by Max Brantley
We'll call this the open line.
But, among others, I'd recommend some reading in this Sunday's New York Times magazine, devoted mostly to education topics. It's all relevant to everyone, of course, but particularly:
* PROMISE SCHOLARSHIPS: A deep look at the anonymously funded program in Kalamazoo, Mich., to provide college scholarships to all of the city's public school graduates. This inspired the El Dorado Promise program and others. Seven years in, the backers see good in Kalamazoo, but also learn that scholarships don't necessarily equal college preparedness. Early childhood education is drawing attention, as is the economic difficulty of going to school instead of work even with the scholarship help. College graduation numbers are small still, but Kalamazoo soldiers on. The program has helped local schools, spurred neighboring communities and apparently slowed population erosion in Kalamazoo.
High-school test scores in Kalamazoo have improved four years in a row. A higher percentage of African-American girls graduate from the district than they do in the rest of the state, and 85 percent of those go on to college. Overall, more than 90 percent of Kalamazoo’s graduates today go on to higher education. Six in 10 go to Western Michigan University or Kalamazoo Valley Community College. And over time, a greater number of students are landing at the more selective University of Michigan and Michigan State.
The article suggests this effort beats all the other economic development schemes hatched locally.
* THE FUTURE OF HIGHER EDUCATION — BIG BUSINESS: You perhaps know that Donald Bobbitt, the new University of Arkansas System president, has many thoughts about increasing on-line higher education, a subject he'll discuss next Saturday at our Arkansas Times Festival of Ideas.
Another interesting Times story today is about how faculty rose up and overturned the ouster of Teresa Sullivan as president of the prestigious University of Virginia. The politically appointed board that governs the school, full of big business types, wasn't happy about the slowness with which she was moving to on-line education. GET THIS: Her failure to move speedily to shut down financially unproductive classics and GERMAN programs rankled some. Turns out there's still some support at Mr. Jefferson's University for a broad liberal arts education, though Sullivan, a sociologist by training, certainly heard the criticism and is performing a delicate balancing act. Sullivan, you might not know, lived in Little Rock until she was 13, when her family moved to Mississippi. She co-authored a book on consumer debt with Elizabeth Warren, the U.S. Senate candidate in Massachusetts. Oh and this tidbit: Virginia support of UVa is down to 7 percent of the school's budget.
And speaking of the influence of big money on just about everything, here we move to influence peddling in politics:
* THE LYING LIARS: I've mentioned the mass mailings of the Koch-financed Americans for Prosperity and those of the even more shadowy 60 Plus, another conservative Republican front group, aimed at winning the Arkansas legislature for low-tax, low-regulation Republicans, no matter the cost to the working men and women of the state. The 60 Plus mailing turned up this week in at least a couple of Senate races featuring strong Democrats hated by Republicans — Rep. Linda Tyler of Conway and Rep. Barry Hyde of North Little Rock. The mailing would have voters believe these legislagtors voted to create the supposedly hated "insurance exchanges" in Arkansas under federal health legislation.
That's not true, as a news release issued by Hyde today makes clear. They did vote to fund the state Insurance Department, which will oversee the exchanges to bring insurance to the uninsured, along with looking out for regulation of that industry generally. (The health exchanges are a very good thing, by the way, as they will prove if the greedhead Republicans don't succeed in blocking their creation.)
The Kochs and 60 Plus hope to see the end of Medicare and Medicaid and nearly universal health insurance because when government spending is strangled, the billions they've already been able to amass will grow even more speedily. They've got theirs. Every other man for himself. If a little disingenuous advertising can help grow their bank accounts, all the better. The cost to them is a pittance.
Be sure to ask the opponents of Tyler and Hyde (Rapert and English) and other Republicans if they think billionaires should have to make disclosures about their campaign spending. Or if transparency should be only for poor people? The Kochs clearly believe the only rules that should apply are the ones they devise, such as ID laws designed to discourage Democrats from voting.