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Smart Talk, Nov. 1 

Pulaski school trends

The state's official opening school enrollment numbers are out and they hold evidence of continuing downward trends in Pulaski County.

In a year when enrollment statewide was just about the same as last year (466,398, up 778 students), total public school enrollment in Pulaski County was 52,068, down 483.

Little Rock, in the headlines over racially tinged School Board controversies that were predicted to drive away students, actually grew by 238 students to 25,738. North Little Rock declined 360, to 8,934 and the Pulaski County Special School District declined 361 to 17,396.

But the numbers revealed a more pronounced county-wide trend — a decline in white enrollment — down 4.1 percent, or 139 students in North Little Rock; 4.2 percent or 254 in Little Rock, and 4.5 percent, or 414 in Pulaski County.

In short, the state's largest county shows declining public school enrollment and a growing black percentage (countywide school enrollment is now 58.6 percent black) and, if these be considered problematic, the trend is more pronounced outside Little Rock. It's not known how much of the decline in white enrollment can be attributed to the county's generally stagnant population and declining white school-age population and how much to transfers to other schools.

Not-so-good sellers

Has the country finally had enough of warmed-over Clinton scandals? You couldn't tell it by the continuing series of books on the former and perhaps future president of the United States. But book sales are better indicators of the public mood and reminiscent of how Bill Clinton's popularity rose as the ferocity of prosecutor Kenneth Starr's attacks increased.

No solid sales numbers are available yet on Sally Bedell Smith's new book, “For Love of Politics,” which covers the White House years, but it was a not-so-lofty No. 266 on Amazon's list one day last week. The Wall Street Journal reports that two earlier Hillary Clinton biographies have been clunkers. “A Woman in Charge,” by Carl Bernstein, sold about 57,000 of 275,000 copies reportedly printed by Alfred A. Knopf. And that's totally smashing compared with results on “Her Way,” which had been pitched as an “investigative biography” by Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta. The writers were instrumental in drumming up faux scandal for the New York Times during the Whitewater years. Their Little, Brown book reportedly has sold only about 19,000 of 175,000 copies. It's about as scintillating as the Sally Smith book, whose scoops, the Journal reported, include the revelation that the Clintons rely heavily on each other for advice.

An Arkansan looks at Huckabee

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has enjoyed a run of favorable publicity from liberal columnists and publications. His treatment from the right has been more mixed, largely on account of tax increases he supported in Arkansas. He's a nice guy, many have written.

Then came the American Spectator, the conservative weekly that mounted the infamous Arkansas Project to dig dirt on Bill Clinton. A column last week by senior editor Quin Hillyer, a former Arkansas Democrat-Gazette editorial writer, observed about Huckabee's rising stature, “he may be the wrong one to rally around.”

“Ask lots of folks in Arkansas, including Republicans, and a fair number will probably tell you that Huck is for Huck is for Huck,” Hillyer said. “National media folks like David Brooks, dealing in surface appearances only, rave about what a nice guy Huckabee is, and a moral exemplar to boot. If they only did a little homework, they would discover a guy with a thin skin, a nasty vindictive streak, and a long history of imbroglios about questionable ethics.”

Hilllyer's remarks were picked up by other conservative organs and prompted a blistering response from Huckabee's campaign manager, Chip Saltsman. Hillyer responded that he stood by every word and noted that Saltsman, rather than argue the facts of individual accusations, had tried to change the subject, in one case blaming the Arkansas Times for reporting his ethical miscues. As if that excused them.

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