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Editorial Roundup: Recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers

May 14, 2019

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. May 13, 2019.

A court battle over school choice transfers continues for four districts in south Arkansas. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has been fighting for the rights of parents to choose what’s best for their kids, but for now, at least in several precincts below I-30, the students remain educational hostages.

The 2018 report cards came out in April for Arkansas schools. A brief glance at the school districts involved in this school choice court battle does not inspire confidence. Hope School District has a high school with a D grade. The Junction City School District has an elementary school with a D. Lafayette County School District has an elementary school with an F and a high school with a D. And Camden Fairview School District has three schools with D grades.

All of that data comes from the Arkansas Department of Education Data Center. You can pull any school district’s letter grades at https://myschoolinfo.arkansas.gov.

Now consider you’re a parent. The Legislature not long ago took action to give you greater choice in what district your kids attend. If the neighborhood school is failing to educate — and failing in its responsibility — then you had options. Why not attend the other school down the road a piece?

But in January, a federal judge issued a ruling preventing kids, actually their families, from participating in the Arkansas School Choice Act, which allows such transfers. Now this state’s attorney general is fighting, rightly so, to get that ruling overturned in the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis.

Here’s hoping Leslie Rutledge’s office is successful. There are a lot of households in Hope, Junction City, and Camden that hope Leslie Rutledge’s office is successful, too.

If local schools are failing, students should have the opportunity to go elsewhere. It’s compassionate, it’s humane, it’s the law. What the latest ruling does is essentially tell these children “Sorry, you have to go down with the ship.” It sacrifices their educational future for the benefit of the failing school district.

Attorneys for the four school districts have made the argument that allowing kids to transfer out into more successful school districts will result in “white flight,” resurrecting desegregation challenges from the past. But that shouldn’t be the problem of parents who are just trying to get their kids a better education. Or at least a minimal one.

Here’s a solution: If the districts fix their schools, parents won’t want to transfer their children.

But keeping students chained to failing schools is exactly the wrong solution. The attorneys for the state are going deep into the legal weeds to make their case before the 8th Circuit. For those interested in those arguments, see Thursday’s front page story by Cynthia Howell.

As deep and thick as those weeds are, we hope those arguments are convincing enough for certain judges in St. Louis. The education — the futures — of hundreds of children in Arkansas hang in the balance.

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Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. May 14, 2019.

Some have said that none are really dead as long as they are remembered.

If that’s so, Archibald Yell lives on.

Sometime in mid-April, people who not only remember but are willing to work at memorializing Arkansas’ first congressman and second governor ensured his life and times will not fade into the past. Down at Evergreen Cemetery in Fayetteville, an association of the cemetery’s supporters raised and paid $22,500 to replace a crumbling tombstone marking Yell’s final resting place.

Yell died in 1847 in the Battle of Buena Vista in the Mexican-American War.

The new marker is a brilliant white, 10-foot obelisk designed as a replica of a monument that marked the family burial spot in Evergreen Cemetery, to which Yell’s body and those of other family were moved around 1873, give or take a year.

The old monument was, literally, falling apart. Its inscriptions were on marble slabs attached to a concrete base, but those slabs were disintegrating. The new monument is solid marble, meaning it’s going to last a long, long time.

Some pieces of history cannot be saved no matter how valiant the effort, but Evergreen Cemetery supporters did the next best thing in creating a similar piece designed to avoid the problems of the first.

Naturally, there were questions about how to honor Yell. The original piece contained factual errors, raising the question of whether to fix those errors in the new piece. The association chose to leave the monument just as the original piece was.

The newspaper editor in us would be hard pressed to intentionally leave a mistake uncorrected, but historical preservation of a monument, according to the association, meant preserving it as is. Fair enough. We’d still love to see a small plaque explaining the discrepancies with history.

But overall, this was a great tribute to a significant figure in Arkansas’ history and to the ideals of historic preservation.

___

Texarkana Gazette. May 14, 2019.

Most Americans probably wouldn’t take much notice of Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision.

That would be a mistake.

In a 5-4 vote, the court’s conservative wing reversed precedent and found that a state enjoys sovereign immunity from lawsuits filed in other states.

In this case — which has been dragging on for years — the ruling meant a private party cannot file a lawsuit in Nevada against another state — California. It’s a reversal of 40 years of established law that said states enjoy no such immunity.

While this case might not mean much to most of us, the implications are important to everyone.

This is a new court and the conservative majority — including two justices appointed by President Donald Trump — are not going to be bound by the past.

As Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in his dissent, “Today’s decision can only cause one to wonder which cases the court will overrule next.”

Roe v. Wade for example?

We can’t predict the future. But the pro-life community could easily see this as a positive move.