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The Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas has become, like the Hoover Institute in California, a reliable source of reports and studies enforcing a conservative view of how the public education system should change. Since Walton family money is vital to both the UA and the education “reform” movement, this isn’t surprising.

Faculty at the school have been critics of teacher unions and supporters of merit pay and charter schools, among others. The latest salvo from the department is an attack on defined-benefit retirement systems for teachers. Robert Costrell, a professor in the department, studied the Ohio system and concluded that a system that offers a guaranteed pension and health insurance after a fixed period of years encourages early retirement and provides “perverse” incentives.

Though Costrell didn’t study Arkansas, the UA news release said his work in Ohio applies here. “Arkansas is tilted even more toward early retirement. This exacerbates teacher shortages, particularly in some rural areas of our state.” He didn’t study whether the overall teacher workforce might be reduced if the profession no longer offered a defined-benefit retirement plan after 28 years of work. Costrell seems to take the view that such pension plans are dying out in private business and government should be no different. What’s good enough for Wal-Mart is good enough for everyone else.

Not delinquent

We reported last week that the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau had rolled out a new accounting system for the 2-cent tax it collects on restaurant meals. We also listed the top 10 delinquent accounts reported on the first list released to the Advertising and Promotion Commission, with the caution that restaurants might dispute or have corrected amounts listed. Good caution.

The Little Rock Zoo reports that the record that its Cafe Africa owed $958 in taxes for the month of March is incorrect. There was an electronic transfer of that amount to the CVB account on April 27, a Zoo spokesman said.

KUAR Habla Espanol (and more)

Ron Breeding, news director for Little Rock public radio station KUAR FM 89.1, said that the station will likely have a 24-hour Spanish language sub-channel set up by the end of the year. The station’s forthcoming ability to broadcast the new channel is thanks to the government-mandated changeover to HD Radio, which will split each FM station’s current signal into several sub-channels, all with digital, CD-quality sound. Breeding said it is broadcast radio’s attempt to compete with satellite radio.

“Basically, the FCC has authorized a new technical scheme where we can use the same bandwidth we’ve been using to broadcast one FM station to send out digital signals,” he said. “We can basically split up the bandwidth and have multiple stations. Plus, each one of them will sound a whole lot better.”

Breeding said that though the KUAR HD transmitter was installed last month, the only local radio stations currently broadcasting in HD are those owned by Clear Channel. Only those listeners with an HD radio can pick them up. With the equipment to get the HD signal from the studio to the transmitter still to be purchased, KUAR’s new channels — including the Spanish station, which will broadcast both locally-produced shows and national and international programs — won’t be up until early next year. Breeding said KUAR sub-channels featuring 24-hour news, jazz and classical music have also been discussed.

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