by Max Brantley
A morning roundup follows. I'm going to be out of pocket most of the day today. The rest of the Times crew will pitch in as able.
* RACIAL TENSION: Wendell Griffen, a circuit judge and Baptist pastor, says a community meeting is scheduled from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday at Lakeshore Baptist Church, 6120 W. 32nd, to talk about the bullying and sexual harassment identified in a study by UALR sociology professor Dr. Terry Trevino-Richard. The meeting is aimed at addressing and eliminating bullying, Griffen said.
The study reported tension in the schools along racial lines, particularly complaints of black harassment of Hispanics
Coincidentally, crime against Latinos was also a concern yesterday when anti-crime activist Benny Johnson joined with an official of the Mexican consulate in Little Rock and law officers to urge Hispanics to report crimes against them. A spate of Hispanic-targeted crimes recently led to the event. There's been some reluctance in the Latino community to report crimes to police for fear that reports by people without legal status could lead to immigration action. That's not a concern of local law enforcement, they said.
Race reared its head again, too, in a report that the Little Rock Fraternal Order of Police leadership isn't happy that a group representing black police officers has complained asbout disparate pay and policies and treatment of officer misconduct in the department. The FOP says it will be the judge of that. A black police leader says he didn't even know the FOP had a minority issues committee, since it is functionally non-existent. The white bosses of FOP seem to say to black officers, "We'll do the talking. You shut up." Any officer has the right to make a written complaint to police leadership. The effort to stifle free speech in a government agency tells you everything you need to know about the FOP, a retrograde bunch.
* ABOUT THOSE CHART NUMBERS ABOVE: Little Rock, in the 2010 Census, was 48 percent white, 42 percent black and almost 7 percent Hispanic. The stats show that blacks and Hispanics are crime victims disproportionately often to their percentage in the population. Black suspects are disproportionately more often suspects.
* CHARTER SCHOOLS: The state Board of Education today will review six charter school applications, approval of which would reach the state cap of 24. CORRECTION: A newish law allows an expansion of the cap by 5 when the cap is reached. The Walton-financed charter school movement is spoiling to pass legislation to open the door without restriction to charters. Awaiting, too, is whether the "reformers: will do as they've done in other states to strip regulators of power when they've proved diligent in their responsibilities of weeding out poor operators. The Arkansas Board, a diverse group representing the spectrum of political thought, has remained friendly to charters, but not blindly enough for some of tee strongest advocates.
* AND, SPEAKING OF CHARTER SCHOOLS, ANOTHER SHAME-ON-LUKE-GORDY NOTE: I've just learned that Gordy, the former state Board of Education chair who is now a paid lobbyist for the Billionaire Boys Club (the Walton-Stephens-Murphy-Hussman charter school junta), has rejected a complaint from an existing A Plus program that works for arts education in the Arkansas schools about Gordy's expropriation of the A Plus name for a Walton-financed shill group that is lobbying for pro-charter laws in public meetings around the state. This is the A Plus group for which Laurie Lee, the former Fayetteville school library book banner, was hired to promote the charter school/choice (voucher) cause. Money talks, as ever. Just don't confuse Laurie Lee with the Thea Foundation's A Plus Arkansas Schools program, which is wholly about helping Arkansas students, not jamming the agenda of billionaires through a rent-to-own legislature.
UPDATE: Gordy puts a friendlier face on his refusal to give up his new group's name in recognition of a long-functioning arts organization.
When Paul Leopoulos called me with his concerns regarding any possible unintended confusion between the two completely separate and independent programs, I went to Paul at the Thea Foundation offices and spent an hour and a half visiting with him about both his program and what we could do to mitigate any confusion. After a very cordial meeting, we mutually agreed that, on any printed materials, newspaper ads and community Town Hall meetings developed and implemented on behalf of our A + Arkansas campaign, we would provide the following disclaimer...
"While we are strong supporters of the Thea Foundation, there is absolutely no affiliation between the A+Arkansas Campaign and Thea Foundation's Arkansas A + Schools whole school reform initiative."
LUKE: I can't find that disclaimer on our group's website. Is that "printed material"?
UPDATE II: Gordy said:
To your blog question...the disclaimer was supposed to be added to everything we produced or will produce subsequent to my conversation with Paul. it was also to include the website, which I directed the campaign to add. As a result of your inquiry regarding the disclaimer on the website, I checked and could not find it, either. Not checking the website for the addition of the disclaimer is definitely my mistake and I have called and insisted it be added immediately. Thank you for the heads up
* SPEAKING OF SCHOOLS: I see Judge Mary McGowan ruled the state of Arkansas's sovereign immunity applies in lawsuits by Pulaski School District employees over the junking of their contracts after the state took over the school district. Eventually, the state Supreme Court will get a crack. I always thought the state couldn't be made to pay money owed by an entity that no longer existed. But I think the question of non-monetary issues provided in the contracts is a knottier question, as the judge acknowledged in her ruling. In theory, the "arbitrary and capricious" standard will prevent the state from wholesale ducking behind such rulings to take over entities with contracts officialdom doesn't like. Won't it?
* MORE HOT AIR: Thanks to the gas glut, looks like retail gas prices in Arkansas will go down more than 8 percent for Centerpoint customers. It won't be much felt as the planet warms. But say, if wholesale gas prices are down 39 percent at the wellhead from a year ago, shouldn't we get a bit more than an 8 percent cut?