Quote of the Week:
"The stadium expansion does not put students first. In fact, the some 26,000 students on the Fayetteville campus will not benefit one iota. There are no extra student seats added. In fact, there are no general admission seats added — but only some 3,000 'special seats' for those fans in upper income levels. ... In America, college football has become a nuclear arms race."
— David Pryor, in prepared remarks delivered to his fellow University of Arkansas trustees in advance of the board's vote last week on a $226 million expansion of Razorback Stadium. Pryor, a former U.S. senator, said he could not support a proposal that "defies common sense and fairness" and urged the board of trustees to prioritize students above athletics. The board approved the expansion by an 8-2 vote, with only one other trustee, Cliff Gibson of Monticello, joining Pryor in opposition.
Competition for thee, collaboration for me
Baker Kurrus is out as Little Rock School District superintendent as of the end of June, but he's not leaving quietly. Last week, he sent a pointed letter to the Little Rock Area Public Education Stakeholder Group, a committee created by the state to consider "collaboration and coordination" between charter schools and traditional public schools in the city. Kurrus — who was fired because of his opposition to the expansions of two charter operators, eStem and LISA Academy — said the stakeholder group should demand greater financial transparency from charters. But he also questioned its purpose, given that it was only created after the state approved the eStem and LISA expansions in March. " 'Competition and choice' were used as justifications for the recent decisions which pre-empted much of your work," Kurrus told the group. "The major decisions in favor of charter school expansion have already been made."
Defending big oil
Leslie Rutledge is among 13 Republican attorneys general who've signed a letter in defense of ExxonMobil and other oil companies now being investigated by a coalition of Democratic attorneys general for allegedly misleading the public about climate change. The Democrats say Exxon and others knew about the potential climate impact of burning fossil fuels for decades, yet worked to spread contrary and misleading arguments. Rutledge and her fellow Republicans have adopted Exxon's argument that efforts to obtain the company's documents on the issue amounts to a violation of the First Amendment. Corporations are people, too, remember.
Anti-gay rule deferred for another day
The Arkansas Legislative Council delayed action last week on approving a new rule by the board that regulates counselors to give psychiatric counselors a "conscience" opt-out for treating people with whom they have philosophical disagreements. The rule has been described as a compromise of an overtly anti-gay rule passed in Tennessee. It's another in a string of "conscience" or religious-pretext obstacles being thrown up — particularly in Southern states — to allow discrimination against LGBT people. A member of the Legislative Council, Rep. Andy Davis (R-Little Rock), said the review was deferred because the rule, not expected to be controversial, had become controversial.
The Razorback Stadium expansion by the numbers
$160 million - The cost of the expansion as repeatedly described by University of Arkansas officials. That number includes $40 million in privately raised funds and $120 million to be provided by a University of Arkansas general obligation bond issue. The university says athletic department revenue will service all of the bond debt, which has been described as the largest ever in the history of the university and possibly all of higher education in Arkansas.
$226 million - The actual projected cost, including $66 million in interest and fees to cover the 20-year bond obligation.
27% - The percentage increase in tuition and fees at the university over the last 10 years when adjusted for inflation.
2% - The percentage DECREASE in spending per UA student from 2005 through 2014 when adjusted for inflation, according to a Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics database.
62% - The percentage INCREASE in spending per UA scholarship football player from 2005 through 2014 when adjusted for inflation, according to the same Knight database.