by Max Brantley
I'm going to be out of pocket a big chunk of today, this morning and later for our annual recognition for our Arkansas Times Academic All-Star Team, the subject of this week's cover story. But first things first:
* MAKE A PLEDGE TO KUAR, LITTLE ROCK PUBLIC RADIO: Starting at 6:30 a.m. today, Rosi Smith of Children's Hospital and I will be on rounding up contributions to KUAR/KLRE until 9 a.m. It's a day earlier than our normal cleanup spot on the last day because of schedule complications.
Call: 569-8485 or 1-800-952-2528
Or contribute on the web at kuar.org. I think this link will take you straight to the form.
Mention the Arkansas Blog and I'll match you up to $10. Mention the Arkansas Blog and demonstrate your bipartisan spirit by identifying yourself as a Republican and I'll make it $25.
UPDATE: Rosi and I raised more than $15,000. We had 23 blog pledges, including one noble bipartisan Republican. Thanks all.
* GENTLE ON THE EDITING: Did I read somewhere this morning that Glen Campbell "sang" Classical Gas during a visit to Congress?
* THEN AND NOW: Mike Ross and Bill Halter tangled yesterday. Yes, Mike Ross has a voting record against abortion more strict than he says he'd follow as governor. Fair to point that out. Fair to be hopeful he means what he says in allowing women of Arkansas more right to choose than he was willing to give women of Washington D.C. Fair to have some doubts based on the record. But this much was clear: He also said he'd have vetoed the Voter ID bill rammed through the Republican legislature to suppress vote among constituencies — poor, elderly, minority — that lean Democratic. Here's another one of those issues where I just don't get the sudden boomlet among his admirers in the press for the supposed crossover charm of a Republican candidacy by House Speaker Davy Carter. He's moderate only in his affability (and a bit of a past as a trial lawyer.) Carter gave Voter ID the bare minimum 51 votes it needed to pass the House. Not a crossover issue among the Democratic base.
* DO PLANNING RULES APPLY TO CHARTER SCHOOL?: Fine story by Claudia Lauer in the morning Democrat-Gazette on the LISA Academy's disdain for city zoning rules in increasing its enrollment by almost a third more than allowed (790 students rather than 600). It's created a huge burden for neighbors in the surrounding commercial neighborhood. LISA has often set itself apart in unpleasant ways, from its founders' first ill-chosen words about the sorry parents who'd prefer to keep their kids in Little Rock public schools. Claiming to be aiming at at-risk kids, it set up in prosperous western Little Rock, well removed from the poor, minority populations for which charter schools were established and soon enrolled a population far whiter and higher income than the surrounding school district. Its test scores — compared apples to apples as a former state Education Board member once memorably did — haven't been that exciting. Middle class kids tend to score well on standardized tests and indeed LISA's do. LISA is also associated with a national effort to set up schools that end up being publicly financed schools run by ethnic Turks for the local children of ethnic Turks (and others). Nothing illegal about that, but it sometimes projects a feeling of separateness about them, including to some of the parents who've enrolled children. A former city director, accompanying some of its backers one day, proudly told me the men had started "their own school," meaning LISA. I hope Lauer sends a few FOI requests to LISA about what it knew, what it planned and how it planned to cope/ignore the enrollment limit. The school IS covered by the FOI. My own experience has been that, though nominally a public school, LISA doesn't operate much like one when it comes to communication with the press and general transparency. Will the Chamber of Commerce-run City Board require LISA to follow the law? That will be seen at a coming City Board meeting on what to do about the violation of the enrollment limit. In Chamber of Commerce circles, charter schools tend to be elevated above the conventional public schools that must educate all comers, no matter how dysfunctional or unwilling. The charters are already exempt from many state educational rules. Why, they might argue, should city laws mean anything to them?