Voters want pre-K
New polling reported by The Huffington Post shows strong bipartisan support for more education for children before kindergarten.
Voters are smart. They understand that more education before kindergarten is a necessity, particularly for kids most at risk of starting behind and never catching up.
Only about half of children ages 3 and 4 are in pre-K programs and only about a third are in publicly funded programs.
Mike Ross, the Democratic candidate for governor, has made pre-K a key campaign issue. He says no child should be denied pre-K education on account of family income or ZIP code. Republican Asa Hutchinson isn't interested in such bold talk. He calls it irresponsible. He's likened pre-K to a welfare program. The most irresponsible of his backers have taken to social media to characterizing pre-K programs as incubators for future criminals. Poor minorities are destined to be criminals anyway, they seem to suggest. Why pay money to try to educate them? Screw 'em. Happily, polls indicate — even among Republicans — that sentiment isn't a majority one. But it will prevail in policy under a Hutchinson administration.
Do the math
Arkansas prison officials think they need up to $100 million for a new prison simply to accommodate the current prison population, which is expected to continue to grow. They'll also need $25 million to operate it.
The reason? Prisons are already bulging with lifers and others with long sentences who won't be leaving prison anytime soon. Add to that the rising population from get-tough-on-parolees initiatives. Add to that the pronounced desire (particularly by the Republican majority) for tougher sentencing still. You do the math: $100 million for a prison. $25 million for operations. A $100 million income tax cut proposed by Asa Hutchinson. A Republican Senate majority's wish to kill Obamacare and end the hundreds of millions it ships into Arkansas each year. The loss of millions in expenditures as rural hospitals fail. The loss of millions in revenues from the last session's income and capital gains tax cuts that mostly benefitted the wealthiest Arkansans. A Republican congressional candidate's promise to slash federal spending, which comes back to Arkansas in greater volume than we send to Washington.
Bottom line: Deficits as far as the eye can see. Not in the budget, because that's not allowed in Arkansas under the constitution. But education, infrastructure, quality of life, growth. There will be bloodletting.