Most schools and governments will have a late start today so that roads may clear. But the Arkansas Blog is at work. Some odds and ends:
* SCHOOL REGULATORS WITH BACKBONE: Diane Ravitch writes about the independent charter school commission in Maine, which has angered the governor and other foot soldiers for the Billionaire Boys Club's charter school express. It has fairly and carefully reviewed charter school applications, approving some and disapproving others.
Why care about Maine?
Because the Arkansas billionaires' top priority in the Arkansas legislature is to strip the state Board of Education, gubernatorially appointed across a span of many administrations, of charter school review. Why? They want to replace it with a rubberstamp group controlled by legislators (now of the Republican, billionaire-beholden variety). They want all charter apps approved unquestioningly and only lightly regulated, if at all, afterward. It's educational Darwinism. The good will thrive; the bad will eventually fail. Any collateral damage to students is just the way it goes. In addition to private lobbies, we have a publicly supported agency lobbying in this effort, staffed with former Education Department people. It's not like the state Board has been anti-charter. They've approved many and rooted out some bad actors. Members include a founder of Little Rock's eStem charter school and a banker whose bank has underwritten charter school construction, among others. But Boss Walton and his lackeys don't want integrity in this process. They want their way. Period.
* BRYANT DOESN'T NEED NO APARTMENTS: Bryant News happened to send a statement from Bryant Mayor Jill "Republican" Dabbs about her bedroom community's long resistance to apartment development and the traffic and kids and imagined ills they might bring. She's sticking with the apartment moratorium the Council favors, she says in this statement.
Funny thing, Repubican Dabbs and friends. If the Billionaire Boys Club eventually has its way — and unfettered school "choice" becomes the law of Arkansas — it won't take apartment complexes to pack Bryant schools with undesirables from Little Rock. Residency will no longer determine school assignments. Parents may enroll their children wherever they wish. Chew on THAT, Saline County representatives, when the Waltons give you their "choice" marching orders.
FORGOT TO MENTION: School transfers and pending legislation were on my mind when I wrote my column for the Times this week.
* GUN NUTTERY: The nuts simply care more. For that reason, I doubt much good will come with the latest heightened interest in laws aimed at improving safety from guns. There's no calming irrational fear, the kind that inspires a purchase of a powerful weapon for every room in the house against the odds that a homicidal maniac might appear some night.
I DO think the NRA continues to overplay its hand and I do think many a gun owner and defender of ubiquitous ownership thinks Wayne LaPierre and Asa Hutchinson and the other gun nut absolutists have gone too far. Gun extremism, in short, may not be the winning political play it has long been assumed to be. Maybe not even in Arkansas.
Really. Given history, are many people really going to buy the NRA notion that President Obama, seeking stronger gun laws, is an "elitist hypocrite" because he and his children have armed security? That's the thrust of some new doomsday NRA advertising crackpottery.
PS — The AP's Ron Fournier, former Arkie, thinks the NRA went too far.
* HIGHER EDUCATION PRIORITIES: Fascinating new report on how NCAA Division I schools spend six times, or more, per athlete the amount they spend to educate students. And the athletics dollar burn rate is increasing faster than other spending (no wonder, given the high-dollar coach spending). In the biggest football schools, median spending on athletes was about $92,000 for each "student-athlete", versus $14,000 for each student-student.
It's even worse in the SEC, where Arkansas makes its athletic home. Median athletic spending in the SEC was almost $164,000 in 2010 versus a bit more than $13,000 per student on academics. That's more than 12 times as much.
The belief that college sports are a financial boon to colleges and universities is generally misguided. Although some big-time college sports athletic departments are self-supporting [in Arkansas, only the UA]—and some specific sports may be profitable enough to help support other campus sports programs—more often than not, the colleges and universities are subsidizing athletics, not the other way around.