette of an unannounced Bentonville School Board vote last week to put $2 million into a football stadium for West High School despite board assurances in last May's tax election that no money would go to a football stadium.
    • Jul 23, 2017
  • Dinner and dancing in Dogtown

    A good night out in Argenta. Looking for the theater? Consider "Sweet Charity."
    • Jul 23, 2017
  • More »

Most Shared

  • So much for a school settlement in Pulaski County

    The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Cynthia Howell got the scoop on what appears to be coming upheaval in the Pulaski County School District along with the likely end of any chance of a speedy resolution of school desegregation issues in Pulaski County.
  • Riverfest calls it quits

    The board of directors of Riverfest, Arkansas's largest and longest running music festival, announced today that the festival will no longer be held. Riverfest celebrated its 40th anniversary in June. A press release blamed competition from other festivals and the rising cost of performers fees for the decision.
  • Football for UA Little Rock

    Andrew Rogerson, the new chancellor at UA Little Rock, has decided to study the cost of starting a major college football team on campus (plus a marching band). Technically, it would be a revival of football, dropped more than 60 years ago when the school was a junior college.
  • Turn to baseball

    When the world threatens to get you down, there is always baseball — an absorbing refuge, an alternate reality entirely unto itself.

Latest in John Brummett

  • Gone to the DoG

    We're now longer carrying John Brummett's column in this space.
    • Oct 12, 2011
  • Obstruction is the preferred conservatism

    Is there greater conservative virtue in opposing federal health reform, period, or in saying it ought to be implemented locally instead of from Washington in the event we are unavoidably laden with it?
    • Oct 5, 2011
  • A fate not quite as bad as prison for Lu Hardin

    There is no crime in being overly and transparently solicitous for the purposes of aggrandizement and personal political advancement. That's simply acute neediness, a common and benign human frailty.
    • Sep 28, 2011
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

July

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

  • Another Jesus

    If you follow the logic of Jason Rapert and his supporters, God is very pleased so many have donated money to rebuild a giant stone slab with some rules on it. A few minutes on Rapert's Facebook page (if he hasn't blocked you yet) also shows his supporters believe that Jesus wants us to lock up more people in prison, close our borders to those in need and let poor Americans fend for themselves for food and health care.
  • Pay attention

    If anyone thinks that a crisis with the Power Ultra Lounge shooting, then he hasn't been paying attention to Little Rock.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Football for UA Little Rock

    • He's BSC. Students and tuition-paying parents should be VERY vocal that a football program won't…

    • on July 23, 2017
  • Re: Pay attention

    • I have attended community meetings about the recent spike in violence in LR, and police…

    • on July 22, 2017
  • Re: Pay attention

    • Adawson's comments attribute the plight of black people in the United States to the War…

    • on July 22, 2017
 

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