Favorite

Same old same old 

I returned from a 10-day trip to Europe last Sunday to find things more or less where I'd left them. Oh, sure, the state Supreme Court had expressed displeasure with legislative foot-dragging on its order to make public schools constitutional. Bills had been passed, victories declared. But I kept seeing children. Children in a historically undernourished school system. Children in a system being debated only at the point of a judicial gun. Children in a system that, to most legislators, is perfectly fine just like it is. I still saw a legislative process aimed at doing the bare minimum required. This session has never been about children. It has been about preserving the jobs of criminally overpaid school superintendents; about legalizing nepotism; about preserving athletics before all else; about preserving a system in which accidents of birth determine whether a child has an elementary education rich in specialists and remedial help and a high school education rich with possibility. It has been about paying the least possible and, when money must be paid, putting the heaviest burden on those least able to pay. At least one prominent Arkansan seems to fundamentally agree with me, or I with him. That would be Gov. Mike Huckabee. The work to date has been lame and insufficient, he says. He hopes the court or voters will someday require more. In fairness, I sounded out some education believers who are still fighting for incremental victories. Counterspin me, I asked. Their points: Never before has the legislature voted to consolidate schools. Voters did, in 1948, with a 350-student minimum for grades 1-12, against today's 350 for K-12. This may seem like no gain, but a subsequent referendum for a 400-student floor was beaten in every county. Polls today don't show support for consolidation as a stand-alone proposition. The funding formula, for the first time, is tied to needs - percentage of poor children in a district, for example - and the state commits to funding education first. Yes, this formula leaves too much flexibility to local superintendents (which is why superintendents, of big and small districts allowed it to pass). The formula also likely guarantees the death of still more small, inadequate districts. So-called accountability legislation, with more student testing, will provide a road map to improving classroom instruction. To doubters like me, they add that the bill was necessary to remove legislative and lobby roadblocks to tax increases. If the legislature pumps $400 million more into schools, as seems possible, that can't be viewed as a bad thing, regardless of the source of the money. In all, says David Matthews, lawyer for the Rogers School District, "It is a step. A good step." But is it enough? I don't think the David Matthewses and Jim Argues of the world believe so. I think they hope a strong special master will list shortcomings, maybe even a need for more consolidation, and force the legislature to do more. This positive thinking presumes, of course, that the legislature will complete action on a total school package - standards, district structure and financing. At this writing, that's still not a sure thing.
Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

Readers also liked…

  • 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
  • Trump: The Obama of 2016?

    Conner Eldridge, the Democratic challenger to incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. John Boozman, launched an assault on Boozman Monday morning rich with irony and opportunity.
    • May 5, 2016
  • Double-talk

    A couple of instances of doublespeak cropped up in Little Rock over the weekend.
    • Jun 29, 2017

Most Shared

  • ASU to reap $3.69 million from estate of Jim and Wanda Lee Vaughn

    Arkansas State University announced today plans for spending an expected $3.69 million gift in the final distribution of the estate of Jim and Wanda Lee Vaughn, who died in 2013 and 2015 respectively.
  • Bad health care bill, again

    Wait! Postpone tax reform and everything else for a while longer because the Senate is going to try to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act one more time before September ends and while it can do it with the votes of only 50 senators.
  • Sex on campus

    Look, the Great Campus Rape Crisis was mainly hype all along. What Vice President Joe Biden described as an epidemic of sexual violence sweeping American college campuses in 2011 was vastly overstated.
  • The inadequate legacy of Brown

    LRSD continues to abdicate its responsibility to educate poor black students.

Latest in Max Brantley

  • Aid politics

    The still-unfolding catastrophe in Houston is, first, a human tragedy. But when politicians try to tell you that a time of enormous human tragedy is not a time to talk about politics, it likely means the politics are embarrassing to them.
    • Aug 31, 2017
  • Save the statues!

    The Democratic Party of Arkansas has called for relocation of Confederate monuments from public places, such as courthouse squares and the Capitol lawn, to history museums or private grounds.
    • Aug 24, 2017
  • Charter secret

    These are hard times for those who believe in traditional public schools, run by democratically elected representatives, open to all on equal terms.
    • Aug 17, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

September

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

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Sex on campus

    • Once again commentators blame the victim. Social scientists, of whom I am one, regularly find…

    • on September 22, 2017
  • Re: Time for a coalition

    • Shiny, nobody is saying that Hillary isn't entitled to speak. Shit, the more she talks,…

    • on September 21, 2017
  • Re: Bad health care bill, again

    • Its hard to tell what the GOP in Arkansas care about beyond making life worse…

    • on September 20, 2017
 

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