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Editorials May 19

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Voucher scheme We don’t hear much about vouchers in Arkansas — charter schools being the preferred method of undermining the public school system in these parts — but in urban areas to the north, the voucher scheme is still being worked. There’s a reason for the difference. The real purpose of vouchers is not to allow poor kids in bad public schools to move to higher-performing private schools, as voucher proponents claim publicly. The purpose is to give public money to students who are already attending private schools. This means vouchers are most eagerly sought in areas that already have large private-school systems — Catholic schools, mostly. The South lacks these systems. A recent report on a federally funded voucher program in Washington revealed once again how vouchers work. Pupils already attending private schools in D.C. were awarded many more of the vouchers than were needy students attending public schools deemed in need of improvement under federal standards. Most of the private schools participating in the voucher program are affiliated with the Catholic Church. They are using public money to advance the religious beliefs of one sect. The D.C. voucher program is part of President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act, legislation that sounds a lot better than it is. As do vouchers. The cat is the hat Only a few states in the upper Midwest permit cat hunting, but the movement seems sure to spread. Other states are seeing the advantages of thinning the cat herds that roam unrestrained across taxpayers’ property, damaging gardens, killing songbirds, keeping people awake at night. As one Minnesota wildlife officer put it, “It don’t take many cats to be too many cats.” Another argument for allowing the hunting of feral cats has recently emerged. Animal-welfare activists are protesting the British Army’s use of bearskin for the towering hats worn by sentries at royal palaces. The hats are made from the pelts of North American black bears. Arkansas having once been known as “The Bear State,” we Arkansans feel a special empathy with these engagingly uncatlike creatures. Stop the killing of American bears to make hats for British soldiers? Yes, of course. But force the palace guards to go bareheaded, ending a 200-year-old tradition? Too drastic. A solution leaps to the eye. Make the hats from catskin. Because of the difference in size, more cats will be required than were bears, but there’s no shortage of cats. The demand will be met, especially if the states put a bounty on game cats. Precedent for converting cats into headwear is found in an old folk song we remember: “My neighbor had an old gray cat … now I got me a new fur hat.” There’s a lot of wisdom in those things.

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