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Smart Talk, July 15 

click to enlarge LUNDERBY: Says response has been sweet.
  • LUNDERBY: Says response has been sweet.

Deputy bares and grins about it

AOL caught up last week with Jessie Lunderby, the 21-year-old Washington County jailer suspended from her Fayetteville job because she posed nude on Playboy.com in June. She told AOL she'd take off all over again. "My only regret is that I didn't do it sooner."

She has been on administrative leave since superiors began reviewing her moonlighting, but said the experience had been a plus. It has produced some job offers, including in "small" movies and lots of support. "I've had women from all walks of life, singer women, crazy women, single women, mommas, all tell me they support me," she told AOL. "Everyone's been so sweet and awesome."

Latino immigration pro and con

Interesting convergence of events. On July 2, Secure Arkansas submitted signatures for a constitutional amendment to discourage immigrants from coming to Arkansas by making it even harder than it already is to receive any public benefits. Backers of the amendment cited as one reason for the effort the huge increase in Latino population in Arkansas (legal and illegal). A few days later, the Winthrop Rockfeller Foundation announced a $140,000 grant to The Center for Leadership Innovation to establish leadership programs for Latinos. Sherece West, CEO of the Rockefeller Foundation, credited the state's increasing Latino population. "By promoting the development of Latino leaders and building the capacity of Latino nonprofits, we are supporting the creation of a pipeline of effective Latino leaders and strong Latino organizations that will have a positive impact on the state of Arkansas." Somehow, we think Secure Arkansas won't see this as a positive.

Fun with numbers

The state of Arkansas released end-of-course test scores last week and algebra scores, a high stakes test for younger students for the first time, generally moved upward. One development worthy of note: A strong performance on algebra by students in Little Rock School District middle schools, problematic grades where many students have been lost to private schools and burgeoning charter schools, such as the rapidly expanding eStem Charter School.

For example: Students in every Little Rock middle school scored as well or better than middle schoolers at eStem. The Democrat-Gazette, whose publisher is a major supporter of eStem, quickly supplied the alibi that only better students take algebra in middle school years.

True. But the numbers indicate that even schools with overwhelming poor and minority populations might not be the total disasters often depicted by charter school backers and anti-LRSD opinion writers. The eStem/LRSD comparison, with the number taking the test at each school in parenthesis, and the percentage that scored proficient or advanced:

eStem Middle School (98) 68 percent

Cloverdale Middle (53) 98

Dunbar Magnet (66) 97

Forest Heights (50) 88

Mabelvale Middle (71) 83

Pulaski Heights (93) 100

Mann Magnet (98) 90

Henderson Middle (98) 68

Cost of auto insurance

Arkansans are paying an average auto insurance premium of $1,649 this year, an amount that is near the middle of state averages. According to the AARP Bulletin, Louisiana has the highest average premium, $2,511, and Michigan is second at $2,098. They're the only states above $2,000. Maine has the lowest premium, $903. Vermont, at $969, is the only other state below $1,000.

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