After Rep. Nate Bell floated his proposal to reform state lottery scholarships last week, I contacted Professor Robert Steinbuch of Little Rock’s Bowen School of Law. Steinbuch is an expert on student loan policy, and he had a great deal to say about the lottery’s financing of higher education as well.
Steinbuch generally supports the idea that we are wasting some money in higher education—that we need more accountability, and when a lottery scholarship student drops out of school, someone often should have to repay the funds to the state, with a significant caveat:
“Family calamities and medical illnesses should excuse students from repayment. And if a student flunks out while doing all the right things, he should not have to repay the money. But if the student fails to take his responsibilities seriously, causing him to flunk out, then he should repay.”
Steinbuch’s proposal, however, also adds a key element: the determination of responsibility. That is, “who is at fault for the student’s exit from school?” The student? An unforeseen circumstance? Steinbuch’s answer (at least in some cases): the school.
Something else (besides the breaking of the Petrino scandal) happened on April 5th: Republicans in the Arkansas House, poised to take control of the body for the first time since Reconstruction, unveiled their platform for the 2013 general assembly.
(We have previously outlined pieces of the platform.)
I encourage our readers to view the platform at www.ARHouse.org It is not the typical platitudes. It is a very detailed, substantive plan with many ideas that have been proven to be fundamentally sound & successful in other states.
SIMPLE is, of course, an acronym:
- S – Spending Restraints
- I – Income & Other Tax Reform
- M – Medicaid Sustainability
- P – Protecting Arkansas’s Future
- L – Legal & Regulatory Reform
- E – Educational Excellence
The entire press conference is not available in one YouTube clip, but since we are a Searcy-based blog, we will share our state rep’s comments. Here are Rep. Mark Biviano’s comments. I particularly appreciate the remarks about transparency:
- KARK is obsessed with Petrino. These people just can’t leave it alone. Their latest: using a pic of Petrino & a pic of Jeff Long to garner divide Hog fans.
- ‘Beat that dead horse!’ No, not us. KARK. Their viewers staged a mini-revolt on their Facebook page this week in response to their Petrino coverage.
- White County Republican primary judge debate moderated by a Democrat. This is notable as part of a larger puzzle, but apparently it didn’t help Judge Lincoln too much. He still told several outright lies & had a poor performance.
- Reviewing the county judge debate. A citizen reporter provides a summary of the debate & grades both candidates.
- The Arkansas Project releases audio of the Arkansas Surgeon General’s arrest. What crime did he commit, exactly?
- Louisiana passes Arkansas again. The Bayou State gets school vouchers, thanks to the relentless work of Gov. Bobby Jindal.
- A Louisiana Dem compares school choice to the crucifixion of Jesus. Can’t make this stuff up if we wanted to, folks.
- Arkansas Voter’s Guide. Editor Nic Horton sat down with Family Council President Jerry Cox to discuss the group’s voter guide, a very valuable resource for Arkansas voters.
- Globetrotter Smith is ineligible…again. Is this the end of the Fred Smith saga? We think not.
I posted yesterday about Louisiana’s passage of a school voucher program. Republican leaders say the vouchers will be in place later this spring.
In that post, I used a quote from an article from The Town Talk, a Louisiana news organization.
In that same article, I found several disturbing quotes from one of the state’s Democrats, Sam Jones, in which he tries to draw a bizarre analogy about school choice & the death of Jesus. I’m not sure if this really got any coverage regionally or nationally, but it should have.
From the article:
“Are we going to be the first state to write a church a check? Think about it … I am appalled about how many religious denominations of schools ran up here to get this money.”
[Jones] reminded the House that Jesus said to “give unto Caesar what is owed to Caesar” but “the only time government dealt with him, they ordered his execution. This is a line we should not cross.”
I suppose Rep. Jones thinks the government should stay out of church affairs then? So it is safe to assume that he opposes Obamacare’s birth control mandate?
I draw attention to these comments for two reasons.
1. They’re outrageous & Rep. Jones deserves to be publicly shamed for these comments.
2. Supporters of school choice in Arkansas need to prepare for these types of outrageous, offensive attacks. Because come next January, when our own school choice battle kicks off, this will happen here. We need to be ready.
Just for kicks: Jones also added, “Every child is different and has different needs.”
Maybe he is a believer in school choice after all.
From The Friedman Foundation:
[Thursday, April 5], by a vote of 60-42, the Louisiana House of Representatives approved Gov. Jindal’s voucher expansion, which passed the Senate [April 4] 24-15.
“This is a momentous day for the families of Louisiana,” State Superintendent of Education John White said. “All students deserve a fair chance in life, and that begins with the opportunity to attend a high-quality school. These policy changes are aligned with that central belief, and Gov. Jindal and state lawmakers have demonstrated a clear commitment to prioritize the educational rights of Louisiana’s next generation above all else.”
The expansion of the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program will allow low- and middle-income students in Louisiana public schools graded “C,” “D,” or “F” by the state accountability system to receive government-funded vouchers to attend private schools. Currently, that option is available only to children in New Orleans and students with special needs in eligible parishes.
Governor Bobby Jindal said he is “not declaring victory, mission accomplished” because “we’ve still got a lot of work in this session,” like a bill that grants rebates to individuals and corporations that contribute money for vouchers.
But there is no disputing this is a huge step forward for education in The Bayou State.
Arkansas legislators should now go sit in the corner & reflect on the fact that Louisiana is now ahead of us in education reform.
Here’s a list of our top stories from this week:
- Congressman Crawford called me. He told me his millionaire surtax plan would only break his no-tax pledge if he voted for it–and he does plan to vote for it, if it makes it to the floor of the House–but ‘it would be worth it.’
- KARK continues their assault on journalistic decency. This time, Coach Bobby Petrino was the victim. The Patriot offered heart-felt prayers to Mark Zuckerberg on Coach Petrino’s behalf, per the request of KARK.
- Obama is against judicial review! Except when it fits his agenda, of course.
- Arizona leads the way on education reform. They’ve set the bar pretty high for Arkansas & the rest of the country.
- 2nd episode of Patriot Talk released. A guest & I review the Obamacare Supreme Court hearings.
- Arkansas Business, other blogs pick up on our KARK story. Also, KARK’s news director lies to me, and I explain my outrage further.
- Remembering why we celebrate Good Friday. The day death died.
From our friends at Goldwater Institute:
Gov. Jan Brewer is poised to expand one of the most liberty-enhancing education reforms in U.S. history, the latest step in her
growing legacy of meaningful education reform.
Last year, Gov. Brewer’s signature created the nation’s first education savings account program for K-12 students, which allows parents to use state funds to customize their child’s education. With these savings accounts, the state deposits 90 percent of a student’s per pupil funding in a private account managed by her parents. Parents can use the funds for private school tuition, tutoring services, online classes, and textbooks, as well as several other educational services. Families can also save the funds for college tuition.
Under current law, students with special needs are eligible for the accounts. The proposed expansion now on the governor’s desk would extend eligibility to 94,000 students in chronically failing public schools, as well as academically gifted students and students in military families.
Alright Arkansas, the bar has been set.