- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 16, 2016

Keeping the A in UA

As one drives around looking for a parking space on the campus of the University of Arkansas - and anyone who visits the campus knows that can take a while - it becomes abundantly clear from the license plates on vehicles that the student body has undergone a few changes in recent years.

Texas. Texas. Arkansas. Texas. Missouri. Arkansas. Texas.

As the university’s population has grown to nearly 27,000, the proportion of the student body made up of Arkansans has shrunk. Last fall, of 4,871 first-time, full-time, degree-seeking students in the incoming freshman class, about half were from this state.

Isn’t this the University of ARKANSAS?

“The fact is there are more Arkansans going to the University of Arkansas now than there ever has been,” Joseph Steinmetz told us during a visit the other day. He’s the new chancellor on the Fayetteville campus, and he acknowledged at first being a little concerned about the in-state/out-of-state split of the student body.

Having examined the situation, however, Steinmetz says he’s comfortable with the ratio as long as the proportion of in-state students doesn’t drop any further.

We were glad a few days later to see a report about a proposed policy change designed to deal exactly with that concern. Under the proposed change, higher demand from in-state students applying to the UA wold trigger more stringent admission standards for out-of-state applicants.

Suzanne McCray, UA’s vice provost for enrollment management and dean of admissions, said the change would allow flexibility from year to year as conditions change and empower the UA to keep the desired balance between Arkansans and people from out of state who want to go to school in Fayetteville.

This is no Trump-like “wall” to keep out-of-state students out. We appreciate their presence and know that the UA could never have expanded the student population so much by relying just on in-state students. And with support from state government more or less flat in recent years, growing the student body - and the number of people paying tuition - is an approach many institutions have used to find the money necessary to meet budgetary demands.

But it would be a shame if the flagship university in Arkansas became a less-than-Arkansas institution. Ultimately, its mission is to serve this state and the higher education needs of its population.

Steinmetz said his No. 1 priority in an approaching fundraising campaign will be to fund needs-based scholarships for in-state students, particularly those first-generation college students. And he also wants to work with business leaders in Northwest Arkansas and around Little Rock to make sure out-of-state students make strong connections and end up having every opportunity to remain in the Natural State by getting jobs after graduation.

It’s a healthy approach to keep the University of Arkansas strong as an institution for its home state.


The Jonesboro Sun, April 19, 2016

Piano purchase out of tune with district taxpayers

We’ve become so accustomed to outrageous government spending and waste that $82,000 starts to sounds like a grain of sand on the beach.

The problem is if you put all those grains of sand together, they would literally suffocate this nation - and, of course, they are.

After all, our country is $19 trillion dollars in debt - that’s 19 followed by nine zeros - and lawmakers in Washington, D.C., are intent on driving that number even higher - regardless of what party’s running the show.

Let the grandkids worry about being smothered by that debt.

So what’s $82,000 for a Steinway concert grand piano at Jonesboro High School? Shouldn’t our students have the best?

What it illustrates is the government thumbing its nose at the taxpayers.

Truth is, nobody deserves a Steinway concert grand piano - certainly not high school students - unless they earn it themselves or can raise private funds for such an extravagant expenditure.

But it was a deal, Superintendent Kim Wilbanks tells us. “… When I researched that quality of piano, I learned the price quickly rose up to $150,000.”

If that’s the case, maybe the superintendent should consider selling it to make a profit for the district.

Still, if that’s her rationale, maybe Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin should trade in his $65,000 2016 GMC Yukon XL for a 2016 Rolls-Royce Wraith. We heard there’s one on carsforsale.com that’s a real steal for $265,000 - more than $82,000 below the average market price.

Nonsense, huh?

The truth is the school district could have bought a used concert grand piano in excellent condition for $12,000 or less. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Steinway.

In this case, the grown-ups running the school district are acting no different than students who want expensive designer name clothes and shoes - to show off. Like sporting a Michael Kors purse, Miss Me jeans or LeBron James sneakers, even though your parents can’t afford them.

Government has no business showing off, especially when your school district is comprised of 74.5 percent of students who are on free and reduced lunch. Obviously, that piano money could have been better spent on necessities - like school supplies that teachers often have to provide out of their own pockets.

Apparently, the Jonesboro School District is swimming in so much taxpayer cash it can afford an $82,000 piano.

Maybe the taxpayers in the Jonesboro School District need to take a closer look at their property tax statements. Maybe they should ask whether their tax dollars are being spent wisely. Maybe they should look a lot closer at how the school district is spending those tax dollars.

After all, the devil is in the details - or in this case, the Steinway.

Maybe then the school district would be more considerate of taxpayers when buying a used piano.


Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 15, 2016

Remarkable Ray

How does one begin to describe him? A masterful politician, not to mention his many other callings, Ray Thornton was known to hold back his vote so he could change it at the last minute and join the winning or losing side, or just the one that would please most people most of the time.

But when he did vote his conscience and stand by his best understanding of the law, the man was magnificent. As when he voted to impeach a friend and president - Richard Nixon - guilty of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” But not before uttering a prayer: “It was not a prayer that the vote would be right,” he explained later. “I was convinced of the correctness of the vote, based on the evidence we had heard. But I was still concerned as to the effect the vote would have on our governmental system. No one knew at that point what would happen, what events would transpire as a result … My prayer was that our system would come through this ordeal intact.” It did, thanks to the Ray Thorntons on the Watergate committee and throughout the land.

Ray Thornton would have many careers, all of them distinguished, but surely this was his finest moment. For he had laid all other considerations, distinctions and ambitions aside and just trusted to his Lord at that moment of decision.

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